Nojeonam Hermitage – 노전암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A beautiful look up at Saja-bawi and across the Naewon Valley that houses Nojeonam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yangsan is home to some of the most beautiful and well known temples/hermitages in all of Korea including Tongdosa Temple and Naewonsa Temple. And adding to that long list of beautiful Yangsan temples/hermitages is Nojeonam Hermitage (노전암).

Nojeonam Hermitage is a hermitage nestled on the slopes of  Cheonseongsan  Mountain, and it’s associated with Naewonsa Temple. Like eighty-nine other hermitages in the Naewon valley, monk Wonhyo also erected this hermitage during the Silla Dynasty. Legend has it that 1,000 followers of Wonhyo-daesa followed him out of China to become his disciples and eventual sages. The hermitage was later restored by the Seon priest Taehui between 1800 to 1834. Originally, this hermitage was treated as a hermitage; however, with the spread of Buddhism Nojeonam Hermitage was historically treated as a small temple. Nowadays, Nojeonam Hermitage has resorted back to being considered a hermitage once more.

When you first arrive at the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful Iljumun Gate that has numerous paintings about the creation of the hermitage adorning it. Also, there are two fiercely painted renderings of Heng and Ha on the two entrance doors. After passing under and through the Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter into a beautifully maintained hermitage courtyard. Up a set of uneven stone stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the upper courtyard. To the left is a plainly decorated residence hall for the nuns that live and study at Nojeonam Hermitage. Straight ahead is the larger sized main hall at the hermitage. Surrounding the exterior walls are Ox-Herding murals. These paintings remind me of pastel drawings. There are beautiful pastoral paintings of the Korean countryside near the roof of the exterior walls, as well as larger sized Biseon. Additionally, there is a fiercely rendered blue dragon on the right side of the exterior wall. Finally, there are beautiful paintings of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the front of the main hall up near the roof. Inside this main hall is a larger sized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre of a triad of statues upon the altar.

In front of this main hall is a newer looking five-tier granite pagoda. And to the right rear of the main hall is a Sanshin-gak, which is dedicated to the Shaman Mountain god: Sanshin. The exterior and interior of the hall is uniquely decorated with a female figure guiding male monks and administrators. It isn’t until you look at the altar inside the hall that you get an idea of who this female figure is. Sitting all alone on the shrine hall altar is a wooden carving of a female San shin. To have a female San shin rendering, even at a nunnery, is extremely rare as San shin is usually depicted as a male god. Behind the Sanshin-gak shrine hall is a field of stupas that house the earthly remains of former nuns that once took up residence at the hermitage.

The highlight of this hermitage is where it’s situated. In the fall, the leaves change into beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows, and they typify just how beautiful the Korean landscape becomes in late October/early November.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Nojeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to the city of Yangsan. From Yangsan, you can catch bus #12-1 from Yangsan bus terminal. This bus leaves every hour. From the bus terminal, you’ll ride the bus about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on traffic) in front of the Naewonsa Temple entrance. Once here, you’ll have to walk an additional 30 minutes to the ticket booth. You can either walk the 30 minutes or take a taxi. Once you’re at the Naewonsa Temple ticket booth, instead of heading right towards Naewonsa Temple, you’ll have to head left and walk through a parking lot. Once you’re at the far end of the parking lot, and next to an washroom facility, you’ll see a green barrier fence in front of a dirt road. There’s an entrance to the right. You should head down this dirt trail for 2 kilometres until you arrive at Nojeonam Hermitage.

View 노전암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While this hermitage is rather remote to the average temple/hermitage adventurer, to the more adventurous temple goer, the time it takes to find this hermitage will be well worth the effort. Walking the long and scenic Naewon valley, towards Nojeonam Hermitage, is almost worth the day trip alone to this hermitage (especially in the fall months). And once you get to the hermitage, you’ll first be greeted by the rarely seen, at least in this size of a hermitage, Iljumun (First Gate), and the Iljumun at this hermitage is beautifully designed and decorated with elaborate paintings. Also, the female San shin statue inside the Sanshin-gak shrine hall is another highlight to this hermitage.

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The beautiful Naewon valley that you trek down. In the fall, the mountside and stream are especially beautiful.
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 About a kilometre up the trail you’ll come to this trail marker. On the top right you can see the marker that reads 노전암 0.8 km. Nojeonam Hermitage isn’t all that far away now.
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 Another look up the gorgeous valley. As you can see, we weren’t the only ones out on the beautiful Sunday morning.
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 A look up at the rock face that’s called Saja-bawi in Korean, but Lion Rock in English. To me, it actually looks more like an old man.
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 You be the judge.
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Along the way we saw this bee busy at work. Picture 210
Almost there, as the fall colours are out in full force.
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A row of beautiful white and purple flowers just outside the hermitage compound.
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One of the more beautiful and unique Iljumun Gates that’s found at Nojeonam Hermitage.
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A look up at the gate and the door that is adorned with the guardian, Heng.
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 And to Heng’s right is the equally fierce Ha, with his mouth wide open.
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 A painting that adorns the Iljumun Gate as you first walk into the hermitage courtyard. You can see in this painting Wonhyo-daesa with his 1,000 followers.
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 Stepping up the stone staircase, you’ll then see the rather large main hall at Nojeonam Hermitage.
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On the right exterior of the main hall is this intricate blue dragon painting and the Biseon that are flying overhead.
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 Surrounding the main hall are these pastel looking Ox-Herding murals.
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 And near the roof are a set of these impressive pastoral paintings. Picture 230
The name tablet, written in Chinese characters, sits above the entrance to the main hall. Below the tablet is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) riding his white elephant to the left, and on the right is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding his tiger.
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Inside the main hall, sitting upon the altar, is Seokgamoni-bul in the centre of a triad.
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To the right rear of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak shrine hall dedicated to San shin, the Shaman Mountain god. And out in front of the main hall is this newer looking five-tier pagoda.
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 Inside the Sanshin-gak Hall is this unique painting of a female San shin guiding Wonhyo-daesa and his 1,000 followers to a perfect place to establish Nojeonam Hermitage.
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One of the true highlights to visiting Nojeonam Hermitage is the female San shin etching.
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And behind the Sanshin-gak is this lone stupa with the remains of a nun inside. Surrounding these remains are the beautiful mountains and fall colours.

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