Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan
Hello Again Everyone!
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which means “Korean Dragon Palace Temple,” in English, was first founded in 1376 by the Venerable monk Naong who was an advisor to King Gongmin. One day in a dream, the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealed itself to Naong. He was told to construct a temple at the top of Mount Bongrae and the nation would become larger and more stable. So after checking around the nation for a place to build a temple, he found the land where the temple now rests. In the process, he named the temple Bomunsa Temple. However, in 1592, during the Imjin War with Japan, the temple was burned to the ground. It wasn’t until the 1930’s, over 300 years after its destruction, that the Venerable monk Ungang, from Tongdosa Temple, rebuilt the temple. He renamed it Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
You first approach the temple grounds, which are located along the coastal waters of the shoreline, down a narrow corridor filled with vendors selling their wares. It’s only after emerging on the other side that you’re confronted by twelve three metre tall statues of the zodiac generals. Have a look for yours, as you make your way towards the tire pagoda, because it’ll most certainly be there. Next, you’ll see the towering seven-story stone pagoda that is intricately detailed in its design. At its base is a tire shrine for people to pray to to avoid car accidents (seriously!).
It’s through the gate, which sports two golden dragons on either pillar, and down the flight of stairs that you’ll draw closer to the main temple grounds. Waiting for you along the way with a tarnished nosed and a scuffed belly is a Podae-hwasang statue that grants woman that rub its belly or nose a future son.
After finally passing through an artificial cave passageway, the East Sea will finally come into view. Dozens of stone lanterns lead the way as you make your descent down the 108 stairs that are symbolic of the 108 delusions of the mind in Buddhism. But before you reach the base of the stairs, about halfway down the flight of stairs, is an outcropping to your left. It’s along this pathway that you’ll see Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). If you go a little bit further, you’ll notice a golden statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). It’s also from this shoreline outcropping that you get an amazing view of the temple grounds.
Crossing over the bridge that separates one shoreline from the next, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Along the way, you can toss a couple coins to a dongja or a turtle for good luck. Just past the temple entry gate, and just to your left, is the three-tier stone pagoda with four lions at its base. These lions represent the four basic human emotions of love, sorrow, anger, and joy.
With the main hall to your right and around a bend that sports a ferocious metal dragon, you’ll finally have an commanding view of the neighbouring sea and the large sized Daeung-jeon main hall behind you. The main hall is filled with beautiful paintings including the Palsang-do murals and a painting to the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealing itself to the monk Naong. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the right of this triad is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while to the left hangs a Yeongsan Hoesang-do mural.
To the left of the main hall is a large, jovial, golden statue of the Podae-hwasang. Also in the main courtyard are two large, round, golden pigs that grant good fortune. There are a flight of stairs that lead underground which houses a statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as water that purportedly cures ill health. The only other shrine hall in this area is the Yongwang-gak. Looking outwards on the ocean is a wooden statue of the Dragon King.
It’s next to this shrine hall, and up an uneven set of stairs, that you’ll climb towards a serenely smiling figure of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The towering statue is known as the Haesu Gwaneeum Daebo, which means “Sea Water Bodhisattva of Compassion Statue.” She is surrounded on all sides by shrubbery and thin monk statues. From these heights, you get a breath-taking view of the East Sea and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple down below.
Admission to the temple is free.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Haeundae subway stop (line 2, stop #203), and out exit #7, you can catch Bus #181 that will bring you all the way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Just make sure you get off at the temple’s stop. You can take a bus or you can simply take a taxi from the Jangsan subway stop (line 2, stop #201). The price should be about 10,000 won.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10. What isn’t to love about this seaside temple? The temple is a bit of a rarity in Korea in that it’s located next to the sea and not up in the mountains. This only adds to the temple’s natural beauty. This, in combination with its elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, the view from the Jijang-bosal statue, and the main hall itself, make for a beautiful combination of Buddhist artistry. I’ve been visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple since 2003, and it’s only gotten busier and busier each time I go, which really speaks to its popularity; and ultimately, its beauty.
The row of 12 zodiac generals that greet you at the temple.
An up close of the rat with coin in eye.
The seven-tier stone pagoda.
The entry gate that leads down to the sea and the temple courtyard.
The baby-making Podae-hwasang.
The first view of the sea from the stone lanterns that guide the way.
A look towards the buildings at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
The beautiful neighbouring seaside.
The golden Jijang-bosal statue.
A couple enjoying a moment.
The view as you cross the bridge towards the temple.
The three-tier pagoda with a lion base.
The expressive metal dragon with the main hall in the background.
The Naong dream painting.
Inside the main hall with a look toward the main altar.
The large golden Podae-hwasang statue.
The statue and painting dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).
The crowning Gwanseeum-bosal statue.
The view that Gwanseeum-bosal gets to enjoy.