Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan
Hello Again Everyone!
And WOW! it’s amazing just how much a temple can change in the course of 6 years. Such was the case when I visited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (해동 용궁사) over the weekend. I hadn’t been to visit the temple since 2004, and so much about the temple had changed. Back in 2004, the temple was little known and little visited. Now, next to Beomeosa Temple, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is the most visited temple in Busan.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (“ Korean Dragon Palace Temple”) was 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 himself 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, naming 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.
As you first approach the temple, you’ll have to make your way through a corridor of vendors selling their wares, until the vendors recede and you enter into a courtyard with the twelve zodiac signs. After passing these statues, a brand new nine-tiered pagoda is standing just outside the gold dragon entrance gate. Interestingly, there is a black tire beside the pagoda, for those wanting to pray to not have a car accident (a great idea knowing just how well Korean drivers drive!). After passing through the golden gate, you’ll pass by a granite dharma with his stomach and nose tarnished black. The reason these have been turned to black is because if you’re pregnant, and you want a boy, you should rub its belly or nose. Continuing to make your way to the temple grounds, you’ll pass by a man-made tunnel. It’s only after passing through this tunnel that you’ll get your first glimpse of the temple sitting on the banks of the rocky shoreline looking out onto the beautiful East Sea. Dozens of stone lanterns lead the way down the 108 stairs symbolizing the 108 agonies and earthly desires of Buddhism. Before you cross over the bridge that joins the shore to the temple, there is a little outcropping where you can either go down to the shoreline or pray at an incarnation of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). From here, you can get some great pictures of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
After taking your time with the great photo-ops from the rocky shoreline, you can then cross over the stone bridge that connects to the main courtyard of the temple. As you’re crossing over the bridge, you can make a wish, and toss a coin, into the turtle shaped statues. After crossing through the entrance gate to the temple, you’ll be greeted by a myriad of buildings and statues. Directly to your right is the main hall and shrine hall. To the left, where the rolling sea lies, is a beautiful pagoda. And straight ahead is an underground cave with a figure of the Buddha and the dorm for the temple. The main hall is newer since they didn’t have one in 2004. Around the main hall are some beautiful paintings illustrating the life of the Buddha. And between the main hall and a shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) is a massive golden dharma. Continuing straight, you can climb the steep stairs that lead up to an equally massive granite statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal. This statue overlooks the temple; and from here, you can get some more great photo-ops of yourself, the sea, and the temple below.
Admission to the temple is free.
HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, you can either take a taxi or a local bus. There are taxis waiting for you just as you exit the vendor stands. The cost of a taxi from here back to Jangsan subway station should be about 10,000 Won (depending on traffic). Otherwise, you can take city bus #181. It’ll drop you off along the highway, where you’ll have to walk about 500 metres up a winding road towards the temple.
View 해동용궁사 in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 9/10. While not quite as historical significant or important as Beomeosa Temple, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has a lot, I mean A LOT, for the temple adventurer. Rating slightly lower than Beomeosa Temple, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has some beautiful views of the sea from the temple. Also, there are numerous statues like the Golden dharma, the tarnished dharma, the enormous pagoda, the stone lanterns, the dragon statue next to the main hall, and the Bodhisattva of Mercy crowning the temple. And to top it all off, it has some beautifully unique and animated paintings around the main hall and a cave to pray in. If you couldn’t tell, I highly, highly, recommend this temple to those living in the Busan area. Without a doubt, it is one of the most picturesque temples in all of Korea.But as always, mere words can’t explain just how beautiful this temple actually is. So enjoy the pictures!