Suwolseonwon Temple – 수월선원 (Buk-gu, Busan)

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 The beautifully austere pagoda with a bird in full flight just to the right at Suwolseonwon Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Even though today was one of the coldest this year in Korea, I decided to venture out.  After all, nothing can stop this Korean temple adventurer from Canada!  So today’s adventure brought me to two temples.  The first I went to was Suwolseonwon Temple, and the second was Guryongsa Temple.  For the purposes of this post, however, I’ll only be talking about Suwolseonwon Temple (수월선원).  A separate posting will follow about GuryongsaTemple.

So with all that being said, where, you might be asking, are Suwolseonwon Temple and Guryongsa Temple?  With a growing foreign population in Buk-gu, in Busan, I thought I would cover a couple temples from the area.  Both are fairly easily accessible from Sujeong subway station (#234) on the second line.  To get to Suwolseonwon Temple, you should take exit #2 and walk straight once you’ve exited.  On the hill, just to the centre-left you’ll see what looks to be a temple.  Well…that’s Suwolseonwon Temple.  So keep going straight for maybe a minute or two until you come to a crosswalk.  Go across the two sidewalks where the road forks and continue to go straight.  Continue to go straight until you see an SK gas station across the street to your right. The sign towards Suwolseonwon Temple is written only in Korean, but to I.D. it you’ll be able to tell that it’s the temple sign because it looks like this:

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The first sign pointing towards Suwolseonwon across from SK gas station

Head left, down the back alleys.  Don’t worry if you can’t see the temple anymore, it’s still there.  The great thing with trying to find this temple is that there are a lot of signs guiding the way.  So once you’ve turned left down the alley, continue to walk straight for about 50 metres. There will be another sign waiting for you pointing you right.  It looks like this:

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The second sign pointing you closer to the temple

After you’ve turned for the second time towards the temple, continue to walk straight for another 50 metres. On the left you’ll finally see the temple again.  The sign pointing the way to the temple is on a post beside the steep driveway leading up to the temple’s parking lot.  The sign looks as follows:

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And the final sign putting you up the steep driveway towards the temple parking lot

A steep staircase leads the way up to the temple grounds.  And while Suwolseonwon Temple is newer looking, it’s been there for a while.  In total, there are 4 major buildings including living quarters, a meditation hall, a prayer building just left of the main hall, and the double decker main hall.  This double-dekcer main hall is  unique because most Korean temples are usually tall in size, but usually only single floored in stature.  The pagoda to the right of the main hall is brand new, having been built in 2007.  It is simple in design, but austere.  The main hall has some unique paintings.  The paintings of note at this temple are all the paintings of Buddha’s life.  However, what is truly unique about this temple are its altar pieces both in the main hall and the adjacent prayer building.

The funniest part of this temple adventure came when I went to enter the main hall.  Like all temples, the main hall is well lit.  Well, not at this hall.  No one was home, as all the lights were out.  So I looked over my shoulders to make sure no one was around and promptly turned on the lights.  With a couple quick snaps of the main hall altar pieces, I just as promptly shut out the lights and left without anyone being any the wiser.

Admission is free and is only a 5 minute walk from the Sujeong subway station (#234).

OVERALL RATING:  4.5/10.  While not the most spectacular of temples, and paling in comparison to its twin temple, Guryongsa Temple, just over the hill, it’s a nice little get away in the Buk-gu area.  The unique main hall is well decorated, as is the temple building beside it.  However, what truly makes this temple memorable are the spectacular altar pieces at Suwolseonwon.  If you have the time, and find yourself running out of things to do, take the time to visit this temple.


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The steep staircase welcoming you to Suwolseonwon Temple.
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The double decker main hall, with the newly built pagoda to the right, and a prayer building to the left of the main hall.
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A view from the first level of the main hall towards the pagoda and the monks’ living quarters.
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A view along the first floor of the main hall.
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A view back at the buildings from the second floor.  Straight ahead is the meditation building, to the left is the main hall, and to the right is the other prayer building at the temple.
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Now, a view across the second floor of the main hall.
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A better view of the main hall, as I make my way around the building to see the paintings illustrating the life of Buddha.
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Siddhartha Gatama as he flees the palace where he lived as a prince.
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Siddhartha in the process of becoming Buddha.
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Buddha, having gained Enlightenment.
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Gaining followers to Buddhism.
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A sick Buddha nearing the end of his earthly life.
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And death…
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and eternal life.
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A better view of the meditation hall.
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One last look at the main hall and prayer building before I enter into stealth mode and turn on the lights and snap some shots with no one any the wiser!
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 Without the flash, but with the lights on.
With the flash on, and the main altar piece, Gwanseeum-bosal, in view.
A close-up of one of the main altars aids.
And a better look at Gwanseeum-bosal.
Other artwork in the main hall. It’s of the guardians.
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The main altar piece in the adjoining building to the main hall.  On the right is Sanshin, in the middle is Chilseong, and to the left is Dokseong.
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 I can honestly say, I’ve never seen a painting like this at another Korean temple.
Another painting unique to Suwolseonwon Temple:  A bengal tiger!
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Blue dragons, common enough at Korean temples, but beautiful enough at this temple to draw my attention.
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One last look up at the living quarters before heading off to Guryongsa Temple.

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