It had been five years since I lasted visited Hongryongsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And in the course of those five years the temple has undergone a lot of construction and renovation much like Haedong Yonggungsa temple in Busan has.
The temple name, Hongryongsa Temple (홍룡사), is a combination of three Korean words: Hong means rainbow, while nyong means dragon, and sa means temple. So the temple name, in English, is Rainbow Dragon Temple. Now this might seem a bit strange on its own, but the temple gets its name from Hongryong Waterfall, which is situated inside the temple grounds. Hongnyongsa Temple rests on the Chunseoungsan Mountains, which is the same mountain range as the neighbouring Naewonsa Temple. The ancient Hongryongsa Temple was burnt down during the Imjin War of 1592 to 1598. Until the 1910’s, only the foundation remained for hundreds of years. However, during the 1910’s, a monk from Tongdosa Temple, Bupwha, decided to rebuild Hongryongsa Temple. The temple has undergone a lot of renovation and reconstruction under the watchful eye of the abbot Woo-Gwang, in the 1970’s, which has continued to the present day.
When you first approach the temple, you’ll notice that they’re adding a newly built Iljumun Gate to the temple. The design looks to be a four-post design, much like the one at Tongdosa Temple. Passing around the outside of the construction, you’ll next see a newly built pavilion that overlooks the cascades created by the falls a bit further up the mountain. It’s a nice place to enjoy the weather and gather your thoughts.
Further along the path, you’ll come to an opening that is the main courtyard of the temple. The first hall that will greet you is the main hall that is directly in front of you. Inside the hall is a triad where Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) at the centre with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and a seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. On either side of the altar is one painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal, and on the other side is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting. Outside of the hall, there are various atypical paintings including two white clothed Gwanseeum-bosal, floral, designs, two Dragon Ship of Wisdom paintings, and matching dragon paintings above the side entrances.
To the left, and slightly behind the main hall, is a hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). There are a couple floral paintings on the outside of the hall, but there are also a two flanking study halls that the monks pray in on either side of this hall. As for the interior of the hall, there’s a multi-armed and multi-headed Gwanseeum-bosal statue that is ready to aid all those that are in need. Besides this statue, there’s an enormous guardian painting.
To the far left of these two halls are the monk’s dorms and administrative centre. To the right of these halls, and through the uniquely designed stone gate, you’ll start to make your way up the long flight of stairs towards the Hongryong Waterfall. Along the way, you’ll see a snuggly fitted shrine hall dedicated to two Shaman gods, which are San shin, and Dokseong. This hall is nestled into the side of a rock outcropping along the mountain. Finally, the flight of stairs will have been climbed, and you’ll be face to face with the beautiful flowing waterfall that stands some 20 metres in height. To the right of the rainbow falls and the pooling water below, is a shrine with a seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) at its centre. To the left of the spraying falls and pooling water is a tiny shrine hall, the Gwaneum-jeon hall, dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal in two forms: one of the Gwanseeum-bosal’s is white (left) and one is gold (right). The falls tend to dry up a bit during the fall, so make sure you either go in the spring or summer when the falls are at their peak.
HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Hongryongsa Temple, it’s probably one of the more difficult temples to get to as there are no nearby bus routes. Also, if you don’t drive or speak Korean it makes it that much harder to find. There are really two ways to get to Hongryongsa Temple. The first, and always the easiest, is by car (which I was lucky enough to do through my in-laws). But since that is usually the last option for us Waygooks, the next best way to get to the temple is a one hour walk from Daeseok village on the northern end of Yangsan in Daeseok-ri, Sangbuk-myeon.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Probably the greatest thing against this temple is that it’s extremely hard to get to unless you have a car. And that is why it only rates a 7.5 out of 10. However, once you get there, like me, you’ll think that this temple should be rated at least an 8.5 out of 10 with all the beautiful halls and the equally beautiful falls. The temple is well secluded and nice for a day away from the hustle and bustle of city life.