Hello Again Everyone!!
I thought I would talk about one of the nicer temples here in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do: Naewonsa Temple (내원사). Naewonsa Temple is different in one significant way than most of the temples that I’ve visited in Korea. Unlike most temples, Naewonsa Temple is by nuns.
Naewonsa Temple is beautifully situated in a valley underneath the watching eye of Chunseoungsan Mountain. And it is through this striking valley corridor that leads you to Naewonsa Temple. Originally, Naewonsa Temple was established by High Priest Wonhyo during the Silla Dynasty. During the Korean War, Naewonsa Temple was destroyed. In 1958, Naewonsa Temple was reconstructed by the nun Suok Biguni. In total, there are approximately 70 nuns that now reside at Naewonsa Temple.
You first approach the temple from the wandering valley that during the summer has hundreds of people splashing around in the water cascades and natural pools of water. Up the paved hill is the Naewonsa Temple complex. In total, there are about 10 temple buildings. This is a very active temple with very kind nuns that run it; however, most of the temple buildings are off limits. The road forks as you first approach the temple: to the right is the main temple courtyard, and to the left is the old Bulimun entrance gate. The Bulimun Gate is decorated with some beautiful paintings. The gate doors are decorated with two fierce paintings of the temple guardians, Heng and Ha. Around these gates are two beautiful paintings of the blue lion riding Bodhisattva, Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Directly across from this painting is Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), who rides a one-eyed elephant. Directly above the respective temple gates are two highly original paintings. To the right is a painting of two nuns accompanied by the founding monk Wonhyo. They look off in the distance to where a future Naewonsa Temple will be built. To the left is a beautiful drawing of a group of nuns outside Naewonsa Temple as holy scripture appears in the sky above. Through these gates, you get a great view of the temple courtyard; however, you’re not allowed to go past the entry of the Bulimun Gate. Instead, you’ll have to backtrack to the fork in the road and head right.
In the right direction, you’ll first encounter a group of nun dorms. As you continue straight, you’ll come to a road that is slightly elevated. This path leads you to the upper courtyard, where the main hall is situated. This main hall is long, but rather unassuming. The central altar piece in the main hall is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of the main altar triad is a beautiful red guardian painting. Uniquely, the main hall (like the rest of the temple) is adorned with wooden turtle doorknobs. They’re pretty cute, so look for them. Next to the main hall is another nun’s dorm. There were several children crowded around this area as a senior nun handed out candy to them. Personally, I greeted a nun with a bow and an “Annyeong Haseyo,” to which I heard a responding “Hello.” As I said, the nuns here are amongst the friendliest in Korea. Next to the dorm is the temple’s kitchen and off-limits courtyard. There is a unique gong and wishing well to the front of the nun’s dorm.
Admission for adults is 2,000 won.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Naewonsa Temple either from Busan or Eonyang. From Busan, Naewonsa Temple can be found by taking an intercity bus from Busan to Yangsan. Once you are at the Yangsan bus terminal, you can take a direct bus to Naewonsa Temple. As for Eonyang, you can take an intercity bus from the Yangsan bus terminal. These buses leave every 10 minutes (approximately). Again, from the Yangsan bus terminal, you can get a city bus that will take you directly to Naewonsa. Once you have arrived at Naewonsa Temple, it is approximately a 30 minute walk up a valley. And just remember, this is an active nunnery, so please be on your best behaviour at Naewonsa Temple.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10. In total, there are about 10 uniquely painted and designed temple buildings at Naewonsa Temple. Some of the more interesting features at Naewonsa Temple are the turtle doorknobs and the lily ponds. Also, there are beautiful paintings inside the Bulimun Gate at the temple. There are some beautiful views of Korean nature from this temple, and if you’ve lived in Korea long enough, you know that these beautiful views of nature can sometimes be few and far between.