Bucheobawi/Okryongam Hermitage – 부처바위/옥룡암 (Gyeongju)

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Part of the southern face of Bucheobawi, Buddha Rock, on Mt.Namsan in Gyeongju.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

To get to the famed Bucheobawi, which is known as the Buddha Rock in English, you’ll first have to make your way alongside a country road and then up a trail next to a stream. About three hundred metres up this trail that lies beside a stream, you’ll come to Okryongam Hermitage. This site formally housed Sininsa Temple during the Unified Silla Period (668 A.D. to 935 A.D.). Presently, the grounds are occupied by the rather underwhelming Okryongam Hermitage.

When you first approach Okryongam Hermitage, you’re greeted by the main hall, which stands front and centre. The exterior walls are painted with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. And the main hall is joined to the right by the monks’ dorms and to the left by the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall appears to be just as plain as the main hall until you step inside. Inside, and hanging on the main altar, are a set of shaman paintings. The first painting to greet you when you step inside is an older looking, and well populated, Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left, and blocked by an altar wall, is the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting. The painting stands out for a couple reasons, but the most noticeable is the leopard like looking tiger that joins Sanshin in the painting. And the final painting of the set is the Dokseong (The Recluse) mural. This rather atypical mural is both uniquely painted and older in appearance. The only other building around the hermitage is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall that appears just before the famed Bucheobawi, Buddha Rock. This hall is rather non-descript, and in fact appears like it was once a residence for the monks before the new monks’ building was constructed.

Past the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, and further up the trail, you’ll finally come to the Bucheobawi, Buddha Rock. Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive set of stone sculptures that you’ll see in all of Korea. The set of stone sculptures, which number thirty-four in total, date back to sometime during the Unified Silla Period. And the rock that houses all the sculptures stands an impressive ten metres in height and thirty metres in width.

When you first approach Bucheobawi, which houses images on all four of its corners, you’re first approaching the north facade. In total, the north facade reveals five unique images. Hovering over all the others is the image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Seokgamoni-bul sits upon a lotus pedestal under an ornate canopy. To the left and right of the Buddha are a pair of pagodas. The one to the left appears to be a nine tier wooden pagoda with wind chimes hanging off each edge of the pagoda. This wooden pagoda is assumed to be the famed pagoda that resided at Hwangnyongsa Temple, which was destroyed during the Mongolian invasion of 1238. This stone sculpted pagoda stands an impressive 3.7 metres in height on the Buddha Rock. The pagoda to the right of the Buddha is a seven tier pagoda and is similar in design to the nine tier Hwangnyongsa Temple pagoda. In total, this pagoda stands 1.53 metres in height. At the base of the northern face of the massive rock appear a pair of lions. The one to the right appears to be female, while the one to the left appears to be male. These spiritual beasts, at least in Korean Buddhism, protect the land of Buddha.

Travelling to the east side, and to the left, you’ll see the greatest collection of Buddhist images on this massive rock. The central image is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the right is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that looks to her right at Amita-bul. Originally, a stone sculpture of Daesaeji-bosal appeared to the left of Amita-bul, but through the ages, this sculpture has weathered away. Above this Buddha and Bodhisattva images are six Apsaras. They appear to be throwing flower pedals down towards Amita-bul and Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the far left, you’ll see an image of a monk under a pair of trees. He appears to be training under a bodhi tree, as he trains his mind towards enlightenment.

On the south side, you’ll see a triad in the centre. This triad dates back to the 7th century. To the left of this image is another sculpture of a Buddha. And in front of all four of these images is either a Buddha or Nahan image. In front of these stone sculptures on the Buddha Rock is a statue that stands 1.2 metres in height. The most noticeable aspect to this statue, other than its smashed face, are the detailed ten toes on his feet. And out in front of the south side sculptures and statue is a 4.5 metre tall three tier stone pagoda that crowns the heights of the Rock Buddha sculptures.

Finally, and on the west side of Bucheobawi, are the least amount of stone sculptures on the massive rock. The large image that appears on this side of the rock appears to be a slender Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). He appears with some weeping willows to the right and a bamboo grove to the left. And above Yaksayore-bul is a large sized Biseon.

Other than the sheer number of images that appear on Bucheobawi, the beautiful grace with which they are rendered make Bucheobawi a must for any temple adventurer, or art lover, for that matter.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Bucheobawi and Okryongam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Gyeongju and the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. From the terminal, you’ll have to get a taxi. The ride should last about 15 minutes, and it should cost you about 5,000 to 6,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While the Okryongam Hermtage appears to be negligible in comparison to Bucheobawi, the shaman paintings inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall shouldn’t be overlooked on your way to the Buddha Rock. However, the main reason you’ve come to the area is to see the famed Bucheobawi with its beautiful stone sculptures. And trust me, the massive rock lives up to the hype, so check it out the next time you’re in Gyeongju.

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Okryongam Hermitage as you enter the hermitage courtyard. The main hall is front and centre with the monks’ dorms to the right.
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The compact Samseong-gak shrine hall at the hermitage.
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Inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall with a look at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) to the left and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) to the right.
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The uniquely painted and aged Dokseong (The Recluse) painting.
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The trail that leads up to Bucheobawi, with the massive rock to the left.
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A look at the ten metre tall Bucheobawi and the slender pagoda to the left.
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A look at the north façade with the Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sculpture in the centre and the book ending pagodas on either side.
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The tall nine tier pagoda that was once housed at Hwangnyongsa Temple, but was burnt down to the ground in 1238 by Mongol invaders.
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And to the right on the north facade is this seven tier pagoda that measures one and a half metres in height.
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At the base of the three larger sculptures is this female lion.
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To the left, and on the east face of Bucheobawi, is this central sculpture of Amita-bul.
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To the right of Amita-bul is this stone sculpture of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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An image of one of the six Asparas.
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The south face of the Buddha Rock with a triad of Buddhas to the right and the stone statue to the left.
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A closer look at the triad.
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And a closer look at the fractured face of the stone statue.
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The sculpture of the Nahan (or Buddha) in front of the triad and stone statue.
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A better look at the slender three tier pagoda with the sun at its back.
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Yaksayore-bul, who appears on the west side of the massive rock.

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