Buljosa Temple – 불조사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The view of the rolling mountains out in front of the main hall at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

This temple has a bit of a back story to it. The first time I attempted to visit this temple, I was told, at the entrance, that I wasn’t allowed in by the head monk. There was something about the monk worrying that people were spying on him. So after a quick phone call from my wife, he invited me back. Well, it’s a year later, and I was finally able to tour around the temple without any sight of the paranoid monk. So just be aware, at least if you’re visiting Buljosa Temple, that you may be denied entrance.

This temple was first constructed, in 1995, to commemorate the monk, Jangyu, who first arrived on the Korean peninsula in 46 A.D. Jangyu, whose original name was Heo Bo-ok, was the brother of Queen Heo. And Queen Heo was the wife of King Suro, who was the first king of the Gaya Kingdom (42 A.D. to 532 A.D.). Jangyu, in his own right, was a prince from Ayodhya in India. He, alongside twenty servants, sailed with his sister, Queen Heo, to the Korean peninsula. It’s believed that Jangyu introduced Buddhism to the Gaya Kingdom; and therefore Korea, upon his arrival. In later life, Jangyu lived and meditated on Mt. Bulmosan and Mt. Jirisan, where he trained the seven sons of King Suro in the doctrine of Buddhism. In fact, he was so successful in his training that after two years the seven sons became Buddhas at Chilbulsa Temple in Jirisan National Park.

You first arrive Buljosa Temple up a countryside road that runs north of Gimhae, in Gyeongsangnam-do Province. Eventually, the temple comes into sight. The first thing to greet you, besides a long set of stairs that lead you towards the temple courtyard, is the monks’ quarters to the right. This is where the head monk first headed me off.

Up the long set of stairs, you’ll notice a mountainside filled with Buddhist halls. Straight ahead is the main hall at Buljosa Temple. Out in front of the newer looking main hall is a rather detailed three tier stone pagoda. Around its based are the twelve zodiac generals, and around its body are stone reliefs of Buddhas. Past this pagoda, and up a flight of stairs, you’ll come to the main hall. Uniquely, and beneath the main hall’s name plate are a pair of fish with a golden pearl between the two of their mouths. Wrapped around the exterior walls to this hall are a pair of paintings. The first set, which stands above the other, is the Palsang-do murals that illustrate the eight stages from the Buddhas life. And the second set, which are painted above the first set, are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll find a triad of statues beneath a large red canopy and backed by a golden relief with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre surrounded by various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. As for the triad itself, and sitting in the centre, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul, who is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left is the guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa.

To the right of the main hall, and on the same lower courtyard, is a hall solely dedicated to the monk, Jangyu. Painted around the exterior are various murals of monks, as well as the Dazu Huike and Bodhidharma encounter. As for the interior, there is a solitary painting of Jangyu resting on the altar. This painting, which is predominantly uses black and gold colours, is skillfully executed, and it rests under a compact canopy.

Just up the stairs, and to the right rear of the hall dedicated solely to Jangyu, is the Sanshin-gak. The hall is surrounded by pastoral paintings, as well as a fierce tiger painting on the left side of the hall. As for inside, there is a large sized Sanshin Taenghwa painting dedicated to the shaman Mountain Spirit. Have a look at this rather original painting with the sun shrouded in mountain clouds.

The final thing to see at Buljosa Temple is a stone sculpture dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). This sculpture, and corresponding shrine, crown the heights of the neighbouring mountain. To get to the image of Yaksayore-bul, you’ll have to follow the trail that starts to the immediate right of the Sanshin-gak. Follow the trail for about 250 metres until you come to a mountainside ledge that steeply looks out over the temple compound, as well as the rolling mountains that appear on the horizon. The sculpture of Yaksayore-bul stands at least five metres in height, and it’s skillfully rendered with a medicine bowl appearing in his left hand and his right hand raised in the symbolic mudra of fearlessness.

For more information about Buljosa Temple, please check out The Story of Buljosa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gimhae Intercity Bus Terminal, which is called the 외동터미널 (Oedong Terminal), you can either take bus #71 or #72. You’ll then have to get off at the Gwangjae bus stop, which is 40 minutes away, or 24 stops. From the stop, and as you’re looking away from the bus stop, you’ll have to head right for about 100 metres on the main road. At this point, you’ll see the sign for Buljosa Temple that leads you up the mountain and towards the temple. Be careful on this road because it’s busy and there’s no side-walk.

View Buljosa Temple in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10Buljosa Temple has a lot of original aspects to it, which includes the rather strange head monk. If you’re able to avoid him, you’re in for quite a treat with beautiful paintings of Sanshin and Jangyu. Also, the golden main altar inside the main hall and the crowning sculpture of Yaksayore-bul that protectively looks out over the temple compound, make the gamble to visit Buljosa Temple worth it. But again, be on your toes for you know who.

The main hall at Buljosa Temple.
The pagoda out in front of the main hall in the temple courtyard.
The unique pair of fish below the main hall nameplate.
The final mural in the Shimu-do set.
The main altar inside the main hall.
The guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa, inside the main hall.
Both the Jangyu Hall to the right and the Sanshin-gak to the left.
The painting of the influential monk, Jangyu.
Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the Sanshin-gak.
The amazing view from the Sanshin-gak.
And a look towards the main hall from the Sanshin-gak.
The trail that leads up to the Yaksayore-bul sculpture.
The first look at the sculpture as you turn the bend in the trail.
 A better look at Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine).
And an even closer look.
And then it was time to get out of Dodge before the head monk showed up.

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