Heungbuam Hermitage – 흥부암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazing view of downtown Gimhae from Heungbuam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

If you’ve ever been to downtown Gimhae, you’ll notice something on the face of a small mountain. Well the name of the mountain is Mt. Imhosan, and the name of the temple is Heungbuam Hermitage. Long admiring and wondering about this hermitage from afar, I thought I would give it a closer look.

Up nearly a 500 metre climb at a 30 degree angle of winding road is Heungbuam Hermitage (흥부암). Other than the parking lot, the other thing that greets you is a modern looking building and the hermitages edifice above you. Walking up a couple set of long stairs, and under a security fence (much like a downtown convenience store) that was up for the hermitages opening hours, you’ll pass under a modern looking conference hall. After passing under, and through, this area of the hermitage, you’ll find yourself in Heungbuam Hermitage’s courtyard. First, you’ll have to pass under a stone entrance gate to gain admittance to the hermitage grounds.

The courtyard itself is divided into two areas. First, there is the north side of the hermitage that houses the main hall, monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre. As you make your way towards the main hall, which is rather large for such a small hermitage, you’ll pass over painted green cement floor that is peeling. Also, as you continue, you’ll notice that there are an endless amount of protective Plexiglas areas for people to pray under. The Plexiglas, I’m guessing, is to protect those that wish to pray in the bad weather when there’s no room to pray inside any number of shrine halls at the hermitage. Finally, having made your way over to the main hall, you’ll notice the exterior of the hall is adorned with the Shimu-do paintings, or the Ox-Herding murals, in English. They are simple, but they’re nice. As for the interior of the main hall, it is nicely adorned with various paintings like the Dokseong (The Recluse) mural and the guardian painting on the right side of the hall. And on the far left side of the hall is a Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting. All are nice, but again, they’re simple. The main altar itself inside of the main hall is framed by tiny white ceramic Buddha statues. As for the main altar itself, there’s a stunning golden centre piece with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. In front of this golden centre piece is a golden seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue that dates back to the 18th century. Remarkably, this golden statue is made of stone.

After viewing the main hall, you can make your way to the south side of the hermitage, which houses three additional structures. As you go, you’ll see a collection of Buddhist iconographic statues and stuffed animals to your right. And interestingly, and perhaps you were unable to see it as you first entered the hermitage grounds, is a statue of Samshin Halmoni, probably left behind by a shaman.

Finally having arrived on the south side of the hermitage, and still travelling over the weather worn peeling green paint, you’ll first be greeted by the San shin-gak. This hall is slightly elevated above all the other shrine halls at the hermitage. Both the inside and outside of the hall are adorned with Daoist religious figures. As for the San shin painting itself, it’s rather interesting. The San shin (Mountain Spirit) displays a sad face. This is in contrast to the usual confident or re-assuring face that he displays in most other paintings. Also, one of the accompanying attendants is riding the tiger, and not San shin, which are two rather unique attributes to the painting.

Further along in this upper courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who sits on the main altar inside of this hall. The interior is brightly decorated, which is in contrast to the rather simplistic exterior. The only other structure at this hermitage is the larger sized bell pavilion that houses an equally large sized Brahma Bell. It’s from this vantage point that you get beautiful views of the downtown area of Gimhae including King Suro’s Tomb.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Bonghwang Subway Station along the new Gimhae subway line. From there, use exit #1 and head straight towards the mountains for about 100 metres. Cross over the cross-walk and turn right. Walk a short distance, and then you’ll see a brown sign to the left that reads “흥부암.” From there, follow the signs as they lead you up a small housing area and up the steep road. Eventually, and after a five hundred metre climb, you’ll arrive at Heungbuam Hermitage.

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OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed by Heungbuam Hermitage. I don’t know if it was the expectations going into it, or the peeling green paint, or the campy Plexiglas structures everywhere, but this hermitage was a bit of a letdown. In total, there were really only three highlights to this hermitage. One is the scenic views of downtown Gimhae, while another is the golden stone Gwanseeum-bosal statue that dates back to the 18th century. But for me, perhaps the greatest highlight was the highly original San shin painting with a frowning San shin and rodeo riding dongja.

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The first set of stairs that leads up to the hermitage.
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Just one of the large Biseon paintings that adorns the ceiling as you make your way up to the hermitage courtyard.
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The stone gateway and the main hall at Heungbuam Hermitage off in the distance.
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The countless amount of statues and stuffed animals that are perched on a ledge just before you make your way over to the main hall at the hermitage.
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A better look at the main hall with just one of the many Plexiglas set-ups at the hermitage.
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A good example of just one of the simplistic Shimu-do paintings that adorns the main hall at Heungbuam Hermitage.
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The golden centre piece inside of the main hall that backs the golden stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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The elaborate, yet simplistic, guardian painting inside of the main hall.
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The equally simplistic Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting that adorns the left side of the wall inside of the main hall.
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And the final mural that adorns the interior of the main hall is this painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).
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The entrance to the elevated San shin-gak at the hermitage.
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The atypical mural of San shin at Heungbuam Hermitage.
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The beautiful altar inside of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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And a beautiful view of downtown Gimhae, with the new elevated subway system, in the distance.

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