The Story of…Chilbulam Hermitage

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The Seven Buddhas of Chilbulam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

In yet another installment of The Story Of…, I thought I would next tell you about Chilbulam Hermitage on Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju.

I had long wanted to visit Mt. Namsan in Gyeongju because it’s littered with an endless amount of Buddhist artifacts like temples, hermitages, shrines, statues, and pagodas. So during the winter vacation of 2013, I decided I would finally explore parts of the historically important mountain. A week earlier, I had explored Samneung Valley on the other side of the mountain. So the following week, I decided I wanted to visit Chilbulam Hermitage and the famed Bodhisattva on the Rock Face above the hermitage.

And while I knew that the hike would be a bit of a strenuous one for me, as the hermitage lies two kilometres up the mountain, near the summit, I never imagined it to be that hard. The first kilometre and a half is rather easy, while the remaining 500 metres is rather strenuous (to put it mildly). Near the end of the hike, I think I might have been taking a break every 100 metres. Fortunately for me, and since it was the dead of winter, there weren’t many other hikers around so I could seem cool and collected when they passed by me.

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The long hike up renders these beautiful views of Gyeongju down below.

Finally cresting the mountain and arriving at Chilbulam Hermitage a bit out of breath and sweating profusely, I was greeted by, “Hello.” At first, I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, since I was only half aware of my surroundings due to exhaustion.

“Hello,” the voice said again, “would you like some tea?”

With the sweetest smile, and the simplest of words, I was able to spot the source of the sentence. From the main hall/nuns’ living quarters, I saw the shaved head of a Czech nun. Talk about surprising. The last thing I expected to hear, let alone see, was a foreigner just like me, especially since the hermitage is rather remote.

At first, I said, “Is it alright if I have a look around the hermitage?”

“Of course, take your time.”

Now, I didn’t say no because I didn’t want tea. I said no because I wanted to stop sweating first. I know, a bit of vanity. So after looking around the beautiful grounds at the seven Buddhas sculptures at the hermitage, I took the nun up on her offer.

So over a couple cups of tea and ddeok (Korean traditional rice cakes), we talked about Korean Buddhism, Korea, and driving in Korea (as she was just starting to drive in Korea).

Unfortunately, our conversation had to come to an end because the morning service was just about to start and the living quarters also act as the main hall at Chilbulam Hermitage. But before I left, she invited me back and wished me well in my exploration of the beautiful Bodhisattva on the Rock Face that overlooks the valley down below, as well as Chilbulam Hermitage.

Fortunately for me, and before I made my way back down the mountain, this meeting cured my weary legs.

Check out here to learn more about Chilbulam Hermitage.

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The Bodhisattva of the Rock Face above Chilbulam Hermitage.

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