Just one of the numerous stunning stone sculptures at Seoamjeongsa Temple in Hamyang, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
One look at Seoamjeongsa Temple online on a Korean blog, and I knew that I had to go. Just from the pictures alone, I could tell that this was a temple that had to be seen. And the online pictures didn’t lie!
You initially walk up a rather steep five hundred metre road that winds to the right. Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the road, where you can either turn left or right. I highly recommend turning right and heading down the traditional entry to Seoamjeongsa Temple. If you don’t, you’ll be skipping over one of the highlights to this temple. On the right side of the right handed turn is a wall of guardian sculptures sculpted into the face of the mountain. And like Seokbulsa Temple in Busan, they are rather impressive. At the final, of the four, Heavenly Kings that protect the temple from evil spirits is a crowning pagoda above its head. And to the left of this is a tiny attendant statue holding a candle.
Past the row of Heavenly Kings, and under a rock enclosure that acts as the entry to the temple, you’ll finally come to a temple heavily under construction. It’s so heavily under construction because they’re building a brand new main hall. You’ll have to navigate your way to the front of the main hall to get past all the construction; however, before you do that, have a look left at a stunning stone sculpture with a triad of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas etched on it. In the centre of this triad is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the right is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
Now standing out in front of the main hall, you’ll notice the artists intricately painting the dancheong colour patterns on the main hall. And to the left, if you look over the barrier fence, you’ll notice the sprawling valley down below.
To the immediate left of the main hall is a gorgeous pond that has colourful coy fish swimming all around it. And standing in the centre of this pond, with a fountain next to it, is another statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. However, the real highlight to this temple, in a long list of highlights, is the cave hall that rests on the terrace above the pond. Before we entered, we saw a woman sitting at the entry telling all those that entered not to take pictures. She’s quite adamant about it, so be careful if you do decide to snap a couple subtle pictures. Without a doubt, this cave is one of the most impressive collections of stone sculptures in all of Korea. To your immediate left, when you enter, is a large triad of statues centred by Amita-bul. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). To this triad’s left is another amazing sculpture, this time, of Jijang-bosal. He’s joined by a couple of attendants. Finally, and down a set of stairs, is an impressive collection of guardians centred by Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings). Surrounding the rest of the interior of this cave, and I mean literally every square inch, are an assortment of stone statues like the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha), Dokseong (The Recluse), attendants, Biseon, and you name it. Again, it’s extremely impressive!
Up a final set of stairs that lead to the upper courtyard are a multitude of new stone sculptures. To your immediate left, even before you enter the upper courtyard, is a shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Finally, and to your right, you’ll enter the upper courtyard and be greeted by two more shaman deities. Slightly to the left, and up a small set of stairs, you’ll be greeted by Dokseong, and to the right is San shin (The Mountain Spirit), who is joined by a inquisitively eyed tiger. To the right of these amazing statues is an altar dedicated to Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He sits on top of three other stone sculptures down below. In the centre of these three other sculptures is an attendant that’s flanked by two more Buddha stone sculptures. The stone masonry and artistry are really second-to-none.
HOW TO GET THERE: According to the temple website, the only way to get to Seoamjeongsa Temple is by car. However, you can get to the temple by taking a bus to the Hamyang Intercity Bus Terminal and take a taxi to Seoamjeongsa Temple. The trip takes about 40 minutes, over a 20 kilometre distance, and it’ll cost you about 15,000 won.
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. Where do I even start? Well, I guess the best start is all the stone masonry at the temple from the Heavenly Kings at the entrance, to the shrine hall cave that houses a multitude of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and deities, to the upper courtyard that houses the shaman deities and Birojana-bul, this temple has it all when it comes to stone artistry. They are all masterfully executed and perhaps only second to the stonework completed at Seokbulsa Temple; and even that is arguable. In addition, the temple is beautifully situated and it has a stunning pond. And in the not too distant future, Seoamjeongsa Temple looks to have an equally stunning main hall. If you’re in Hamyang, or even if you’re not, check out Seoamjeongsa Temple!