A look across the temple courtyard at Beopcheonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
With all the travelling I’ve done lately around Gyeongsangnam-do and Ulsan, I neglected my own hometown of Yangsan. I’m running out of places to visit, but I did stumble upon Beopcheonsa Temple, which seemed to be promising.
Beopcheonsa Temple, to put it mildly, is a bit of a trek off the beaten path. In total, Beopcheonsa Temple is situated down a long and winding gravel road, six kilometres removed from the next neighbouring city street. When you do finally arrive at the outskirts of the temple, which is dedicated to nuns, you’ll be greeted by two extremely ornate lanterns that are adorned with a twisting dragon, the 12 zodiac generals, and a stone bird that sits on top of the stone lanterns.
Past these two stone lanterns, and a pair of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) statues to your far right, you’ll next come to the Cheonwangmun Gate. Surrounded by a halo of sun from the east, and a plume of smoke from the kitchen, the Cheonwangmun Gate is one of the more original gates with the bell pavilion sitting on top of it. It seemingly looks like a wooden crown. And as you pass through the gate, and emerge on the other side in the temple courtyard, you’ll be greeted by some of the better renderings of the Heavenly Kings.
Having finally emerged from the Cheonwang Gate, you’ll first be greeted by the temple’s three-tiered pagoda which is reminiscent of a Unified Silla design. And if you look back from where you came from, you’ll see the beautifully designed bronze bell that sits on the second story of the Cheonwangmun Gate. Instead of being adorned with numerous Biseon or even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, it’s adorned with a mother lovingly tending to her child. Also, it’s adorned with a set of large prayer beads.
To your immediate right is the temple’s visitors’ centre, which I was lucky enough to join the two nuns in a cup of coffee. And to the far left is the nuns’ quarters. Behind these nuns’ quarters is a shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal. In an alcove with yellow walls, those that have died have their name written and stored along these walls. Sitting in the centre is a seated statue of Jijang-bosal and he’s joined by a pair of assistants and two more golden Vajra protectors at the base of the stairs.
But enough digression, because the real highlight to the temple is the main hall, the Geungnak-jeon. Sitting on the main altar is a large stone statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And at his back, rather surprisingly, is a window that looks out onto a part of the mountain. He’s joined to the left and right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). These three statues are joined by another pair of Bodhisattva statues. All five of the altar statues, rather uniquely, have their own separate windows that look out onto the side of the mountain. To the far right is the temple’s guardian mural, as well as a mural of Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment alongside Uisang-daesa.
The final hall at the temple is the Samseong-gak, which is to the right rear of the main hall. As you make your way to this hall, there’s a guardian statue at the base of a tree along your way. As for the interior of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll be greeted by one of the more impressive Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals. It is similar in design to the mural dedicated to Chilseong at Biroam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple. The Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit) murals inside this hall are nice, but nowhere near as beautiful as the Chilseong painting.
To the right of the Samseong-gak, and a little down the mountain, is a courtyard area filled with a couple shrine areas. To your immediate right, and before you cross the beautifully designed dragon-headed bridge, is a shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal near a pond. It’s near this pond that the local gray geese couple with orange beaks reside. If you’re lucky, they’ll be out and about taking a stroll around the temple.
Finally, and across the dragon-headed bridge, is a shrine dedicated to a seated Gwanseeum-bosal to the left and an equally stunning statue of a standing Gwanseeum-bosal statue to the right. There are a couple benches in this area, either if you want to pray or simply take a breather before heading home.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Busan, you can take the subway, up line 2 (The Green line), to Namyangsan Subway Stop #242. From this stop, you can get in a taxi and take it to Beopcheonsa Temple. The taxi ride should take you about ten to fifteen minutes.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10. There’s a lot of subtle beauty to this temple from its crown-like Cheonwangmun Gate, to its feminine bronze bell, up to the windowed main hall, and over to the highly original Chilseong mural and courtyard dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. So whatever your fancy, this temple has a fair bit to see and enjoy.