Sudoam Hermitage – 수도암 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)


The main hall at Sudoam Hermitage in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sudoam Hermitage, which means “Practicing the Way Hermitage,” in English, is located on the southwest section of Jirisan National Park. The hermitage is directly affiliated with the neighbouring Cheoneunsa Temple, and it was first founded by the Supreme Master Deokun. It was later rebuilt by the monk, Doseon. The historic hermitage is widely recognized as the first residence for a Buddhist high priest in all of Korea. However, during the Yeosun Uprising in October, 1948, which was a rebellion against the South Korean government brought on by the suppression of the Jeju Uprising and the refusal of Yeosu soldiers to help suppress the rebellion, the rebels threatened to burn the hermitage to the ground. As a result, the monks at Sudoam Hermitage donated the wood at the hermitage to build a neighbouring school. This left only the bare temple grounds. So in 1980, monk Pyeongjeon-hwasang led in the rebuilding of Sudoam Hermitage.

I had heard a lot of great stuff about this hermitage from Prof. David Mason, so I thought I would explore this little corner of Jirisan National Park.

You first arrive suddenly, through a bend in the road, at Sudoam Hermitage. You’re first greeted by what looks like a fortified brick wall. What actually lies behind it, besides the bending road that leads into the hermitage, are lines of beautiful, lush trees. Finally arriving in the hermitage parking lot, you’ll notice the large monks’ quarters to your immediate right. The only thing that surpasses the size of the monks’ quarters is the mammoth sized parking garage and storage centre straight ahead. It’s past this parking garage that you’ll have to pass by to get to the main hall, the Daeung-jeon Hall, at Sudoam Hermitage.

Turning the corner, you’ll see the beautiful main hall to your left. The golden front façade, with its beautiful golden Nathwi and potted flower latticework, are truly second to none. The exterior walls are adorned with various faded paintings of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). As you enter the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a beautiful golden interior. Sitting on the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right and left of this golden main altar are statues and golden reliefs of the sixteen Nahan. On the far left wall is a golden guardian relief, while to the right is a beautiful golden relief of Amita-bul (the Buddha of the Western Paradise). It’s in front of this relief that I saw a picture of the deceased monk Pyeongjeon-hwasang, who put such a great emphasis on the importance of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as a picture of what looks to be his sari (crystallized earthly remains).

But the real shocker came when I went to explore what was labeled the largest Sanshin-gak in all of Korea. Well, the Sanshin-gak behind the main hall has been converted into a study hall for monks. Also, the tiny shrine to the right rear of the Sanshin-gak is also gone. The only explanation is that it was removed, under a different vision of what the hermitage was supposed to represent, by the new head-monk. I was a little disappointed, to say the least.

HOW TO GET THERE: The only way to get to Sudoam Hermitage is to take a taxi from the Gurye Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride will last about 30 minutes and cost just over 10,000 won. You’ll also need to pay to get into Jirisan National Park, as well, because Sudoam Hermitage is situated within its borders.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Without the memorable Sanshin-gak, Sudoam Hermitage is nothing more than a main hall. And while this main hall is impressive in its own right, it’s all that Sudoam Hermitage has to offer the temple adventurer. So if you’re visiting Jirisan National Park, and you’re in the area, I would say explore; otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.


 The amazing view from the Sudoam Hermitage courtyard.


 A look at the main hall and the surrounding halls at the hermitage.


 Just one of the golden Nathwi that adorns the front doors of the main hall.


 Just one of the Buddha paintings that surrounds the exterior walls of the main hall.


 One of the circular Nahan paintings around the base of the exterior walls.


 The golden main altar with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s flanked on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal.


 The golden guardian relief to the left.


 Eight of the Nahan that are backed by a couple more golden reliefs.


 A golden relief with Amita-bul front and centre. To the bottom right is a picture of Pyeongjeon-hwasang and possibly a picture of his sari, as well.


 To the left rear is what I hoped was the largest Sanshin-gak in Korea. It turned out to be a newly converted monk study hall.


 The same building with the former Sanshin-gak sign out in front of it. Just behind it, you can see the older tablet shrine dedicated to Sanshin, as well.


 The gorgeous Sanshin painting that used to take up residence in the former Sanshin-gak. It’s whereabouts is unknown.

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