Bukdaeam Hermitage – 북대암 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The amazing view from Bukdaeam Hermitage onto Unmunsa Temple down below.

Hello Again Everyone,

It had been a couple years since I last visited Unmunsa Temple, and it had been just as long since I wanted to explore the hermitages that surround it. One of the more prominent hermitages at Unmunsa Temple, in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is Bukdaeam Hermitage that overlooks the entire Unmunsa Temple grounds. Placed precariously on the face of Mt. Unmunsan is the beautiful Bukdaeam Hermitage, which means, “North Gate Hermitage,” in English.

You first approach Bukdaeam Hermitage up a long, winding road that eventually becomes a steep and winding trail. Finally, after a few hundred metres up Mt. Unmunsan, you’ll finally come to the hermitage’s grounds. The first things to greet you are a wall of hermitage buildings like the nuns’ living quarters and kitchen. To the right, and a little further up the trail, you’ll notice a beautiful hall on a mountain ledge. This colourful hall is a shaman shrine hall dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse). Be careful when climbing the stairs to this hall, because they are both steep and narrow. Inside this hall is a very Asian, somewhat Chinese, looking Sanshin mural. He’s joined by a somewhat average looking Dokseong mural. It’s from this that you get amazing views of the peak of Mt. Unmunsan behind you, and the surrounding mountains around you.

Below this shaman shrine hall, and on a much broader ledge, is the main hall. The main hall’s exterior walls are adorned with some beautiful Palsang-do murals, which illustrate portions of the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul’s, life. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of golden statues. Sitting in the centre is a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This triad is joined on either side by two murals. The one to the right is the Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural), and to the left by a well populated mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

Out in front of the main hall is a solitary stone lantern that stands all by itself. It’s from this angle that you get an amazing view of Unmunsa Temple in the valley below. Unfortunately, there are several black power lines that obscure the view a bit. To the far left of the main hall are some more nuns’ quarters. And behind the main hall sits the Chilseong-gak with a beautiful older looking mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) inside. Both Unmunsa Temple and Bukdaeam Hermitage are best visited in the fall months when the leaves are changing colour.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two main ways that you can get to Bukdaeam Hermitage; but first, you’ll have to get to Unmunsa Temple. The first is from the Daegu Nambu Bus Terminal. In total, there are sixteen buses that leave throughout the day from 6:20 in the morning until 8:00 at night. The trip from this bus terminal to the temple is an hour and twenty minutes. The bus trip costs about 5,800 won. The second main route you can take is to get a bus to the Cheongdo Bus Terminal. Buses from this terminal run every hour and cost about 3,200 won. To get to Bukdaeam Hermitage from the front gate, you’ll first have to walk about 300 metres to a stone marker that points you in the right direction (if you get to Unmunsa Temple, you’ve gone too far). After turning left at the stone marker that reads – 북대암 – you’ll need to hike up the road that eventually becomes a trail. In total, the hard hike lasts about 700 metres.


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OVERALL RATING: 6/10. The views alone from Bukdaeam Hermitage makes it well worth a visit. When you add into the mix the shaman paintings of Sanshin and Chilseong, as well as the colourful main hall, and you have a good enough reason to explore the beautifully situated Bukdaeam Hermitage. And with Unmunsa Temple, it can make for quite a nice day trip.

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The view from Unmunsa Temple up at Bukdaeam Hermitage up in the mountains.

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The stone sign that welcomes you to the entrance of Bukdaeam Hermitage.

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The amazing view of Unmunsa Temple down below as you make your way towards Bukdaeam Hermitage.

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Part of the steep trail that leads to the hermitage.

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Finally, the view of the hermitage is within sight.

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The first thing to welcome you to the hermitage is this shaman shrine hall dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse).

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The Chinese-looking Sanshin inside the hall.

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The view from the shaman shrine hall down onto the main hall and the sprawling mountains that surround the hermitage.

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The main hall to the left with the peak of Mt. Unmunsan to the right.

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Just one of the Palsang-do paintings that surround the walls of the main hall.

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The interior to the main hall.

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The amazing view from the main hall and a solitary stone lantern.

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Behind the main hall is the Chilseong-gak.

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Inside, and hanging on the main altar, is this older painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

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The view from the Chilseong-gak, out, and over, the main hall.

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 One last look at Bukdaeam Hermitage.

5 thoughts on “Bukdaeam Hermitage – 북대암 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

  1. Beautiful blue-sky shots! Great little temple. Wonderful modern Sanshin-do with such detailed background! Excellent Sanshin-Dokseong-gak up-on-cliff; those were quite popular in the 1960s~80s, then started being replaced by Samseong-gaks. There never was a name for these, “2-seong-gak” or anything; they either had both signboards like here, or just either one.

    • It was a beautiful, but crisp, fall day. And very interesting about the history of shaman shrine halls in Korea. Thanks!

    • Thank you. It’s a pretty easy hike, and the views are pretty amazing. If you make it down this way, please feel free to contact me.

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