The amazing main hall at Baekyangsa Temple in Ulsan.
Hello Again Everyone!!
While finalizing my itinerary for my trip to temples in Ulsan, I came across Baekyangsa Temple by chance. While scouting out another temple in the downtown area of Ulsan, I came across this little known gem. And boy, was I really happy that I did discover it, because it quickly became the highlight to my little adventure to Ulsan.
Baekyangsa Temple (백양사) is situated near the city centre of Ulsan. And it’s a rather large temple compound with numerous buildings. As you first approach the temple grounds off of the neighbouring city street, and make your way past the compact bell pavilion that sits near the temple parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the face of a beautifully adorned shrine hall. It isn’t until you pass through one of the two entrance gates that you realize that this building is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The exterior is one of the most beautifully adorned halls in all of Korea with elaborate paintings of animals, the Four Heavenly Kings, and paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal. It’s should also be noted, that all of the temple buildings at Baekyangsa Temple are adorned with my favourite Buddhist painter’s murals. As you step inside of the sparsely decorated Gwaneeum-jeon, you’ll notice the main altar to your right. It took me a bit to realize that the flame standing statue was that of Gwanseeum-bosal. The reason it took me a bit to realize which Buddha or Bodhisattva it was, was that this statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion is one of the most feminine statues of this Bodhisattva that I have yet to see in all of Korea. And she is backed by an equally eloquent painting of herself joined by Yongwang (The Dragon King).
As you step out of this hall, and back into the temple courtyard, you’ll notice the main monks’ residence to your immediate right. This hall is adorned with beautiful Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. And to your immediate left are numerous buildings like the monks’ quarters for the rest of the temple’s monks as well as the kitchen and administration office at the temple.
But by far the highlight of this temple is the amazing main hall, which doesn’t even do the hall justice in words. Out in front of the main hall are a variety of stone statues like twin elephants, the eightfold path wheel, and the 12 zodiac generals, as well as Biseon, and massive stone lanterns. As you approach the main hall, you’ll realize just how intricate the dancheong paintings are. In addition to the colours, you’ll be greeted by some of the finest renderings of the Shimu-do paintings in all of Korea. In addition, there are equally amazing paintings of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls of the main hall. As you step into the main hall, you’ll be greeted by five large statues on the main altar. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And book ending these three central statues are Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal to the right. To the far right is the guardian painting which is fronted with a fierce looking bronze guardian statue.
To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon dedicated to the 16 Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Wrapped around the exterior walls to this hall, once again, are some of the finest Palsang-do murals in all of Korea. As for the interior, and rather conveniently, are the 16 Nahan statues with each of their names written in Korean. These sixteen statues surround a triad of statues that sit on the main altar. In the centre of these smaller sized statues is Seokgamoni-bul.
And to the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. Around the exterior of the hall are various murals that depict an individual from younger age to older age with his aging mother. Also, and probably one of the most spectacular paintings in all of Korea, is the Dragon Ship of Wisdom that adorns the right exterior wall to this hall. As for the interior, there are large sized statues of the 10 Kings of the Underworld that join a statue of Jijang-bosal that sits all by himself on the main altar to this hall. Much like the Nahan, the 10 Kings of the Underworld conveniently have each of their names beside the corresponding King.
And next to this hall is a shaman hall that houses both the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural in the centre and a Dokseong (The Recluse) mural to the right. Atypically, this hall also houses a mural, to the left, of the founding monk at Baekyangsa Temple.
Finally, and up a side-winding set of stairs, fronted by a tacky and fading picture of a tiger, is the San shin-gak. It’s from this vantage point, from the San shin-gak, that you get a great view of Ulsan. As for mural inside of the San shin-gak of its namesake, San shin (The Mountain Spirit), is a ghost-like mural of the usually healthy deity.
HOW TO GET THERE: The directions to Baekyangsa Temple, like some temples in Korea, are pretty difficult. First, from the Ulsan Train Station, you’ll have to get to the Ulsan City Police Station Headquarters (Ulsan Jibang Gyeongchalcheong), where you’ll have to take City Bus #5003. From this bus, you’ll have to get off at the Samhogyo Bus Stop. You’ll then have to transfer buses and take City Bus #408 for 6 more stops, where you’ll have to get off at the Gungdojang Bus Stop. From this bus stop, you can walk to get to the Ulsan City Police Station Headquarters, which should take you about five minutes. And from the police headquarters, you can continue to walk another 5 to 10 minutes (or 600 metres) to get to BaekyangsaTemple. Difficult, but not impossible.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10. There is just so much to see at this temple that is beautiful from the stunning murals that adorn all the halls, both inside and out, to the ghost-like mural of San shin, to the statues of Gwanseeum-bosal, the 10 Kings of the Underworld, and all the other statues at the temple to make Baekyangsa Temple well worth the effort to visit. In addition to all this beauty, there are also all the statues that sit out front of the main hall, as well as the mind-blowingly beautiful lattice work that adorns the doors to the main hall. There’s a lot to take in artistically at this temple, so have fun!