The beautiful blue lit Christmas tree in the heart of Nampo-dong in Busan.
Hello Again Everyone!!
It had been nearly ten years since I last visted Nampo-dong, which is one of the major downtown areas in Busan. Just because of where I live now, and the distance it takes to travel to Nampo-dong, it’s been just as long since I last visited Daegaksa Temple, which is in the heart of it all. This part of town is usually pretty busy, but it’s easy busier (as you’ll see) during Christmas because of the lights and all the shopping.
Daegaksa Temple was first created by the Japanese during colonial rule. So a lot of its features still have a somewhat different feel than the typical Korean Buddhist temple. While the temple was quickly converted to be more Korean Buddhist-centric, there are still a couple holdovers from this earlier period in its history.
You first approach the temple down one of the wider roads in the Nampo-dong area. All but for a sign above the entrance to Daegaksa Temple, you might simply pass by the temple without even noticing it. Surrounded by coffee shops and apartments, this little Buddhist oasis is well tucked away from the daily life of most Koreans.
As you enter the compact temple grounds, you’ll immediately see the long main hall at Daegaksa Temple. This is the only building you can enter at the temple. To the left of the centrally placed stairs are two distinctly different pagodas. The first is a Korean-style five tier pagoda. Around the base are various motifs like a pair of fish, a lion, and a dragon. As for the body of the pagoda, there are five open chambers shielded by stone latticework. And at the base of the body, there are miniature stone stairs leading up to the first of these open chambers. It’s a very unique pagoda. Next to this pagoda, and surrounded by beautiful trees, is a Japanese-style pagoda. This pagoda harkens back to the days of Japanese rule, and it’s natural in its stone design.
Up the stairs, you’ll be greeted by a row of four small wooden lion statues. Around back are ten fading Ox-Herding murals, while on the left and right side of the main hall are two pastoral paintings. And hanging from the rafters are some of the largest paper lanterns that you’ll see at any temple in Korea.
Stepping into the spacious main hall, you’ll first notice the canopy of paper flowers overhead. These are joined by paintings of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Buddha) up near the ceiling and rafters. As for the main hall, there are seven statues that rest on the altar. The central statue on the main altar is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by a similar looking Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right of this statue is a beautiful standing statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue is backed by an equally stunning multi-armed mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. The final statue to the far right is a smaller sized statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the left of Amita-bul, and the first in line, is similar looking Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). Next to Yaksayore-bul is a statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Without doubt, this Indian looking statue of the Future Buddha is a beautiful departure from a Korean influenced one. The final statue in the row to the left of Amita-bul is a reclining stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). In Korean, this statue is known as 일월동명불 (Ilwol Dongmyeong-bul). To the left of the seven statues that rest on the main altar is an older looking Shinjung Daenghwa painting, while to the far right is a golden memorial for the dead.
The only other structure at the temple is the visitors’ centre and the monks’ quarters, which are to the left of the main hall. Additionally, you get an amazing view of the Busan Tower from the main hall at Daegaksa Temple.
HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll first need to take the Busan subway, line one, to the Nampo Subway Stop, #111. Once there, go out exit #1 and head towards the stores. You’ll eventually come to the main road that intersects the Nampo-dong shopping area. Head towards the Christmas tree/statue of a woman with birds flying above her. Head up the road that runs to the north (the road that runs at a right angle). Head up this road for 200 metres until you see the Daegaksa Temple sign (대각사) on the left side of the road.
OVERALL RATING: 3/10. I first stumbled upon this temple back in 2004, when I was shopping in Nampo-dong. It had been nearly ten years since I last visited, and so little has changed about it, while so much around it has. The temple on its own is rather small and underwhelming, but there are enough unique features to look at to pay it a visit. This, in combination with perhaps a day of shopping or an evening out for dinner, can make for a nice little time-out from the hustle and bustle of downtown Busan.
The beautifully lit tree in Nampo-dong, which is extremely busy during the Christmas season.
A closer look at the tree. It’s up this road that you’ll find Daegaksa Temple.
The sign that greets you at the temple.
The temple courtyard and main hall at Daegaksa Temple.
A better look at the rather long main hall.
The atypical pagoda that stands to the left of the main hall.
A closer look at its intricate beauty.
The lion that adorns one of the sides of the pagoda’s base.
The all-natural stone pagoda that is a hold-over from Japanese colonialism.
The compact bell that’s situated just outside the main hall doors.
Two of the lions that line the main hall.
A peek inside the main hall.
The weathered guardian mural inside the main hall at Daegaksa Temple.
The reclining stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul that rests on the main altar.
He’s joined by a Indian interpretation of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
And to the far right is this beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
A combination of two towers: the stone pagoda at Daegaksa Temple and the neighbouring Busan Tower.