Sajaam Hermitage – 사자암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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 The beautifully realistic painting of a tiger on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sajaam Hermitage means Lion Hermitage in English. And it’s the closest associated hermitage to Beomeosa Temple out to the left. But it’s a bit tricky to find through the maze of restaurants and houses even though it’s only 300 metres up a side road.

When you first approach the hermitage, up its elevated driveway, you’ll first be greeted by five really strange looking metal rings. Up the stone walkway, and under the metal rings, you’ll see the compact courtyard. To the right is a non-descript dorm for the monks. And to the immediate left is the kitchen and visiting centre at the hermitage. Straight ahead is a nice looking main hall that is framed by the mountains that loom overhead. Behind the main hall, and to the left, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This shrine hall is beautifully decorated with a masterfully rendered painting of a tiger. And to the right of this painting is a simplistic painting of a monk walking along a wooded pathway. Inside the shrine hall are four paintings. On the altar are three paintings. In the centre there is a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars); to the left is a painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit); and to the right is Dokseong (The Recluse). All are beautifully painted. On the right wall is an older looking painting that is equally beautiful in its artistry.

The main hall itself has no exterior paintings. However, the interior of the main hall is nice, but minimalistic. On the main altar is a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue behind a glass display case. To the left of this statue is a well-populated guardian painting. And to the right of the centre altar piece is a unique painting. This painting is a depiction of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) at the centre with six flanking Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on either side of him including Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Sajaam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both cases you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa Station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa Temple. Instead of walking towards Beomeosa Temple, continue to walk left down the paved hill. You’ll see a big sign to the right that highlights the three hermitages to the far left of Beomeosa Temple. For Sajaam Hermitage, look for the sign that reads 사자암. The hermitage is 300 metres ahead down twisting and disorienting side streets. Just follow the road that never comes to a dead-end, and continue to head left down the side streets. There will be a sign reading 사자암 to show you that you’ve arrived at the right hermitage entrance.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. There is very little to see at Sajaam Hermitage. Of the lot, there are three beautifully rendered paintings of the shamanistic deities (Chilseong, Sanshin, and Dokseong), as well as a beautiful painting of Seokgamoni-bul and the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas inside the main hall.

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The strange partial metal rings at the entry of Sajaam Hermitage.

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The hermitage courtyard.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.

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The solitary monk painting that adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak.

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The Confucian-style Chilseong mural.

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To the right hangs this mural of Dokseong.

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And to the left hangs this older mural of Sanshin.

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A look at the unadorned main hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

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A look around the interior of the main hall.

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The main altar with a diminutive statue of Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The well-populated guardian mural inside the main hall.

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One more look at the main hall.

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And one more look at the mountains that surround the unique entry at Sajaam Hermitage.