Seonmuam Hermitage – 선무암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The beautiful view from Seonmuam Hermitage in northern Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Here’s one more temple this week to help celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Enjoy!

I had seen a temple on top of a mountain, as I drove down Highway 55 on the way up to Daegu on numerous occasions. It just so happens that this temple is Seonmuam Hermitage in the  northern area of Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

When we first arrived at the small dirt parking lot at Seonmuam Hermitage, we were greeted by a very friendly one-eyed dog. This friendly welcome was an omen of good things to come. The first thing to welcome you at the temple is a nice little lotus pond with a jovial dharma standing in the centre of it.

Up the stairs, and to the right, is the newly built main hall called the Geungnak-jeon hall at Seonmuam Hermitage. The exterior is beautifully adorned with both woodwork and paintings. The exterior has various paintings like a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), Dazu Huike and the Bodhidharma, and a judgment mural with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) hovering in its midst. Probably the most impressive aspect of the main hall’s exterior is the latticework on all three of the frontal entrance doors. As for the interior, a solitary Amita-bul (The Bodhisattva of the Western Paradise) sits on an unpainted main altar. To the left of the main altar is a nice painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is joined on the left by a simplistic guardian painting. And on the far right wall is an elaborate Jijang-bosal painting.

Crossing over the lower courtyard, you’ll pass by a golden seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that has a beautiful view of the Nakdong River down below, the towering Obongsan Mountains off in the distance, and the city of Yangsan even further off in the misty distance. The only other building in this lower courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal. The exterior of the hall is largely unadorned, however, the interior of this hall more than makes up for it. Sitting on the main altar is a golden Jijang-bosal with an equally golden coloured hallow painted behind his head. This statue is surrounded by two separate shelves that house smaller sized statues of Jijang-bosal. And on the far left wall is another simplistic guardian painting.

If you look towards the peak of the mountain, you’ll see a row of three more shrine halls on the upper courtyard at Seonmuam Hermitage. As you climb the numerous sets of stairs, have a look back at the beautiful views. When you finally climb to the ledge that houses the three shrine halls like an eagle’s nest, you’ll first be greeted by a white Buddha statue with a pair of diminutive stone lanterns on either side of him.

The first building in the set of three is a Gwaneeum-jeon hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. There are numerous beautiful paintings of this Bodhisattva both on the exterior and interior walls of this hall. As for the interior itself, there’s a chubby looking statue of Gwanseeum-bosal sitting on this shrine hall’s altar. She is backed by a very intricate multi-armed and eyed mural of this Bodhisattva. Strangely, and to the left of the altar, are two older looking paintings just leaning up against the altar on the ground. The one is of Amita-bul, while the second is of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). They must have been moved to their present location after the new main hall was constructed.

The second shrine hall in this set of three is the San shin-gak, which is dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Inside the largest of the three upper courtyard buildings is a beautifully large statue and painting of the shaman deity. Finally, and to the left of the San shin-gak is the Cheontae-gak, which is a hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse). As you enter the low-ceilinged hall, you’ll enter into a hall that has a cave for its altar. This natural cave houses a stone statue of Dokseong dressed in a red robe with an accompanying attendant that holds onto yellow and red clothes in his hands. And up on the far right side of the cave is an older looking statue of San shin. This cave altar is definitely the highlight to the temple. Interestingly, and to the right of this hall, is a door with the Yin and Yang symbol on it. There are two uniquely created door knockers that have some sort of Indian influenced demon to them. And this door opens up to the interior of the cave. However, I believe you’re not allowed to enter into the cave. Instead, enjoy all that this cave has to offer from the Cheontae-gak shrine hall’s interior. It’s also from this area that you get the best views of the Korean landscape down below.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s unfortunate, but once again, this hermitage can only be accessed by private transportation. So you’ll either need a car, scooter, or a good set of legs, to get to this hermitage in the northern part of Gimhae. Hopefully the map will help you a bit if you really want to visit Seonmuam Hermitage.

View Larger Map

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The exterior of the main hall at Seonmuam Hermitage is stunningly decorated with beautiful murals and colourful latticework. Also, the elaborate Gwanseeum-bosal painting and San shin painting in each of their respective shrine halls are rather impressive, as well. The views of the Nakdong River and Mt. Obong are second to none in epitomizing the beauty of Gyeongsangnam-do’s eastern landscape. But by far, the greatest highlight to this temple is the main altar cave dedicated to Dokseong.

A look up at the lower courtyard and the main hall that it houses.
Inside the main hall, or Geungnak-jeon hall, with a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting on the unpainted altar.
An equally unpainted altar dedicated to a mural of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
The amazing lattice work that adorns the frontal entrance doors on the main hall.
And a judgment mural, as well, that adorns the left exterior wall of the main hall.
A look at the view that a golden Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) has from the lower courtyard at Seonmuam Hermitage.
The view of the Nakdong River from the Myeongbu-jeon hall in the lower courtyard.
A golden Jijang-bosal has a golden hallow painted behind his head on the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
And another view from the lower courtyard of the Nakdong river and Mt. Obong off in the distance.
 The upper courtyard sits on top of the entire hermitage like an eagle’s nest.
The white Buddha statue and twin set of diminutive stone lanterns that welcome you to the upper courtyard.
The set of shrine halls that comprise the upper courtyard. In the centre is the San shin-gak. To the right is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall, and to the left is the Cheontae-jeon shrine hall.
A look at just one of the murals that adorns the exterior of the Gwaneeum-jeon shrine hall. Not so surprisingly, it depicts the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal, with an outstretched arm.
The beautiful, but chubby, statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with an equally elaborate painting of the Bodhisattva at her back.
The large painting and statue of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside of his home: the San shin-gak.
The Indian-influenced door knocker that rests on the Yin and Yang door that allows you access into the cave where Dokseong (The Recluse) resides.
A look at the cave altar that’s inside of the Cheontae-jeon shrine hall dedicated to Dokseong.
A better look at the red caped recluse.
A look over at the area that allows you the best views of the neighbouring landscape at Seonmuam Hermitage.
And the amazing view!