Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located in northern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongbulsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Hyangrosan, and next to the flowing Lake Miryang. It’s beautifully situated in the very scenic Baenaegol Valley. Seongbulsa Temple is on the very outskirts of the Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do city limits. Just to the north and west lie the cities of Ulsan and Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

In an elbow of the lake, and past a few pensions, you’ll make your way towards Seongbulsa Temple up a country road. The first thing to greet you is an elevated golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In front of this elevated statue are three smaller stone statues of the Buddha enacting the hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil motif, as well as a stone statue of Podae-hwasang.

To the left of this elevated statue is the Gwaneum-jeon. Housed inside a cave, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall houses a maroon clothed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. She’s joined to the left by a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). Painted on the rock face to the right is a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Yongwang. And to the left of the main altar are rows of jade-like statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the right of the golden statue of Mireuk-bul, and under the temple’s Iljumun Gate, is a set of cement stairs. These stairs lead up towards the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple. The entrance to the left reveals rows of bronzed coloured Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a rather spacious interior for devotees. Resting on the main altar is a uniquely clothed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of a triad of statues. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this main altar is a darkened mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

Stepping outside the Geukrakbo-jeon and past the graffiti written on the walls of the main temple courtyard (yes, a first), you’ll notice a tall stone statue dedicated once more to Gwanseeum-bosal. Somewhat camouflaged by the neighbouring folds of the mountain, Gwanseeum-bosal is cradling a baby in her hands.

It’s to the left of this statue that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three rather plain murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

And it’s to the left of this shaman shrine hall, and up an overgrown forested pathway, that you’ll find a mountainside shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). If not for the blue sign pointing me in this direction, I would have missed the emaciated statue of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi out to Seongbulsa Temple because there is no public transportation out to this remote area. The taxi ride should last 40 minutes and cost 22,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Seongbulsa Temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. While it’s beautifully situated next to Lake Miryang in Baenaegol Valley, the temple itself almost seems abandoned. In fact, I thought it might have been abandoned all but for the monk that greeted me as I was leaving. As for the temple itself, the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall, as well as the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the rear of the temple grounds are a couple highlights at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The entry to Seongbulsa Temple.

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A stone statue of Podae-hwasang in the foreground with Mireuk-bul in the background.

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A closer look at Podae-hwasang.

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And a closer look at the golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The view that Mireuk-bul gets to enjoy.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the side of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon

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The view of the valley from the temple’s main hall.

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The granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The painting of Dokseong that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Who is joined by this close-up of Dokseong.

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A shrine to the left rear of the Samseong-gak.

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The shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that’s up an overgrown pathway.

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The Gwaneum-jeon cave hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A look inside reveals a haunting atmosphere.

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall.

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One more amazing view of the Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

DSC_0561 A first look inside the beautiful and modern main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Up a side-winding road that hugs a dry riverbed is Seongbulsa Temple. This small temple to the south of Tongdosa Temple lacks in size, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in originality.

When you first arrive, other than being greeted by a barking dog that wanders, you’ll be greeted by a pond with a Buddha statue in the centre of a stone lotus pedestal. This statue is surrounded by all twelve of the zodiac generals. To the left of this rustic pond is a stone marker with red painting in both Korean and Chinese characters with the temple name written on it. To the right is the temple’s visitors’ centre.

To the right of the visitors’ centre is the modern looking main hall. In front of the main hall is an expansive deck that looks out onto the dry riverbed. Around the exterior of the main hall are rather amateurish looking paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). However, this amateurishness quickly fades away as soon as you enter the main hall. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre of the triad, is a beautifully robed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). On the left wall is a beautifully ornate black-backed guardian painting. To the left and right of the main altar are dozens of tiny Buddha and Bodhisattva statues. On the right wall, on the right hand side, is a beautiful statue and painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s joined by a row of miniature statues of himself (green hair and all). To the left of Jijang-bosal is one of the more originally painted murals of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

To the right of the main hall is really the hidden treasure to the entire temple. On the outside it appears to be nothing more than a Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall; however, it’s really so much more. The Sanshin-gak is decorated with some amateurish murals that symbolize Sanshin. On the right is a painting of a monk with a tiger, and on the left is a fiercely rendered painting of just a tiger. Inside this hall, you’ll be greeted by a pair of paintings. The one on the right is Sanshin. Not only is there a big and beautiful painting of Sanshin, but there’s an even more impressive statue of Sanshin in front of the painting. To the left of Sanshin is a painting that is somewhat hidden by a couple of artificial bouquets. The painting is a rendering of Dangun Wanggeom. Dangun was the legendary founder of Gojoseon, which was the first Korean kingdom. He founded this kingdom in 2333 B.C. around Liaoning, Northeast China, and the Korean Peninsula. It is extremely rare to see Dangun inside a Buddhist temple. However, much like the neighbouring Sinbulsa Temple in south-western Ulsan, this painting seems to have been painted by the same artist.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Subway Station walk to Emart. From there, you’ll find a bus stop where you’ll find Bus #10. This bus doesn’t come all that often, but when you do finally board it, ride it for 12 stops or 23 minutes. Get off at the Daewoo Marina Gamgyel maeul stop. Walk for about 10 minutes, or 675 metres, towards Seongbulsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. This temple is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It’s neither too close to Tongdosa Temple, nor is it too close to downtown Yangsan. As a result, this temple is a bit difficult to get to. But if you’re willing to spend the time to get to Seongbulsa Temple, you won’t be disappointed by some of the temple artwork. The highlight of this temple, by far, is the Dangun Wanggeom painting in the Sanshin-gak. It’s rare to find a painting of this founding Korean king; but when you do, it’s definitely a nice surprise. Added to this highlight is the beautifully robed statue of Amita-bul, the painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, as well as the pond at the temple.

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The temple grounds as you approach from the parking lot.

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A artificial pond at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The atypical-looking main hall at the temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar

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The shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

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Next to it hangs this beautiful Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.

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An up-close with the guardian mural.

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The temple courtyard. And yes, that’s a picnic table!

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A dried up creek bed next to the temple.

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The odd-looking Sanshin-gak at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A very unique tiger mural that adorns the exterior wall to the Sanshin-gak.

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A painting that adorns the main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The Mountain spirit inside the Sanshin-gak.

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And he shares it with this unique pairing: Dangun Wanggeom.