Sudoam Hermitage – 수도암 (Gurye, Jeollanam-do)

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The main hall at Sudoam Hermitage in Jirisan National Park.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sudoam Hermitage, which means “Practicing the Way Hermitage,” in English, is located on the southwest section of Jirisan National Park. The hermitage is directly affiliated with the neighbouring Cheoneunsa Temple, and it was first founded by the Supreme Master Deokun. It was later rebuilt by the monk, Doseon. The historic hermitage is widely recognized as the first residence for a Buddhist high priest in all of Korea. However, during the Yeosun Uprising in October, 1948, which was a rebellion against the South Korean government brought on by the suppression of the Jeju Uprising and the refusal of Yeosu soldiers to help suppress the rebellion, the rebels threatened to burn the hermitage to the ground. As a result, the monks at Sudoam Hermitage donated the wood at the hermitage to build a neighbouring school. This left only the bare temple grounds. So in 1980, monk Pyeongjeon-hwasang led in the rebuilding of Sudoam Hermitage.

I had heard a lot of great stuff about this hermitage from Prof. David Mason, so I thought I would explore this little corner of Jirisan National Park.

You first arrive suddenly, through a bend in the road, at Sudoam Hermitage. You’re first greeted by what looks like a fortified brick wall. What actually lies behind it, besides the bending road that leads into the hermitage, are lines of beautiful, lush trees. Finally arriving in the hermitage parking lot, you’ll notice the large monks’ quarters to your immediate right. The only thing that surpasses the size of the monks’ quarters is the mammoth sized parking garage and storage centre straight ahead. It’s past this parking garage that you’ll have to pass by to get to the main hall, the Daeung-jeon Hall, at Sudoam Hermitage.

Turning the corner, you’ll see the beautiful main hall to your left. The golden front façade, with its beautiful golden Nathwi and potted flower latticework, are truly second to none. The exterior walls are adorned with various faded paintings of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). As you enter the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a beautiful golden interior. Sitting on the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two standing statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right and left of this golden main altar are statues and golden reliefs of the sixteen Nahan. On the far left wall is a golden guardian relief, while to the right is a beautiful golden relief of Amita-bul (the Buddha of the Western Paradise). It’s in front of this relief that I saw a picture of the deceased monk Pyeongjeon-hwasang, who put such a great emphasis on the importance of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as a picture of what looks to be his sari (crystallized earthly remains).

But the real shocker came when I went to explore what was labeled the largest Sanshin-gak in all of Korea. Well, the Sanshin-gak behind the main hall has been converted into a study hall for monks. Also, the tiny shrine to the right rear of the Sanshin-gak is also gone. The only explanation is that it was removed, under a different vision of what the hermitage was supposed to represent, by the new head-monk. I was a little disappointed, to say the least.

HOW TO GET THERE: The only way to get to Sudoam Hermitage is to take a taxi from the Gurye Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride will last about 30 minutes and cost just over 10,000 won. You’ll also need to pay to get into Jirisan National Park, as well, because Sudoam Hermitage is situated within its borders.



OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Without the memorable Sanshin-gak, Sudoam Hermitage is nothing more than a main hall. And while this main hall is impressive in its own right, it’s all that Sudoam Hermitage has to offer the temple adventurer. So if you’re visiting Jirisan National Park, and you’re in the area, I would say explore; otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.

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 The amazing view from the Sudoam Hermitage courtyard.

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 A look at the main hall and the surrounding halls at the hermitage.

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 Just one of the golden Nathwi that adorns the front doors of the main hall.

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 Just one of the Buddha paintings that surrounds the exterior walls of the main hall.

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 One of the circular Nahan paintings around the base of the exterior walls.

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 The golden main altar with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s flanked on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal.

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 The golden guardian relief to the left.

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 Eight of the Nahan that are backed by a couple more golden reliefs.

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 A golden relief with Amita-bul front and centre. To the bottom right is a picture of Pyeongjeon-hwasang and possibly a picture of his sari, as well.

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 To the left rear is what I hoped was the largest Sanshin-gak in Korea. It turned out to be a newly converted monk study hall.

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 The same building with the former Sanshin-gak sign out in front of it. Just behind it, you can see the older tablet shrine dedicated to Sanshin, as well.

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 The gorgeous Sanshin painting that used to take up residence in the former Sanshin-gak. It’s whereabouts is unknown.

Sudoam Hermitage – 수도암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The main altar inside of the main hall at Sudoam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had once visited Sudoam Hermitage, but they were performing a ceremony, so I didn’t want to interrupt. Recently, I went back to Sudoam Hermitage with a little bit more success. I was finally able to see it. Sudoam Hermitage was the last hermitage I had yet to visit at Tongdosa Temple, and while it isn’t the most impressive, it has enough to keep the temple adventurer entertained.

When you first enter the Sudoam Hermitage (수도암) grounds up an uneven road, you’ll be greeted by a tiny pavilion for meditation. This bamboo pavilion jets out over open air, and has two chairs seated in its midst.

Past this bamboo pavilion, you’ll next be greeted by the hermitage’s facilities like the meeting centre, the kitchen, and the monks’ dorms to your left. And to your right is the hermitage’s garden, which is beautifully framed by the neighbouring mountains. It’s between these two framing set of hermitage structures that the hermitage’s shrine halls are housed.

Straight ahead, and through a pair of overgrown cedar trees, is Sudoam Hermitage’s main hall. This rather long, but narrow, main hall is beautifully adorned with floral murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To his right and left, atypically, is Daesaeji-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the right of this triad of statues is a guardian mural. And to the left is a beautiful Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural. The entire interior ceiling of the main hall is decorated with some beautiful pink paper lotus flowers. For some reason, they seemed to be a bit more vibrant and beautiful than most other temples.

The final hall at the hermitage is to the left rear of the main hall. This hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This newer looking shrine hall houses the three most popular shaman deities: Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Recluse), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Stepping into the Samseong-gak, you’ll be greeted by some unique shaman paintings. Perhaps the most unique, and simplistic, is the Chilseong mural. It’s also from the Samseong-gak shrine hall that you get a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Sudoam Hermitage, as well as Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes.  Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds.  From the Tongdosa Temple grounds, keep heading up the main road for about 2 kilometres. When the road forks both straight and to the right, turn to the right. Head up the hilly road for another kilometre and Sudoam Hermitage will be on your right. Admission for adults to Tongdosa Temple is 3,000 won, while admission to Sudoam Hermitage is included with your entrance to Tongdosa Temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10. While not the most impressive hermitage at Tongdosa Temple, Sudoam Hermitage still has a fair bit for a person to see and explore. The interior of the main hall is beautiful, as are the floral murals that adorn the exterior walls to this hall. Additionally, the view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall and the bamboo pavilion are two more highlights to this little travelled hermitage.

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The bamboo pavilion as you enter the hermitage grounds.
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The hermitage’s vegetable garden and greenhouse.
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The main hall as you approach it.
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A look across the long main hall at Sudoam Hermitage.
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The triad of statues that sits on the main altar. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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A closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal.
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The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.
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And to the left of the main altar is this beautiful mural of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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A look up at the Samseong-gak shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall at Sudoam Hermitage.
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The interesting, and centrally located, Chilseong mural inside of Samseong-gak shrine hall.
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To the left of Chilseong is this mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And a look across the main hall from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.