Anjeoksa Temple – 안적사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

CSC_0303The beautiful Iljumun Gate with the rest of the temple seen through the pillars at Anjeoksa Temple in Busan.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Anjeoksa Temple (안적사) is probably located in one of the most remote areas in Busan. I know, that sounds a bit like an oxy-moron, but it’s true. Isolated away from both the over-populated cityscape that is Busan, as well as the ocean, is the historic Anjeoksa Temple. And even though it was by chance that I even found this temple, I’m sure glad I did find it.

You first approach Anjeoksa Temple up an extremely steep set of long stairs. After climbing these stairs, you’re greeted by the beautiful Iljumun Gate. Lining the path that leads up to the next gate, the Cheonwangmun Gate (or Heavenly Kings’ Gate in English) are numerous fir trees. Also, and right in front of the Cheonwangmun Gate, are two protective cat-like guardians. Surrounding the entire exterior of the Cheonwangmun Gate are twelve paintings that depict the twelve zodiac signs. As for the interior, there are four uniquely designed Cheonwang statues. It’s rare to have a temple of this size house both the Iljumun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate, but lucky for us there are. And these two gates are masterfully created.

Upon entering the temple courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a three tiered stone pagoda. To the far left is a compact bell pavilion that houses a stout Brahma Bell. And next to the bell pavilion are a row of monk stupas underneath an ancient tree and surrounded by a bamboo forest. Interestingly, and lining the periphery of the temple grounds are at least five temple buildings. These temple buildings look to be former shrine halls that have been converted to either monk dorms and/or the temple’s main office and visitors’ centre. This is interesting because I’ve rarely seen this happen.

As for the temple buildings themselves, there are only two that a visitor can see: the main hall and the Samseong-gak shrine hall dedicated to Korean shaman deities. The exterior of the rather large main hall at Anjeoksa Temple is mainly adorned with the Shimu-do Ox-Herding murals. However, there are a couple of other paintings that depict the famous founding monks, Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, visiting the future temple grounds of Anjeoksa Temple. As for the interior, the interior of the main hall is rather original and unique. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre, is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And sitting to his right is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and sitting on the left side of the altar is Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad is backed by a wooden sculpted black mural that masterfully displays various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and deities. To the right of the main altar is a black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He is backed by an equally amazing wooden sculpted black mural of himself in the company of other Bodhisattvas and deities. And on the far left wall is a large sized guardian sculpture in the same vein as the other wooden artwork inside the main hall. The only other thing of note inside the main hall are the murals above both side entrances of Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and the blue tiger riding Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).

The other building that visitors can view is the Samseong-gak shrine hall. The exterior is adorned with Daoist figures and a couple of murals of Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, again. As for the interior, a newer looking Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural sits in the centre of the three most popular shaman deities in Korean shamanism. On the far left wall is a simplistic mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse), and on the far right wall is a large sized San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. What’s interesting about the mural of San shin is that it’s a near replica of the San shin painting at Beomeosa Temple in Busan. However, in knowing that the head-monk at Anjeoksa Temple was first trained at Beomeosa Temple, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that he would want something familiar in his new temple of worship. The final things that occupy the Samseong-gak shrine hall are a row of paintings dedicated to famous monks. And not so surprising, two of the three are Wonhyo-daesa who sits in the middle, and Uisang-daesa who sits on the far right side of the hall’s right wall.

A couple of interesting little decorative things about this temple, and as you exit to the right of the temple courtyard, there’s a sheer-faced rock wall; however, somehow some people have been able to delicately place a few Buddhist figurines along the thinnest of rock ledges on this rock face. The other interesting part of this temple are the decorative stone monster faces that adorn the sides of the stairs that lead up to the main hall. They, like the San shin painting, are a near exact replica of the stone monster faces at Haeinsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: Lately, it seems like I’ve been visiting more and more remote places that require you to have your own form of transportation, and this is yet another one of those temples. In fact, this is probably the most remote of places that I’ve visited in quite some time. Hopefully, if you want to visit this temple, the map will somewhat help you to find this beautiful temple.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The uniqueness of having two large sized entrance gates like the Iljumun Gate and the Cheonwangmun Gate are just two of the highlights to this temple. The other highlights are the original black wood artwork inside the main hall, as well as all of the paintings inside of the Samseong-gak shrine hall. This beautifully scenic temple is well worth a visit if you can find it!

The long, but scenic, set of stairs that leads up to the temple.
The beautiful path that leads from the Iljumun Gate to the Cheonwangmun Gate.
A look at the Cheonwangmun Gate at Anjeoksa Temple.
A look across the front of the Cheonwangmun Gate with a look at a guardian that protects one of the entrance doors.
Damun Cheonwang, just one of the four Heavenly Kings that helps protect the temple grounds.
The view as you first enter into the temple courtyard.
The extremely compact bell pavilion at Anjeoksa Temple.
Just one of the stupas that sits under an ancient pine tree.
A different look at the temple courtyard with a couple more temple buildings.
A unique look up at the main hall at the temple.
Just one of the Shimu-do murals around the exterior of the main hall.
A mural of what appears to be Uisang-daesa deep in prayer.
The main altar inside the main hall.
A unique look up at the main altar and the centre statue, Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
The black haired Jijang-bosal inside the main hall, as well.
The large wooden sculpted guardian artwork inside the main hall.
A better look at the deities inside the guardian artwork.
A beautiful mural of Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).
A look over at the Samseong-gak shrine hall to the right rear of the main hall.
The San shin painting inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall. This mural is nearly identical to the one at Beomeosa Temple in Busan.
The wall of saints inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall at the temple.
Just a couple of figurines on the sheer rock face at Anjeoksa Temple just before you exit the temple grounds.
And finally, it was time to head home.