Cheonansa Temple – 천안사 (Busanjin-gu, Busan)

Jijang-bosal and a mountain stream at Cheonansa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Cheonansa Temple is located on Mt. Baekyangsan in central Busan. While overshadowed by the much more famous Seonamsa Temple to the west, the smaller sized Cheonansa Temple has a rustic charm of its own.

You approach Cheonansa Temple down some back roads until you come to a wide temple parking lot that’s fronted by a large protective stone guardian. To the right, which first greets you to the temple, is the temple’s visitors centre. Behind it, and still to the right, are the monks’ dorms.

To the left of the monks’ dorms is the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the main hall is a three tier, Silla inspired, stone pagoda. Before climbing the stairs that give you access to the main hall, there are a pair of stone reliefs book-ending the set of stairs. The stone reliefs depict Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the far left of the main hall is a beautiful modern statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And between both the main hall and the stone statue is a mountain stream bisecting the two. And to the far left, left of Jijang-bosal, is wild grass filled with mountain hikers’ cairns.

As for the main hall, the exterior walls are adorned with beautiful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. While entering the main hall, you’ll first notice the main altar with golden flowers suspended from the ceiling above three smaller sized main altar statues. Sitting in the centre of the triad is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of the main altar is the temple’s guardian mural. And to the left of that is a shrine for the dead and a statue of a bright, golden image of Jijang-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a shrine, once more, for Jijang-bosal. In addition to the green haired statue of this Bodhisattva, Jijang-bosal is also backed by an older image of himself. The final mural of note inside the main hall is a painting of the Bodhidharma with his back facing you in a green robe and a nimbus halo surrounding his head.

To the rear of the main hall, and up a very precarious mountainside path, are a pair of simplistic shrine halls. The shrine hall to the right is the Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this simplistic shrine hall is a vibrant painting dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). And to the left is another simplistic shrine hall with another equally impressive image; this time, of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Busan subway, line two (the green line), to Dongeui University stop #222. From this stop, you can take a taxi to Cheonansa Temple, and it should cost you about 4,000 won. The trip should last about 10 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not anywhere as close to impressive as the neighbouring Seonamsa Temple on Mt. Baekyangsan, Cheonansa Temple makes a nice little addition if you’re already in the neighbourhood. The vibrant murals of Sanshin and Dokseong, as well as the beautiful scenery of the framing mountain are the true highlights to this smaller temple.

The mountainside view as you approach the temple on Mt. Baekyangsan.

A closer look at the statue of Jijang-bosal out in front of the main hall.

The main hall and temple shrine halls at Cheonansa Temple.

The main altar inside the main hall.

The painting and statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The Bodhidharma mural on the far right wall of the main hall.

The guardian mural at Cheonansa Temple.

As well as this Chilseong mural.

The T-1000 Terminator-looking Jijang-bosal inside the main hall.

One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

This Nathwi also adorns the main hall.

The trail that leads up towards the two shrine halls to the rear of the main hall.

The Sanshin-gak to the right rear of the main hall.

Inside is this beautiful Sanshin mural.

The view from the Sanshin-gak.

And the painting inside the Dokseong-gak of the Lonely Saint at Cheonansa Temple.

Unsusa Temple – 운수사 (Sasang-gu, Busan)

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The view of Busan and the Nakdong River from the wooden pavilion at Unsusa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Wanting to fill out the major temples I had yet to visit in Busan during my winter vacation, I decided to wake up early and brave the cold winter wind to visit Unsusa Temple on the southern slopes of Mt. Baekyangsan.

Just before the Baekyangsan Tunnel entrance, and up a steep winding mountainside road, you arrive at the uniquely designed grounds of Unsusa Temple. Immediately, you’ll be welcomed by the new Daeung-jeon main hall that rests on the heights as you enter the temple parking lot. To the right, and up a set of stairs, you’ll be able to get a better look at the large sized main hall. In front of this new main hall is a natural wood pavilion that is off-limits to visitors. It’s also from this vantage point that you get a beautiful view of Busan and the Nakdong River down below. And in combination with the pavilion, you can get some truly stunning pictures.

Surrounding the newer main hall are a beautiful set of Palsang-do murals. As for the interior of this rather spacious main hall, there are a set of five large statues that sit on the main altar. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked to his immediate right by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and to his left by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Book-ending these three, and to the far left, is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the far right. All five are situated under five large red canopies that are intricately designed and painted. On the far left wall, and next to Jijang-bosal, is a large sized guardian mural with well over a hundred figures in it. And on the far right wall is a beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal just outside the gates of a fiery underworld.

What’s unique about this temple is that there are actually two main halls. There’s the new one, which I’ve just described, as well as the older one that dates back to at least 1770 in the lower courtyard. From the parking lot, and if you continue to hang a right instead of ascending the stairs that lead up to the newer main hall, you’ll enter into the lower temple courtyard.

As you enter the lower temple courtyard, you’ll enter to the left of the older main hall. To the right are two temple structures that act as the monks’ dorms, visitors centre, and kitchen. Standing all alone in the courtyard is a slender five tier pagoda. Behind it is the old main hall that is newly under renovation. There are some decorative paintings that adorn the exterior walls to this hall. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, sits a statue of Amita-bul. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). And hanging on the far left wall is a unique guardian mural.

To the left rear of the older main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior is adorned with Shinseon murals, while the interior is dimly lit. Hanging in the centre of the main altar is an intricately painted Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To his left Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that sits beside a ferocious tiger and under a cherry blossom tree in his painting. And finally, and to the right, is an equally intricate painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).

The final hall at Unsusa Temple, and to the right rear of the older main hall, is the Yongwang-dang. The exterior is only painted in the traditional dancheong colours, while the interior is filled with the wooden fish gong, as well as a beautiful mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King).

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Unsusa Temple along the Busan subway system. You’ll have to get off at Mora subway station, #230, on the second line. Then, you’ll have to take a taxi to Unsusa Temple. The drive should only take you about ten minutes and is a mere three kilometres in length. The entire taxi ride should be about 4,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Unsusa Temple is a rather unique temple in that it houses two main halls. And both main halls, in their own right, are beautifully designed and decorated. Add into the mix the scenic views of both Busan and the Nakdong River, as well as the beautiful shaman deity paintings, and the little known Unsusa Temple quickly becomes a temple you should see if you’re in Busan.

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The wooden pavilion and the new main hall that first greet you to the temple.

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As you ascend the stairs to the upper courtyard, you’re first greeted to the left by the wooden pavilion and the stunning view.

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The large new main hall.

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The view from the main hall out on to the wooden pavilion and through to Busan.

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The final painting in the Palsang-do set that adorns the new main hall.

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The large and lavish interior to the new main hall.

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A closer look at Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), who resides on the main altar.

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The massive guardian mural to the left of the main altar.

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A look up at the regal Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

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The painting of Jijang-bosal that’s inside the main hall.

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The temple’s lower courtyard with the historic main hall in the centre.

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The main altar inside the older Daeung-jeon Hall with Amita-bul in the centre.

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The unique guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa, inside the historic main hall.

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The mural inside the Yongwang-dang of Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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The painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). It was hard to get a good picture because of the darkness inside the hall and the glass over the mural.

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One last look from the old main hall to the new one with a billow of smoke indicating just how cold it was.

Seonamsa Temple – 선암사 (Busanjin-gu, Busan)

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The amazingly original pagoda dedicated to Jijang-bosal at Seonamsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

It’s amazing the things you can discover when you look close enough. I lived in the area of Gaegeum, in Busan, for nearly 4 years; and yet, I knew nothing about the amazing temple that sat on the neighbouring heights of Mt. Baekyangsan near the Mandeok Tunnel. By chance, I learned about Seonamsa Temple, and I was happy that I did.

At a bend in the road, and up a very long set of stairs, you’ll step into the large temple courtyard at Seonamsa Temple. Immediately, and directly in front of you, is the large main hall. When you enter the main hall, and to your left, is one of the largest and most intricately designed guardian murals. Sitting on the main altar are a large set of Buddhist statues. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the altar is a statue of what looks to be Dokseong (The Recluse) holding a fan. Wrapped around the exterior walls are simplistic, yet elegant, Shimu-do murals. They are joined by some rather unique dragon-heads with the tiniest of claws protruding out near their outstretched necks near the main hall’s name plate.

To the right of the main hall are the monks’ quarters. And to the left of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall. Housed inside this rather long hall is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva). Situated under a low standing golden canopy is a beautifully designed statued of the bodhisattva with one of the more elaborate murals backing Gwanseeum-bosal.

Next to this hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall. Sitting on the main altar of this hall is the green-haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s backed by one of the more original murals of himself. Additionally, Jijang-bosal is surrounded by some of the finer sculpted statues of the 10 Kings of the Underworld. Surprisingly, the mural of the Bodhidharma and Dazu Huike adorn the right interior entrance to this hall. But the biggest surprise is just outside the doors to this hall. One of the most original pagodas dedicated to Jijang-bosal sits just to the left of the Myeongbu-jeon. The pagoda is adorned with various animals, Biseon, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas. Words simply pale when attempting to describe this pagoda.

The final two areas to the lower courtyard house various items. First, and a little further past the Myeongbu-jeon, is the temple’s bell pavilion. While lacking the typical dancheong paint scheme, it does have a interesting wooden figure carved into the eaves of the structure. As though she’s holding the entire weight of the world on her shoulders, she lifts the roof of the bell pavilion with all her strength. The other area of the lower courtyard that houses something of interest is a shrine area dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). This statue of Yongwang, much like the pagoda dedicated to Jijang-bosal, is one of the most original statues dedicated to this shaman deity that I have yet to see in Korea.

Up another long set of narrow stairs, you’ll come to the upper courtyard at Seonamsa Temple. To your immediate left is a three-tier pagoda that almost seems to be half buried in the dirt because the pagoda sits without the customary base. And to your immediate right is a large sized hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Wisdom and Power). The triad of golden statues that sit on the main altar appear to be surrounded by murals of the 10 Kings of the Underworld. As for the exterior of this large Geungnak-jeon hall, it’s adorned with more Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

To the left of the Geungnak-jeon hall is a hall dedicated solely to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This is a rather unique feature as he’s almost always housed with other shaman deities. Inside of this hall is a beautiful black mural of Chilseong. And the final hall housed on the upper courtyard of this temple is the shrine hall dedicated to both Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Both murals inside of this hall are some of the better you’ll see at a Buddhist temple in Korea. And the angel-laid golden halo around the head of San shin is a nice, and unique, feature to his painting.

The final area to this vast temple complex is the upper, upper courtyard that solely houses one shrine hall. And it’s probably the most unique shrine hall at Seonamsa Temple. From what I can gather, it’s a shrine hall dedicated to ancestors. It’s also from these heights that you can get a pretty good view of this part of Busan.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Busan subway, line two (the green line), to Dongui University stop #222. From this stop, you can take a taxi to Seonamsa Temple, and it should cost you about 3,500 to 4,000 won. The trip should last you about 10 minutes.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Just for the amount of things alone that you can see at this mountainside temple in Busan, it’s well worth the trip to explore its grounds. But when you add into the mix the massive guardian mural in the main hall, the Jijang-bosal pagoda, the angelic San shin mural, the highly original Yongwang statue, and the ancestor hall that sits atop the entire temple grounds, and you’ll know why I rated this city temple as highly as I have.

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The long and steep set of stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.
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A look through the side entrance at the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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A look at the main hall at Seonamsa Temple.
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A dragon that adorns the outside  walls of the main hall. This dragon is a bit unique because of the little claws it has at its sides.
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The triad of statues that sits on the altar inside the main hall. In the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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What looks to be a Dokseong-figure to the left of the main altar inside the main hall.
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An up-close look at the unique guardian mural inside the main hall.
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The unpainted monks’ quarters.
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A look over at the Gwaneeum-jeon and up at the Geungnak-jeon on the upper courtyard.
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To the left of the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall is the unpainted bell pavilion and the Myeonbu-jeon Judgment Hall.
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A female figure up in the eaves of the bell pavilion.
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A look inside the the Myeonbu-jeon at the colourful altar.
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A better look at the very unique pagoda to the left of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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And equal to the unique Myeonbu-jeon pagoda is this seated Yongwang (Dragon King) statue.
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What looks to be a half-buried pagoda in the upper courtyard.
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A look over at the Chilseong-gak to the right and the shaman shrine hall that houses Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit) in the background.
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A look inside the shaman shrine hall at San shin to the left and Dokseong to the right.
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A look at the Geungnak-jeon Hall, which stands to the right of all the shaman shrine halls.
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And a look inside the Geungnak-jeon Hall at the main altar with Amita-bul (The Bodhisattva of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of the triad. Amita-bul is flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom).
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And up on the final terrace is what looks to be an ancestral shrine.
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The mural that sits inside of the ancestral shrine hall.