Manseongam Hermitage – 만성암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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Podae-hwasang at the entry of Manseongam Hermitage near Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Mansenogam Hermitage is located south of Beomeosa Temple in Busan, and it’s directly associated with the famed temple. Manseongam Hermitage means “Great Teacher Hermitage,” in English.

As you first approach the hermitage down a long gravel road, you’ll first be greeted by a large-sized Podae-hwasang statue. The Podae-hwasang statue is one of the nicer statues of him that I’ve seen in Korea. Crawling all over Podae-hwasang are six little baby devotees that are all beautifully sculpted.

As you enter the hermitage grounds, you’ll pass through an iron entrance gate. A little further along, and you’ll arrive in the hermitage courtyard. Here, you’ll see the well-attended visitors’ centre, kitchen, and monks’ dorms. To the left of the monks’ dorms, and under the main hall, is a beautiful enclave with numerous stone statues as well as a serene Koi pond. Surrounding the serene Koi pond are numerous monk statues. To the left of this pond is a little cave watering hole. Surrounding this watering hole, up on the cliffs, are various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Donald Duck (yes, you heard me right, Donald Duck). To the far right is a stately rendering of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to his left is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Under the trees, and to the left, are two more statues: one of a seated Podae-hwasang and another of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). To the right and left of the main entrance to the cave watering hole is an elephant and Donald Duck (perhaps Donald Duck-bosal?!).

As you make your way towards the main hall, you’ll pass by some beautiful baby blue hydrangeas. Up the hill, you’ll see the modern looking two storied main hall. On the lower level is some non-descript altar pieces. However, on the second floor is a majestic multi-armed and eyed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the central altar piece. On the far left wall is a beautiful guardian painting with a regal looking Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) at its centre.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Manseongam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa  Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa  Temple. Instead of walking towards Beomeosa Temple, continue to walk left down the paved hill. You’ll see a big sign to the right that highlights the three hermitages to the far left of Beomeosa Temple. For Manseongam Hermitage, look for the sign that reads 만성암.The hermitage is 500 metres ahead down twisting and disorienting side roads and past Sajaam Hermitage. Just follow the road that never comes to a dead-end, and continue to head left down the side streets. There will be a sign reading 만성암 to say that you’ve arrived at the right hermitage entrance.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. The main highlight of this temple is the beautiful enclave of statues of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, monks, and Donald Duck. This serene enclave has a beautiful Koi pond with a waterwheel, as well as a nice little cave watering hole if you’re thirsty. The other highlights to this hermitage are the baby blue hydrangea flowers and the majestically rendered statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits as the centre piece on the second floor of the main hall.

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Podae-hwasang at the entry to Manseongam Hermitage.

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One of the six children crawling all over the jovial statue of Podae-hwasang.

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The view as you first enter the temple parking lot.

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And the view as you first enter the hermitage’s courtyard.

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The Koi pond and statue enclave at the hermitage.

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A look up at the stately Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

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Statues of Podae-hwasang and Sanshin together

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An unfinished statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with a dongja assistant to her side.

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One more enclave at the hermitage before heading up to the modern main hall.

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An up close of one of the beautiful blue hydrangea flowers.

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The two story main hall.

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A look out towards the hermitage grounds.

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The main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal at Manseongam Hermitage.

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And the intricate guardian mural to the left.

Sajaam Hermitage – 사자암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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 The beautifully realistic painting of a tiger on the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Sajaam Hermitage means Lion Hermitage in English. And it’s the closest associated hermitage to Beomeosa Temple out to the left. But it’s a bit tricky to find through the maze of restaurants and houses even though it’s only 300 metres up a side road.

When you first approach the hermitage, up its elevated driveway, you’ll first be greeted by five really strange looking metal rings. Up the stone walkway, and under the metal rings, you’ll see the compact courtyard. To the right is a non-descript dorm for the monks. And to the immediate left is the kitchen and visiting centre at the hermitage. Straight ahead is a nice looking main hall that is framed by the mountains that loom overhead. Behind the main hall, and to the left, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This shrine hall is beautifully decorated with a masterfully rendered painting of a tiger. And to the right of this painting is a simplistic painting of a monk walking along a wooded pathway. Inside the shrine hall are four paintings. On the altar are three paintings. In the centre there is a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars); to the left is a painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit); and to the right is Dokseong (The Recluse). All are beautifully painted. On the right wall is an older looking painting that is equally beautiful in its artistry.

The main hall itself has no exterior paintings. However, the interior of the main hall is nice, but minimalistic. On the main altar is a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue behind a glass display case. To the left of this statue is a well-populated guardian painting. And to the right of the centre altar piece is a unique painting. This painting is a depiction of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) at the centre with six flanking Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on either side of him including Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Sajaam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both cases you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa Station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to  Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of  Beomeosa Temple. Instead of walking towards Beomeosa Temple, continue to walk left down the paved hill. You’ll see a big sign to the right that highlights the three hermitages to the far left of Beomeosa Temple. For Sajaam Hermitage, look for the sign that reads 사자암. The hermitage is 300 metres ahead down twisting and disorienting side streets. Just follow the road that never comes to a dead-end, and continue to head left down the side streets. There will be a sign reading 사자암 to show you that you’ve arrived at the right hermitage entrance.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. There is very little to see at Sajaam Hermitage. Of the lot, there are three beautifully rendered paintings of the shamanistic deities (Chilseong, Sanshin, and Dokseong), as well as a beautiful painting of Seokgamoni-bul and the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas inside the main hall.

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The strange partial metal rings at the entry of Sajaam Hermitage.

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The hermitage courtyard.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.

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The view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall.

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The solitary monk painting that adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak.

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The Confucian-style Chilseong mural.

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To the right hangs this mural of Dokseong.

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And to the left hangs this older mural of Sanshin.

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A look at the unadorned main hall at Sajaam Hermitage.

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A look around the interior of the main hall.

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The main altar with a diminutive statue of Seokgamoni-bul front and centre.

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The well-populated guardian mural inside the main hall.

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One more look at the main hall.

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And one more look at the mountains that surround the unique entry at Sajaam Hermitage.

The Story Of…All Korean Temples Look the Same

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Just one of the scenic views at Tongdosa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone,

I thought I would finally write an opinion piece about Korean temples. In particular, I’d like to address a statement that has often been leveled at temples by expats in Korea. So without further ado, here it goes.

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The colourful Samgwangsa Temple during Buddha’s birthday.

From time to time, whether it’s in person, on the internet, or through the blogosphere, I’ll hear or read the comment: all Korean temples look the same. But to make an analogy, that would be like going to an art gallery to see a painting by Van Gogh, only to close your eyes right before seeing it. And then, once you’ve closed your eyes, complain that all Van Gogh’s paintings look the same. There are subtle, and not so subtle, differences between temples. And sometimes, someone just needs to look to locate these differences. Perhaps you’ll have to educate yourself on these differences; but trust me, the differences are there waiting to be seen.

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The ocean-side temple in Busan: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

I guess the first response I would make is that you don’t know what you’re talking about, if you say all temples are the same. And my second response would be that you should educate yourself on the topic before coming up with such an opinion.

While there isn’t all that much out there on Korean Buddhism, at least in English, there’s enough. Also, there’s a lot of material out there in books and on the internet about Buddhism in general to answer a lot of the questions that might come up. Besides, my website, David Mason’s amazing website, and in part, the Korean government website, there should be more than enough material to educate an individual that simply shrugs off the supposed similarities between temples.

For arguments sake, I thought I would point out three examples about the subtle, and not so subtle, differences between temples here in Korea.

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A look at the Geumgang Gyedan at Tongdosa Temple.

The first comes from the main hall at Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. If you’ve ever been, you’ll have noticed that there aren’t any Buddha or Bodhisattva statues on the main altar. Instead, there’s only a window that looks out onto a stone courtyard. To the uneducated, or uninitiated, this looks nothing more than a stone courtyard with some nice scenery and a rather strange window. But what this stone courtyard, the Geumgang Gyedan (Diamond Altar), houses are the partial remains of the historical Buddha. And the reason there are no statues on the main altar, which symbolize the presence of various Buddhist figures, is that the actual Buddha is housed just outside the window at Tongdosa Temple.

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The four-pillared Iljumun Gate at Beomeosa Temple.

Another example are the gates that you pass through on your way to a large temple’s courtyard. Perhaps some of the most beautiful gates at any temple in Korea can be found at Beomeosa Temple in Busan. To someone that simply doesn’t know, they are either artistically beautiful, or simply not noticed. In actual fact, the first of these gates is called the Iljumun Gate. The two to four pillared gate embodies an idea of the Buddha Dharma. When you look at the pillars in a row, they actually appear as one. This shows that things aren’t always what they seem. And this is symbolic because it’s the first step towards enlightenment.

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One of the fierce-looking Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate at Naesosa Temple.

The second gate, the Cheonwangmun Gate, houses four Heavenly Kings. The purpose of this gate, and its four occupants, is to protect Buddhism and the Buddha’s teachings. The four Heavenly Kings’ ferocious looks aid in the suppression of unruly spirits. Their intensity also helps focus the mind of a temple visitor. So their ferocious expressions encourage people to bow to them, and to rid a visitor’s mind of bad thoughts. A great example of this gate can be found at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju.

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A look through the Bulimun Gate at Tongdosa Temple.

The third gate is the Bulimun Gate. This gate, in English, is known as the Gate of Non-Duality. This idea refers to a central belief in Buddhism; namely, that all things are one. That things like good and evil are not two separate ideas; but instead, they are one. By freeing ourselves of this binary discriminatory worldview, we rid ourselves of our ego and the selfishness that comes as a result of it. Instead, everything, and everyone, is one. So while beautiful in artistic design, these gates are packed full of meaning.

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The highly elaborate and original Sanshin mural at Daeheungsa Temple.

The third, and final example, are the Sanshin Taenghwa paintings that you can usually find either in the Samseong-gak or the Sanshin-gak halls. Sanshin, who is known as the Mountain Spirit, in English, can literally take on thousands of different forms. Almost no painting is identical. Instead, there are some obvious and not so obvious differences between paintings. In general, Sanshin is usually seated. He’s an older looking man with white flowing hair and beard that still looks full of life, even at his more advanced age. He’s situated in a beautiful scenic setting that is perfect for meditation. He’s joined on this outcropping by a beautiful twisted red pine that is indigenous to Korea, much like the indigenous shaman origins of Sanshin. He’s sometimes joined by one, two, or several attendants called “dongja.” The clothes that he wears can be Buddhist, Confucian, or Daoist in appearance. Almost always, he possesses something in one or both of his hands like a fan or a walking stick which symbolize health, longevity, virility, scholastics, or spiritual attainment. One of the easiest ways to identify Sanshin is that he’s always accompanied by at least one tiger. The reason that the tiger is there is that it’s the king of the mountain animals and the enforcer of Sanshin. Occasionally, Sanshin will be joined by a female figure. Also, Sanshin can be female. The variations are really limitless. In total, I have around 200 Sanshin paintings, and not one is the same as another. Some are noticeable, and others, you have to look a little closer.

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A female Sanshin at Ssangyesa Temple.

As you can see through these three simple examples, there is a world of differences that can be found in the smallest of details at a Korean temple. So much about a temple is packed with meaning. So before you say the words, “All temples look the same,” you really should educate yourself on the differences that can be found at the thousands of temples throughout the Korean peninsula. They can be seen in halls, paintings, statues, pagodas, and various structures. So the argument quickly becomes: if you’re willing to learn, the material is out there for you to learn. Otherwise, you have no excuse to make the ridiculous claim that all Korean temples look the same.

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A beautiful pink lotus flower at Gakwonsa Temple.

Jijangam Hermitage – 지장암 (Beomeosa, Busan)

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 The statue of Jijang-bosal that greets you at Jijangam Hermitage, near Beomeosa Temple, in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jijangam Hermitage (지장암) is a hermitage dedicated, and named after, the Bodhisattva Jijang-bosal. Jijang-bosal is the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife. He can be identified by his bald or closely cropped hair that is green, black or gold.  In his hands he holds a staff in his right hand and a pearl in his left.  The pearl is a “wish-fulfilling pearl” that grants selfless wishes, while the staff opens the gates of hell.

When you first approach the hermitage from the uphill, side-winding, road, you’ll notice both a sign that reads – 지장암 – as well as a five foot tall stone sculpture of Jijang-bosal to your right. You can get to the hermitage in one of two ways: you can either take the newly constructed road to the left, or you can take the path that leads to the left through the overgrown trees and shrubs. Originally, the path to the left was intended as the way to approach the hermitage, so that’s the way my wife and I decided to travel. Up a set of overgrown trees and shrubs, as though nature were collecting back what was rightfully Hers, we spotted a pond that hadn’t been used in quite some time. Up another set of stairs, we were finally eye to eye with the main hall at the hermitage.  Finally, up one more set of stairs and we were in the main courtyard at the hermitage.

Facing the main hall, we noticed that there was the monks’ dorms to the left, while the nicely sized main hall was directly in front of us. The main hall itself has very little exterior decoration adorning it, other than being customarily painted the standard Korean temple colours. However, the views of the surrounding mountains, Mt. Geumjeongsan, were beautiful. And inside the temple, there were a couple highlights to the trip to the hermitage. There was a beautiful guardian painting, as well as a beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal, both of which have countless Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. The triad on the altar is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre, with Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and the namesake of the hermitage, to the left, and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. When leaving the temple, down the newly constructed road, there was a beautiful shrine with a statue of Buddha. Also, there was a uniquely designed meditation hall built as a hut into the side of the mountain.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Jijangam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk halfway up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of the hermitage. You’ll probably overshoot the hermitage, and have to make your way back down the hill a bit, but as long as you have a keen eye you’ll be able to spot the hermitage. After visiting the hermitage, you can either walk the remaining 15 minutes up to Beomeosa Temple, or you can find your way back to the bus stop.


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OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While not the most amazing or inspiring hermitage you’ll see in Korea, the hermitage does have a few highlights. The beautiful views from the main hall of the surrounding Mt. Geumjeongsan is certainly one of them. Another is the beautiful guardian painting, as well as the Jijang-bosal painting, both of which are on the left side of the main hall. There is also a uniquely built meditation hut for the monks at the hermitage on the newly constructed hermitage road. Finally, there is a beautiful sculpture of Jijang-bosal at the entrance of the hermitage. While I probably wouldn’t get off the bus that heads up to Beomeosa Temple, I would stop by if I was making the thirty minute hike uphill to the famous Busan temple. It makes for a nice little break at the half-way point, and what better way to take a rest than to have a look at a nice hermitage along the way.

 The sign and the statue that welcome you to Jijangam Hermitage.
 The newly paved road that leads up to the left of the hermitage.
And the overgrown path that leads right to the hermitage.
The set of stairs that leads up to the main hall and the hermitage courtyard.
 A view across the front of the main hall.
 A view from the main hall at the surrounding mountains.
Another view of the craggy rocks that make up the surrounding Mt. Geumjeongsan.
 And one more look.
The altar inside the main hall. In the middle is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), to the left is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to the right is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
 To the left of the altar is this mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.
 And on the far left wall is the guardian painting.
Here is a better look at one of the open-mouthed individuals on the guardian mural.
 The beautiful little shrine to the left of the main hall.
One of the little Buddha figures beside the shrine.
 The meditative hut for monks at the hermitage.
And one last look at the Jijang-bosal statue at the hermitage that both welcomes you and says good-bye.

The Story of…Wonhyoam Hermitage (Busan)

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 The amazing view from Wonhyoam Hermitage…and the hike that nearly killed me to get it.

Hello Again Everyone!!

As I mentioned in a previous posting about Wonhyoam Hermitage, there are literally dozens of Wonhyoam Hermitages throughout the Korean peninsula named after the famous Korean monk, Wonhyo-daesa. And this entry is about another hermitage called Wonhyoam Hermitage.

The difference between this Wonhyoam Hermitage and others is that this one is directly associated with Beomeosa Temple in Busan. In fact, it’s located on the temple grounds and up Mt. Geumjeongsan.

The story all starts when I was exploring some of the hermitages in and around Beomeosa Temple. Initially, I had been attempting to see Geumjeongam Hermitage. One wrong turn later, and I was attempting to see Wonhyoam Hermitage. I had known, or thought I knew, that the two hermitages were close in proximity to each other. So when I was unable to locate one, I was crossing a bridge over Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks), and heading up a mountain in search of a second hermitage.

Without knowing the distance it took from the base of the mountain up to Wonhyoam Hermitage, I was ill prepared for the climb. I didn’t have any water, and I didn’t have my hiking boots on, either. Halfway up the climb, which is about 500 metres straight up, I was wondering what I had got myself into. Resting at the first of many large rocks along the way, sweat covering my body, a stranger walked by me. He kindly offered me water. I must have looked like death when he saw me. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first stranger to offer me assistance along the way.

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 Part of the arduous hike on your way up to Wonhyoam Hermitage.

A further 300 metres up the hike, a hike that I had no idea when it would come to an end, another stranger walked by me as I rested on a rock. His English was great, and he offered me the encouraging words that the hermitage was only another 200 metres up the mountain trail. Before he had told me the distance remaining in the hike, I had been contemplating descending the mountain. I hadn’t seen a sign pointing me in the direction of the hermitage for several hundred metres.

He asked why I was so interested in seeing Wonhyoam Hermitage. I told him that I had heard great things about the hermitage. He then went on to tell me that he visited Wonhyoam Hermitage every weekend, which was a miracle onto itself, considering the distance and stamina it took to see this hermitage located amongst the mountain peaks of Mt. Geumjeongsan.

He suggested that we go together. When I told him that I was going to rest a bit longer, he gave me the most accurate directions to get to the hermitage: through a fenced gate and around a rightward bend in the trail.

Having finally ascended the mountain, I saw both Korean gentlemen that helped aid me in my time of need. With a kind smile exchanged between us, I hung around a bit before descending down the mountain.

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 The older looking main hall at the hermitage.

To me, it’s these moments that remind me of the kinder and gentler side of Korea. It isn’t the driving or balli, balli (hurry, hurry) culture, but the kindness shown from one stranger to the next. And the more I explore the mountain trails and temples of Korea, the more I get to discover the sweeter side of Korea.

For more information on Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

Geumgangam Hermitage – 금강암 (Busan)

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The cascading water that pools beside the trail that leads up to Geumgangam Hermitage near Beomeosa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumgangam Hermitage was the last hermitage I needed to see to have seen all the hermitages associated with Beomeosa Temple. And even though I hadn’t saved the best for last, that going to either Chungryunam Hermitage or Mireukam Hermitage, it certainly was one of the better hermitages. So waking up early, on what started off as a clear day, I made my way over to Beomeosa Temple.

Geumgangam Hermitage (Diamond Mountain Hermitage, in English) is named after the mountain that Beomeosa Temple, and this hermitage, reside on: Geumgangsan Mountain. Like Anyangam Hermitage and Daeseongam Hermitage, Geumgangam Hermitage is the closest group of hermitages to Beomeosa Temple. The only difference is that you can actually visit Geumgangam Hermitage, while the other two are strictly off-limits to visitors as they are study centres for Buddhist monks.

Trekking to the upper left side of the Beomeosa Temple grounds, you’ll come to an opening where there are a littering of large rocks. This area is called Dolbada, or “Sea of Rocks” in English. Continuing to head south-west, you’ll come to two wooden bridges; instead of going over them, in the direction of Wonhyoam Hermitage, hang a right at the white sign with black print that reads –금정암. The hermitage is a further 300 metres up a stairway of rocks that is situated beside a beautiful cascade of mini-waterfalls. You can take some really beautiful pictures from this area of the temple grounds. Walking up the uneven stairs, you’ll then see a sign with the temples name, as well as a bridge that spans that length of the cascading water. By now you should be able to see the Iljumun Gate for the hermitage. The gate is uniquely designed with a Korean name tablet written in Korean that reads the name of the temple: 금정암. Like Okryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, this feature is highly unique for a Korean temple or hermitage because these signs are almost always written in Chinese characters.

Passing through the uniquely designed and labeled Iljumun Gate, you’ll enter into a beautiful situated hermitage that has lush green grass for a courtyard. Straight ahead is the beautiful main gate that is flanked to the left by an administrative office, kitchen, and to the right by a study hall. Behind this study hall is a gate and monk quarters that is off-limits to visitors. However, there is a stunning lotus flower design on the front of the gate’s doors. The main hall itself is beautiful both on the inside and out. The outside of the main hall has the common pairing of the Palsang-do paintings (The Eight Stages of the Buddha’s Life) on top, with the Ox-herding murals on the bottom. The Palsang-do paintings have seem to have done better with the aging process than have the Ox-herding murals. Even though some of the Palsang-do paintings on the right side of the hall are fading, they are still visible enough to see the animated illustrations. The Ox-herding murals are mostly flaking in their circular framed renderings; however, there are still a few that are visible to see. Inside the main hall sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre of the triad. On either side of him sits, what appears to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). Behind this triad is a beautiful wood carving with the Buddha in the centre. To the right of the main altar is another stunning wood carving of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left of the triad is yet another wood carving, this time, it’s a guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal  (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings) in the centre. On the far left wall is a painting that depicts a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Around this main hall are some unique structures. Immediately to the right of the main hall is a somewhat non-descript pagoda with a beautiful incense dragon holder out in front of the pagoda. Above this pagoda is the Samseong-gak, which houses the three shaman gods. The outside of this hall is painted with various renderings of the three shaman gods. Inside, this hall is quite unique. The centre altar piece is a golden sculpture of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden carving of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). Adjacent to this wooden statue is a beautiful rendering of San shin. To the right of Chilseong is another painted wooden sculpture, but this time it’s Dokseong (The Recluse). Once more, there’s a depiction of this god on the right side wall of this hall.

To the left of the main hall is a small bell pavilion. The bell inside is equally compact, but just as beautiful as a larger sized temple bell. Now, this is where the hermitage gets a bit interesting. Up the hill is an entrance way into a cave that’s called Yaksa-jeon (The Medicine Hall). Inside this cave is a statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) pouring the mountain water from his bottle. Surrounding him are tiny white Buddha statues. Further up the hill, and only accessible by way of a Samseong-gak trail, is the Nahan-jeon. As the name of the hall states, in Korean, this hall is dedicated to the Nahan, which were the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The exterior of the hall is painted with various Nahan performing various tasks such as studying or teaching. Inside the hall, again, is a highly unique religious structure. The main altar is adorned with a smaller sized Seokgamoni-bul statue. And flanking him are Bohyun-bosal and Moonsu-bosal once more. Behind this triad is another stunning golden sculpture. Flanking this triad, in a row, are the fifteen Nahan. Behind these two sets of rows are two more painted wooden scultptures; however, this time, they depict Nahan. On opposing walls are two paintings that again depict the Nahan. Interestingly, there is one Nahan statue with his hands on his head. Look for it because it’s rather unique and cute.

HOW TO GET THERE: Like all the other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple.  You can take a path that leads left of the Iljumun Gate. This trail will lead you to an opening with a wooden bridge that spans a stream. This area is the start of the Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks). Hang a left but don’t cross the bridge; instead, head up the stone staircase beside the cascading water for 300 metres. You’ll pass by Daeseongam Hermitage to your right.  The first thing to greet you will be a sign that reads –금정암. This sign is situated on a bridge that spans the length of the rolling rocks and water. Head up the path another 50 metres and you’ll see the Iljumun Gate for Geumgangam Hermitage.

View 금강암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Like Gyemyeongam Hermitage, there are some beautiful views of the neighbouring mountainsides and valleys below. The only difference between the two is that Geumgangam Hermitage has some beautiful halls. Whether it’s the unique decorated interiors of the Nahan-jeon, Samseong-gak, or the Yaksa-jeon Hall that is built inside a cave, the hermitage is beautifully built. Added to that is the elaborately designed and decorated interior and exterior, as well as the Korean writing that adorns all of the wooden structures at the hermitage.  That’s why this hermitage is one of the better hermitages to visit at Beomeosa Temple in Busan!

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Finally, a bit of beautiful blue sky over Geumjeongsan Mountain.
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Part of the Dolbada, Sea of Rocks, and the stone stairs that lead you up to Geumgangam Hermitage.
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And the still waters that cascade beside the stone stairs.
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The sign that directs you, and the bridge that helps you, towards Geumgangam Hermitage.Picture 010The first sign that you’ve arrived at the hermitage: Iljumun Gate.
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The main hall at the hermitage: Daejabe-jeon.
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A better look at the front door of the main hall and the Korean written name tablet.
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A view of the right side of the courtyard at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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To the left of the main hall is the off-limits monk quarters. The front gate to these quarters is painted a unique design.
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A better look at the lotus flower design that adorns the gate at the monk’s quarters.
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The main pieces inside the main hall: Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) is in the centre and on either side of him is what looks to be Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power).
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One of the Palsang-do murals of the Buddha’s life. This one is about Mara trying to tempt the Buddha.
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One of the more uniquely designed Nathwi. Notice the eyes staring to the right.
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The Samseong-gak Hall, which is dedicated to the three shaman gods.
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This unique, but fading, eagle painting adorns the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.
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This is what the interior of the Samseong-gak Hall looks like. To the right (but the central figure on the altar) is Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left is a painted wooden sculpture of San shin (The Mountain god) with a painting of this Shaman god on the left wall.
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On the right side of the altar is this painted wood carving of Dokseong (The Recluse). And on the far right wall is a painting of this Shaman god.
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A look at the diminutive bell pavilion to the right of the main hall at Geumgangam Hermitage.
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Behind the main hall is this opening to a cave and the Nahan-jeon Hall above it.
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Inside the cave is the central figure of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) with tiny white Buddha statues surrounding him. Mountain water is pouring out from his bottle.
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This painting adorns the exterior of the Nahan-jeon Hall, which is dedicated to the disciples of the Historical Buddha.
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Another beautiful altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall. The golden central sculpture is of Buddha. The painted wooden sculptures on either side of it are of depictions of various Nahan. In front of these three religious art pieces is Seokgamoni-bul being flanked by 15 Nahan figures.
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One of the uniquely designed wooden Nahan sculptures inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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And the view from the Nahan-jeon Hall out above the main hall and Gyemyeongam Hermitage on Mt. Geumjeongsan.

Wonhyoam Hermitage – 원효암 (Busan)

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A beautiful view from Geumjeongsan Mountain near Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Getting up early to visit a few more of the hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, I was surprised by one and disappointed by a couple others. The one that I was pleasantly surprised with was Wonhyoam Hermitage. I think it’s probably the most difficult hermitage that I’ve ever tried to get to, but the views of Busan down below were well worth the one kilometre hike up Geumjeongsan Mountain.

Wonhyoam Hermitage (원효암) is named after the famous Korean monk, Wonhyo, who helped popularize Buddhism throughout the late Three Kingdoms Period and the early Silla Dynasty. Wonhyoam Hermitage is built on the former residence of Wonhyo. As I was walking in the temple courtyard, I was greeted by a hermitage monk. He told me that the hermitage is over 300 years old.

Half the adventure of seeing Wonhyoam Hermitage is making the long hike up the steep rock trail. In fact, the area that you first start to climb to the hermitage (left of Beomeosa Temple) is called Dolbada, which literally translates as “Sea of Rocks.” So make sure you bring a good pair of shoes because the hike can be a bit treacherous at times if you don’t have the right pair of footwear. The trail that leads up to the hermitage zigzags for about a kilometre. The trail to the hermitage is marked by white signs, with red print, that read – 원효암. There’s a faded hermitage sign to the right which highlights the summit of the mountain ridge. However, before you turn towards the hermitage path, hang a left towards a rock outcropping. Scaling the rocks is a bit dangerous, so be careful. But once you’ve traversed these big boulders, a beautiful panoramic view of Busan and the Nakdong River reveal themselves in the twisting valleys below. It’s a nice little spot to catch your breath amongst the sky and stone. Take your time and take as many pictures as you want because you’ve earned it with the hike.

Once you’ve gathered all the pictures you want, and your breath, head back to the main hiking trail. A groomed trail will lead you to a set of three stupas of monks who once resided at the hermitage. To the left of these stupas is an ancient pagoda that dates back to the 10th century. So important is this three-tiered pagoda that it’s been declared a Busan Tangible Cultural Property. Continuing down the trail, and past the hermitages farm, you’ll notice the hermitage’s main gate to the right and through the trees. The entrance gate is adorned with two fading paintings of the guardians Heng and Ha. The gate doors are uniquely adorned with an equally fading symbol of Yin and Yang. The door knockers are a pair of beautiful lion heads. As you pass through this gate you’ll be met by a serenely maintained hermitage courtyard. Straight ahead is the diminutive main hall. Inside the main hall, have a seat and enjoy the serenity. The main altar statue is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To her right is a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). There is a beautiful guardian painting to the left of Gwanseeum-bosal. As you step out of the main hall, you’ll notice an administrative office to the left of the main hall. To the right, and up the hill, is a set of monk dorms and study halls. Up this hill is the twin pagoda to the one at the entrance of the hermitage. Like the first, this pagoda also dates back to the 10th century. Originally, it was located 30 metres northwest of the hermitage, but was later moved to be included on the hermitage grounds.

The Story Of…Wonhyoam Hermitage in Busan.

HOW TO GET THERE:  Like all the other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple, you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple.  You can take a path that leads left of the Iljumun gate. This trail will lead you to an opening with a wooden bridge that spans a stream. This area is the start of the Dolbada (The Sea of Rocks). Hang a left and cross the bridge. Straight ahead is the first of several white signs with red print that read – 원효암. Now the truly tricky part: Head up the 1 kilometre trail to the summit of the ridge along the Geumjeongsan Mountain Range. You’ll pass through a gate with wired fencing. You’re halfway there! Keep going, and you’ll come to a fading sign. The hermitage is about 300 more metres up the trail passed the pagoda, stupas, and the hermitage farm. It’s tough but well worth it!

OVERALL RATING:  6/10. While the buildings aren’t quite as beautiful as the ones at Gyemyeongam Hermitage, the sister hermitage at Beomeosa Temple, the views of Busan and the Nakdong River down in the twisting valleys below are second-to-none. The hermitage has a pair of ancient pagodas that are beautiful. The hermitage itself is serene and worth the effort to get to. So if you have the time, strength and the stamina, have a look at this hermitage!

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 Dolbada is the starting point to your exhausting climb.
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 You’ll be greeted by a lot of these signs along the way that lead you up to Wonhyoam Hermitage.
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Just a part of the arduous kilometre hike up Geumjeongsan Mountain.
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 Finally, the sun appeared as I made it to the ridge that the hermitage rests upon.
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 To the right, as the path forks, is Wonhyoam Hermitage.
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But before you go, hang a left and climb these boulders to get an amazing view of Busan down below.
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 Part of the panoramic view. There is ancient Chinese character writing to the right and Busan in the valleys below to the left.
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 A beautiful view from the rock ledge of Busan and the Nakdong River.
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 Back on the hermitage trail you’ll come across these unique monk stupas.
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 Across from these stupas is this 10th century pagoda.
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 Past the stupas and pagoda is the richly coloured hermitage farm.
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 Not long after the hermitage farm is the hermitage’s main gate. It slants a bit, but it’s still beautiful in colour and design.
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 On the right side of the gate is the guardian Heng.
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 And to the left is the guardian Ha.
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 The fading Yin and Yang sign that adorns one of the hermitage’s gate with a beautiful lion-head knocker.
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Finally, a walk through the hermitage’s front gate.
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 Straight ahead in the courtyard is the main hall at the hermitage.
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 A look across the front of the main hall at one of the monk study halls.
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 Inside the main hall is this majestic statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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 To the right of her is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). One of the people that works at the hermitage was dutifully cleaning around all the altar statues and paintings when I arrived.
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 As you step out of the main hall you’ll see the monk’s dorms to your right and up the hill.
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 A trail to the left of these study halls is the twin ancient pagoda at the hermitage that also dates back to the 10th century.
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A look up at the clearing sky above a study hall.

Gyemyeongam Hermitage – 계명암 (Busan)

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The beautiful view of Beomeosa Temple from Gyeomyeongam Hermitage in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing on our tour of the temples that are to the right of Beomeosa Temple in Busan, my wife and I decided to go to Gyemyeongam Hermitage (계명암). It’s a hermitage that I’ve long admired from afar. You can actually see the hermitage during the fall, winter, or spring, from the Beomeosa Temple complex. Facing Busan, and looking left towards the neighbouring mountain, you can see the hermitage pretty much anywhere from  Beomeosa Temple.

Gyemyeongam Hermitage, in English, means Rooster’s Crow Hermitage; and strangely enough, as my wife and I were walking up the mountain, we actually heard rooster’s crowing at the base.

To get to the scenic hermitage, you first have to climb a 500 metre long trail up the side of a mountain. At times, this trail can be a bit steep, so make sure you pack proper footwear. As you first approach the hermitage, perhaps out of breath from the climb, you’ll notice a beautifully compact Iljumun Gate. Passing through this weathered gate, you’ll start to see some of the panoramic views of Geumjeongsan Mountain, as well as the valley below, through the trees. Continuing to walk down the temple trail, you’ll come to the hermitage’s courtyard. To the left is the monk’s dorms and study hall.  Beside that is a strangely built main hall.  Well, I should qualify that. The main hall is actually beautiful, what is strange is that there’s been an extension added on to the main hall for the numerous visitors that come to the hermitage everyday. This extension isn’t beautiful at all. It almost seems haphazard the way that it was slapped onto the side of the main hall. Inside the main hall, there’s a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the main altar piece. Uniquely, there are four paintings inside the main hall depicting various actions of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the left of the main hall is a compact shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal with stone scrolls with Korean writing on them.  Further to the left, and a bit up the mountain, is a rock outcropping that you can reflexively sit upon, while viewing the valley and Busan down below. To the right of the main hall is a beautiful little shrine dedicated to what looks to be Chilseong. Strangely, on the exterior walls of the hermitage buildings, there is only Korean writing.  There are no murals or large paintings adorning any of the walls.  However, inside the shrine hall, on the left wall, is an unbelievably realistic painting of a white tiger.

But the main reason you’ve probably made your way up the side-windingly steep mountain is to see the views down below. And trust me; the beautifully views of Beomeosa Temple alone are worth the climb. But when you add into the mix the beautiful views of Busan (on a clear day), the other hermitages and small farms in the valley down below, as well as the towering Geumjeongsan mountain range that surrounds you at every turn, and you’ll understand why Gyemyeongam Hermitage is well worth the effort to get to!

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Gyemyeongam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple. Instead of walking left towards the Iljumun Gate, continue to hang right towards the hermitage. You’ll pass by Beomeosa Temple, which will be to your left. There will be a sign halfway between the temple and the hermitage, which will read 계명암,continue to follow these signs as they lead you right of the main temple. Eventually, you’ll come to a small parking lot. The path will fork like a “W.” trail to the right is Gyemyeongam Hermitage. There’s a large metal sign, as well as a signpost, pointing you in the direction of the trail that leads you up to the hermitage.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

View 계명암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. For the panoramic views alone of Beomeosa Temple in the valley below, and the giant Geumjeongsan Mountains above, this hermitage rates as highly as it does. But when you add in the beautiful shrine hall to the right of the main hall, you’ll know why the hermitage rates as high as it does. The one draw back to the hermitage is the slapped together main hall extension. However, inside this building, as you collect your breath, it’s a peaceful atmosphere. So if you have the time, and the strength, I would recommend you seeing this hermitage if you’re already visiting Beomeosa Temple.

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The sign that leads you up to 계명암 (Gyemyeongam Hermitage). It’s located in the parking lot.
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The start of the long climb up to the hermitage.
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The side-winding 500 metre path that leads up to Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
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Finally, we’re at the top, with a view of Iljumun Gate in the distance.
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The first gorgeous view of Geumjeongsan Mountain from the hermitage.
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A look at the makeshift addition to the main hall.  A bit haphazard on the outside if you ask me.
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The beautiful Gwanseeum-bosal shrine to the left of the main hall. If you look close enough you can see the unique twin statues with Korean writing on them.
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As you look behind the main hall, you can see just how closely it’s set into nature.
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A view inside the main hall with a smaller sized Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) as the main altar piece at the hermitage.
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Two beautiful Gwanseeum-bosal paintings to the right of the Gwanseeum-bosal statue.
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A look at the shrine hall dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), with a older looking pagoda in the foreground.
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The main altar piece is a statue of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) with a pink bowl of medicine in his left hand.
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On the far left wall inside the shrine hall is this beautifully realistic painting of a white tiger.
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A look through the shrine hall door at the towering mountains that surround Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
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A look up at the mountains and trees that surround the hermitage at every turn.
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And the highlight to this hermitage is definitely the view of the city and valley below.
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Down in the valley you can see both Beomeosa Temple and the associated hermitage to the left of the temple.
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A unique look at Beomeosa Temple.
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And finally, the long path that leads down to the base of the mountain.

Chungryunam Hermitage – 청련암 (Busan)

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A Biseon dancing around in the statue courtyard with a golden Buddha at her back at Chungryunam Hermitage, near Beomeosa Temple, in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Continuing on our visit to Beomeosa Temple, and the hermitages to the right of the temple, we decided to go to Chungryunam Hermitage (청련암). Actually, we had always intended this to be our first hermitage to visit, but we spotted Jijangam Hermitage along the way.

Chungryunam Hermitage means Blue Lotus Hermitage. And it’s the closest hermitage to Beomeosa Temple. As you first approach the hermitage from the hermitage’s parking lot, you’ll notice some beautiful Roses of Sharon and blue chrysanthemums in full bloom. Past these flowers are a pair of stone guardians at the entrance of the temple. What is most impressive about the hermitage is the U-shaped enclave that houses numerous statues, which you will see as you climb a set of stairs. To the right is the Seonmudo Hall of martial arts. Like Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju, Chungryunam Hermitage also practices the ancient martial art. Walking past the twin Haetae, mythical creatures that both consume and control fire, you’ll stand at the foot of the statue enclave. In the centre of this enclave is a golden Buddha. Surrounding this golden Buddha are various Bodhisattvas, Guardians, and Biseon. At the back of the enclave, perched on the concrete wall, are two large standing statues. The white one on the left is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), while the contemplative one to the right is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). To the front of the statues are twelve smaller sized zodiac statues. And at the very front of the statue enclave are Biseon dancing around, with Guardians protecting all, including a beautiful green coppered incense burner with a dragon base.

To the left of this statue enclave is the main hall. The main hall, much like Golgulsa Temple, sports numerous highly original paintings. There are a twin set of paintings adorning the external walls of the main hall. On top are various paintings depicting the various incarnations of the Buddha, while on the bottom there are various pictures associated with the Seonmudo martial arts. Inside the main hall, on the altar, is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light). On either side of Birojana-bul is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). All three are backed by a pair flaming golden nimbuses. To the left of the main altar is the Yeongsan Assembly painting; and to the left of that is the guardian painting with Dongjin-bosal (The Protector of the Buddha’s Teachings) at the centre of the painting.  Uniquely, there are dozens of smaller sized black statues adorning the left wall. In front of the hermitage, there is a uniquely designed stone pagoda much like the one at Golgulsa Temple. There seems to be a lot these two holy sites have in common. Behind the main hall, there’s a smaller sized shrine hall that is also illustrated with paintings depicting various acts and practices of Seonmudo. To the far left, there’s the monk’s study hall and dorm. The exterior of the monk’s dorm and study hall are paintings of various Buddhist saints. In front of this holy structure, there’s an impressively intricate stone lantern with a mythological bird adorning the top of it.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Chungryunam Hermitage in one of two ways. In both scenarios you first have to take the Busan subway, line one, to Beomeosa station and take exit #1. Here, you can either walk up the thirty minute hike to Beomeosa Temple, or you can walk a block uphill to the bus stop where you can take bus #90 to the nearby entrance of Beomeosa Temple. Instead of walking left towards the Iljumun Gate, continue to hang right towards the hermitage. You’ll pass by Beomeosa Temple, which will be to your left. There will be a sign halfway between the temple and the hermitage, which will read 청련암,continue to follow these signs as they lead you right of the main temple. Eventually, you’ll come to a small parking lot. The path will fork like a “W.” The hermitage to the left is Chungryunam Hermitage.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

View 청련암 in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. Chungryunam Hermitage has a lot to offer the Korean temple adventurer. First, it has beautiful flowers that welcome you to the temple like the blue mums and lavender Roses of Sharon. Past these flowers is an amazing enclave of statues depicting various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Guardians, and Biseon. To the left of this is the main hall, which is decorated with some extremely unique and rare paintings, much like the ones that illustrate different practices of the Seonmudo martial arts. Another highlight to the hermitage is the intricately designed stone lantern in front of the monk’s dorms and study hall. So if you have the time, and the inclination to see something beyond Beomeosa Temple, I highly recommend you check out Chungryunam Hermitage!

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The path that leads up to the courtyard at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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The beautiful blue and purple chrysanthemums that were in bloom at the entrance to the hermitage.
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A view of the enclave that houses numerous Buddha, Bodhisattva, Guardian and Biseon statues.
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A better look at some of the statues, including a golden Buddha.
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The gate that leads into the statue enclave.
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Yet another angle of the beautiful bronze statues.
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The golden Buddha in the background is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).  Because he has so much time, 5,670,000,000 years until his incarnation, he sits contemplatively.
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On the left is the white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Buddha of Compassion), and on the right is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).
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In the centre sits a golden Buddha on a lotus chair.
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A better look at the beautiful Buddha statue at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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The elaborate incense burner that fronts the enclave.
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A beautiful view of the neighbouring mountains, and the hall dedicated to the practice of Seonmudo.
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A ferocious lion protects the main hall, with the unique pagoda and the monk dorm in the background.
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The main hall at Chungryunam Hermitage.
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A guardian painting by the door on the right side of the main hall.
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A meditative painting on the exterior walls of the main hall.
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A painting symbolizing the insight and enlightenment arrived at during meditation.
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A cartoonized version of the unique pagoda in the hermitage courtyard that is also at Golgulsa Temple. It has something to do with the practice of Seonmudo martial arts.
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A scary and fierce painting adorning the left side wall at the hermitage.
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Another of the guardian paintings on the left side of the main hall.
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A shrine hall behind the main hall. It’s decorated with paintings illustrating the practice of Seonmudo.
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The main altar at Chungryunam Hermitage. In the centre is Birojan-bul (The Buddha Cosmic Energy). On either side is Moonsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power. All three are backed by a twin pair of flaming nimbuses.
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To the left of the main hall is the guardian painting. To the left of this painting are rows of tiny Buddha statues.
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And in front of the monk’s dorm is this beautifully ornate stone lantern.