Boriam Hermitage – 보리암 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)


The breath-taking view of the ocean from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall at Boriam Hermitage in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Boriam Hermitage had been a hermitage I had long wanted to visit in Gyeongsangnam-do. But since it’s on the western border with Jeollanam-do, and far from my home, I have never been. However, I corrected this oversight this past weekend.

Boriam Hermitage (보리암) dates back to 683, when it was created by the famous monk Wonhyo-daesa. The most interesting part of this hermitage’s history is related to the three storied pagoda that sits on a landing that overlooks the ocean. According to legend, the pagoda was built from the stones that Queen Heo, the Indian princess that would go onto marry King Suro who was the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom, to enshrine the Buddha’s remains that she had brought with her. However, because the stones are made of granite and the pagoda appears to have been built during the Goryeo Period (918-1392), it seems highly unlikely that this story is true. Another interesting aspect to this hermitage is that the future Joseon Period king, Yi Song-gye (better known as King Taejo), who also turned out to be the first Joseon king, stayed at Boriam Hermitage praying for 100 days before he became the Korean ruler.

Arriving at the base of Mt. Geumsan, which alone acts as a provincial park, you’ll have to pay 2,000 Won (if my memory serves me correctly) as an entrance fee. There are three ways you can get to the top of Mt. Geumsan, and in the vicinity of Boriam Hermitage. First, you can walk the nearly four kilometers up the mountain (which I don’t recommend); second, you can take the shuttle bus to the top which leaves frequently; or third, if you drive your own car, you can wait in line until a parking spot opens up in the limited parking lot for Boriam Hermitage. If you choose this option, make sure you get there early because the line fills in fast.

After getting to the summit of the mountain, you’ll pass through the entrance gate to Boriam Hermitage, which will cost you a reasonable 1,000 won. The hike from this gate to the hermitage grounds is another kilometer. This hermitage is very popular with Koreans, so just follow them and you won’t get lost. Along the way, you’ll catch glimpses of the ocean front views that makes Boriam Hermitage so famous and popular.

Finally, you’ll come to a second parking lot that also houses a smaller sized convenience store. It’s from this vantage point that you’ll get your first clear view of the ocean and the tiny islands that dot the breath-taking landscape.

A little further up the trail, and at a fork, you’ll turn left towards the hermitage. To the right lies a less popular hermitage and the peak of Mt. Geumsan. Descending down a large set of stairs, you’ll finally come to the compact hermitage courtyard. You’ll first pass by the hermitage’s office. To your immediate left is the first building at Boriam Hermitage. This hall is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall. Inside of this hall, as the name kind of hints at, are 10,000 Buddhas that line all of the walls of the interior to this hall. Sitting on the main altar is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). It is from the front of this hall that you gain some of the most impressive views of the ocean and Namhae down below.

Stepping up into the centre of the temple courtyard, you’ll be flanked by the main hall to the right and an observation hall to the left. Both are fairly long in length. Surrounding the main hall are paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And sitting inside the smaller sized main hall is a diminutive statue of Gwanseeum-bosal on a red silk pillow. There are numerous statues of this Bodhisattva as it’s one of the thirty-three most venerated temples to Gwanseeum-bosal in all of Korea.

Behind the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, is the San shin-gak. Inside of this rather plain looking shrine hall is a beautiful painting dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The highlight of the painting is the uniquely painted tiger. To the left of the main hall is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It houses a beautiful bronze bell that is adorned with some masterfully crafted Buddhas.

The final area to the hermitage grounds is down a set of stairs next to the bell pavilion. Down the set of stairs, and up a smaller set, is a plateau area that houses another large sized statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This granite statue looks out upon the ocean. And to her right is an ancient pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Period. Again, there are some amazing views of the ocean side landscape from here.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you live in Busan, or near it, the easiest way to get to Boriam Hermitage is from the Busan Train Station. There’s a bus that leaves from there, I would assume in the morning. The ride from Busan to Namhae should take about three ours in length.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10 While the hermitage buildings aren’t the most amazing that you’ll ever see at a hermitage or a temple, this probably isn’t the reason you’ve come to Boriam Hermitage. By far, the views of the ocean and the neighbouring landscape are second-to-none at a hermitage or temple in all of  Korea. And while crowded, there’s enough room for you to enjoy Boriam Hermitage and its spectacular vista.

There is limited parking at Boriam Hermitage, so make sure you get there early.
The beautiful trail that leads up to the hermitage.
The first, of many, amazing views from Boriam Hermitage.
The first view of Boriam Hermitage just beneath Mt. Geumsan.
A look over at the observation hall and down at the ocean below.
The hermitage courtyard.
A few people taking in the amazing view of the ocean and islands below near the observation hall.
Just one of the halls at Boriam Hermitage. This is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
The main altar inside the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
And the gorgeous view from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
A better look around the hermitage courtyard with the main hall to the right, the observation hall to the left, and the bell pavilion centre right.
A look inside the main hall at the altar. Inside is a seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on a red silk cushion.
A look up at the San shin-gak that’s located just behind the main hall.
The beautiful painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the San shin-gak.
Yet another spectacular view of the ocean and islands below from the San shin-gak with the main hall in the foreground.
A look above the colourful bell pavilion at the peak of Mt. Geumsan.
The large sized observation hall that frames the main courtyard at Boriam Hermitage.
In the lower courtyard is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal and the ancient four tiered pagoda.
A better look at The Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal.
And a better look at the ancient pagoda.
And one last look down at the ocean and Sangju Beach.