Geumyongam Hermitage – 금용암 (Dongnae, Busan)

The eerie view behind the main hall at Geumyongam Hermitage in Dongnae, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumyongam Hermitage is located on the southern slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan (801.5m). The hermitage lies just east of the very busy Mandeok Tunnel on the far western part of Dongnae in central Busan.

Geumyongam Hermitage is situated up a small road after exiting the much larger and busier bend in the road along the first of Mandeok’s tunnels. The small hermitage’s road zigs and zags its way up the mountain, until you eventually come to the hermitage’s grounds. The first thing to greet you is a mature bamboo forest to your right and the hermitage’s kitchen and visitors centre to your left.

Past both, you’ll see the temple’s main hall in the elevated courtyard to the rear of the hermitage’s facilities. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals in a blue pastel hue. Stepping inside the main hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar inside a glass enclosure, is a golden statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the right of the main altar is the hermitage’s Shinjung Taenghwa, guardian mural. And to the left is a colourful mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Adorning the interior of the main hall are various Buddhist motif murals like the Bodhidharma in the back left corner and a pair of painted screens that flank the main altar.

To the left rear of the main hall is a smaller sized shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The stone statue of the Buddha is surrounded by a beautiful nimbus. There is another shrine, but it seems to have been taken down.

To the left of this former shrine, and next to a small mountain stream, you’ll find a set of stone stairs that leads up to the temple’s Sanshin/Chilseong-gak. Interestingly, there are two separate entries to this shaman shrine hall: the one to the right is for Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the door to the left is meant for Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). However, once you step inside this shaman shrine hall, you’ll notice that there is also a mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) hanging on the far right wall. In the centre hangs a red mural of Chilseong. And to the far left, you’ll see a rather regal image of Sanshin. The exterior walls to the Sanshin/Chilseong-gak are adorned with beautiful floral and dragon paintings.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Dongnae subway stop, Line 1, subway stop #125, you’ll need to go through exit #3 to get a taxi. From this station, it’ll take 7 minutes, or 3 kilometres, and cost 4,100 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. Geumyongam Hermitage is beautifully located. It has an eerie feel to it because of the mature trees that surround and envelop the hermitage at times. The artwork in and around the hermitage grounds are beautiful including the Sanshin mural and the Shimu-do murals.

The road that leads up to Geumyongam Hermitage.
The mature bamboo forest along the way.
The main hall at Geumyongam Hermitage.
The main altar inside the main hall with Gwanseeum-bosal seated all by herself.
The temple Shinjung Taenghwa mural.
A mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal inside the main hall.
The Bodhidharma mural that adorns one of the interior walls of the main hall.
A painted screen that also adorns one of the interior main hall walls.
Just outside the main hall at Geumyongam Hermitage.
A shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul just to the rear of the main hall.
I guess this was once a shrine.
A look at the a pair of Shimu-do murals, as well as a fish wind chime and intricate latticework.
The pathway that leads up to the Sanshin/Chilseong-gak.
A better look at the Sanshin/Chilseong-gak.
This dragon mural adorns one of the exterior walls to the shaman shrine hall.
A painting of a magnolia tree in bloom that also adorns the shaman shrine hall.
The mural of Chilseong that hangs inside the shaman shrine hall.
To the right hangs this dour painting of Dokseong.
And to the left hangs this regal image of Sanshin.
The view from the Sanshin/Chilseong-gak.

Daeseongsa Temple – 대성사 (Gijang, Busan)

The Wonri Bridge that hovers near Daeseongsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeseongsa Temple is located in Gijang, Busan. And it’s situated to the east of Mt. Dalumsan (587m) and southeast of Mt. Galmisan (300m). A little further up the valley and you’ll come to the much more famous Okjeongsa Temple. Uniquely, Wonri Bridge is suspended over top of Daeseongsa Temple. It’s not often that you see this. I think I’ve only ever seen it at Gilsangsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. But such is modernity, I suppose.

Up a concrete entry road and past the dark red temple sign that reads “대성사,” you’ll take a turn to the left and be situated out in front of the compact temple grounds. But before making your way up to the main hall, you’ll have passed a Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) statue halfway up the entry road. And to the far right, just outside the upper courtyard, there are a pair of temple statues. The first is Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Sack). And a little further to the right, you’ll notice a golden statue to a female devotee. Not sure who she is, but she’s obviously deserving of a statue at Daeseongsa Temple.

Now, straight ahead, and up a set of steep stone stairs, you’ll find the boxy main hall. The exterior walls are beautifully adorned with floral murals and a set of Palsang-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll find a Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural) hanging on the far left wall when you first enter. As for the main altar, you’ll see a triad of statues seated. Seated in the centre, it looks to be a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to the left by Jijang-bosal. Out in front of the main hall, and under the shade of the Wonri Bridge, is the temple’s compact bell pavilion.

Rather uniquely, Daeseongsa Temple is divided in halves. To the right is the main hall, and to the left is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. I say unique, because it’s almost impossible to locate the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. There are no clear signs indicating that there is a second half to this temple. But now you know, so now you can explore the other half of the temple.

Out in front of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is a diminutive temple bell that hangs freely in the open. The far right wall to this hall is either the monks’ dorms or visitors centre. And it’s to the left, through a pair of sliding doors, that you’ll find the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Resting on the main altar of this hall is a beautifully crowned statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the right of the main altar is another temple guardian mural that’s older in origin. And to the left is a mural dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

To the left of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall are a collection of shaman shrine halls. The first shrine, under a tin roof, is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Past the Yongwang shrine, you’ll see a stacked pair of shrine halls. The one on the bottom on the first floor appears to be dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha); however, there is no signboard above the entry to indicate who exactly it might be for sure. As for the second floor, this is definitely the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All three murals inside this hall are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) are newer in composition and rather traditional in style.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Daeseongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Ilgwang subway station, stop K124, on the Donghae Line in Busan. From this subway stop, you’ll need to take a taxi to Daeseongsa Temple. The cost will be 7,500 won, and the car ride will last 14 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While not the most serene of locations, there is a fair bit to see, especially in combination with the more popular Okjeongsa Temple. Keep your eyes open for the beautiful artwork around the main hall and the beautifully crowned Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

The temple sign that welcomes you to Daeseongsa Temple.
The entry and Wonri Bridge together at Daeseongsa Temple.
The shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal at the temple.
The statue of Podae-hwasang to the right of the main hall.
And the golden statue dedicated to a female devotee at Daeseongsa Temple.
The main hall at Daeseongsa Temple.
One of the floral murals that adorns the main hall.
As well as one of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.
The triad of statues on the main altar inside the main hall.
The main hall guardian mural.
The view from the main all out towards the bell pavilion.
The lower courtyard to the left of the main hall. This is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
Before entering the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, you’ll find this hanging temple bell.
The main altar statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
To the right of Gwanseeum-bosal is this older guardian mural.
And to the left of Gwanseeum-bosal is this other mural.
The shaman shrine halls at Daeseongsa Temple.
First the Yongwang shrine.
The shrine dedicated to Yaksayore-bul beneath the Samseong-gak.
A look inside the Samseong-gak at the collection of shaman murals housed inside it.

Okjeongsa Temple – 옥정사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

The newly built Jijang-jeon Hall at Okjeongsa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okjeongsa Temple is located in eastern Busan in Gijang. It’s situated east of Mt. Dalumsan. Okjeongsa Temple was first established in 1907 by the monk, Bak Geung Hae. Since its creation over a hundred years ago, the temple continues to grow and be popular with mountain hikers in the area.

Depending on where you access the temple, you’ll first need to make your way up a long winding country road. Near the temple parking lot, you’ll notice a large temple shrine hall that kind of hovers over top the rest of the temple complex. This newly built, and beautifully decorated, hall is the temple’s Jijang-jeon Hall. On the first floor of this building, you’ll see the temple’s visitors centre and kitchen. But it’s the second floor, with its beautiful artwork, that you’ll be drawn to first. Surrounding the exterior walls to this shrine hall are a set of murals that depict the life cycle from birth to death. Housed inside the Jijang-jeon Hall, and seated on the main altar, is a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by a row of five statues on both sides of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. All eleven main altar statues sit under a beautiful golden Datjib (canopy).

Walking away from the Jijang-jeon Hall and towards the southern courtyard, you’ll notice a stone shrine with a statue perched up a flight of stairs. This statue is dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). And a little further along, and with the monks’ dorms to your left, you’ll notice an open shrine to your right. This is the Yakwang-gak. Seated on the main altar is a statue of Yaksayore-bul. This statue sits underneath an intricate mural of dragons. And out in front of the main altar is a large stone bowl. Inside this stone bowl is mountain water.

A little further along, and in a closed, compact courtyard, you’ll find the temple’s main hall. Out in front of the main hall is a simplistic three story stone pagoda. And it’s joined by the temple’s bell pavilion. As for the main hall itself, it’s surrounded by older Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals all around its exterior walls.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues seated on the main altar. In the centre rests Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar, and unique in design, as well, is a statue of a green haired Jijang-bosal. And on the far right wall is an elaborate Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). But most impressive in the main hall is the multi-armed and eyed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This incarnation of Gwanseeum-bosal is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in Korea and perhaps only next to the one at Girimsa Temple.

To the rear of the main hall is the Sanshin-gak, which functionally acts as the Samseong-gak. All three murals housed inside this shaman shrine hall are older in composition. Hanging in the middle of the three is a beautiful Sanshin mural with a suspicious tiger by the Mountain Spirit’s side. To the left is an equally older horizontal mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the right, and just as original in composition as the Sanshin mural, is the mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And rounding out the set is a large prayer stone on the far right wall.

The final shrine hall people can explore at Okjeongsa Temple is the Chilseong-gak, which is situated to the rear of the Sanshin-gak, and is surrounded on all sides by a bamboo forest. And if you look through an opening in the bamboo trees, you’ll see the two story Jijang-jeon Hall to your right. As for inside the Chilseong-gak, you’ll find a mural dedicated to The Seven Stars that appears to date back, and be composed by the same artist, as both the Sanshin and Dokseong murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Okjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Ilgwang subway station, stop K124, on the Donghae Line in Busan. From this subway stop, you’ll need to take a taxi to Okjeongsa Temple. The cost will be 8,000 won, and the car ride will last about 15 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. There’s a lot to see at Okjeongsa Temple. The main highlights of the temple is the elaborate Gwanseeum-bosal statue inside the main hall, the shaman paintings inside both the Sanshin-gak and Chilseong-gak, as well as the beautiful Buddhist artwork inside the Jijang-jeon Hall. But take your time and enjoy all that this little known temple has to offer.

The Jijang-jeon Hall at Okjeongsa Temple.
One of the life cycle murals that surrounds the exterior walls of the Jijang-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Jijang-jeon Hall at the main altar.
A full look at the Jijang-jeon Hall.
The Yaksayore-bul shrine at Okjeongsa Temple.
The Yakwang-gak outdoor shrine at Okjeongsa Temple.
The intricate mural that’s painted above the Yakwang-gak main altar.
The bell pavilion as seen from the main hall.
The three story stone pagoda out in front of the temple’s main hall.
One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
The main altar inside the main hall.
The altar inside the main hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal.
The temple’s guardian mural.
The amazing golden statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal inside the main hall.
The Sanshin-gak to the rear of the main hall.
The older looking Yongwang mural inside the Sanshin-gak.
Yongwang is joined by this beautiful mural dedicated to Sanshin.
And not to be left out, here’s the mural of Dokseong inside the Sanshin-gak.
Rounding out the Sanshin-gak collection is this prayer stone.
The Chilseong-gak at Okjeongsa Temple.
The main altar dedicated to the Seven Stars inside the Chilseong-gak.
And the view from the Chilseong-gak.

Baekdusa Temple – 백두사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

The main hall at Baekdusa Temple in Gijang, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Baekdusa Temple is located in the eastern part of Busan in Gijang. The temple is situated south-east of Mt. Ilgwangsan (385.3m) in the countryside.

You first approach Baekdusa Temple under a bridge that spans a major highway in Gijang. Once you appear on the other side of the tunnel, you’ll make your way up a paved road until you come to the newer looking Baekdusa Temple.

The first buildings to greet you are a pair of white, two storied buildings that are the temple’s visitors centre and conference hall. Passing by these two buildings to your left, and making your way up towards the upper courtyard, you’ll notice a standing stone statue of Podae-hwasang (Hempen Sack). This statue is joined by an equally stunning stone lantern. Down a grass pathway, and just out in front of the main hall, is the temple’s three story stone pagoda. Uniquely, it’s not situated in the courtyard directly out in front of the main hall, but on a slightly lower grass ledge.

Up a set of stairs, you’ll notice, what looks to be, a brand new, and beautiful, main hall at Baekdusa Temple. The first floor acts as the temple’s kitchen, while the second story is the Daeung-jeon main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a masterful set of Palsang-do murals. And the signboard that hangs over the main entrance to the prayer hall is one of the more elaborate that I’ve seen in Korea. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a set of three rather large statues. In the middle rests Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Strangely, he’s joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). I say strange because these two Bodhisattvas typically join Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Hanging on the far right wall is the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). And to the left of the main altar is a beautiful, large mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

To the rear of the main hall is the diminutive Yongwang-dang, which is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Hanging inside this small hall is a traditional mural of the Dragon King. And rather strangely, and to the right of the Yongwang-dang, is the temple’s bathroom. Not sure if I’ve ever seen a bathroom to the rear of the main hall. Typically, that space is reserved for other shrine halls.

The most unique part of Baekdusa Temple is to the left of the main hall and past the temple’s bell pavilion. As you walk up the incline, you’ll be greeted by two rows, on opposite sides, of ten stone statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Jijang-bosal, Yaksayorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha), and Gwanseeum-bosal. Once you pass these life-sized statues, you’ll see the Samseong-gak up a set of stairs. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are a collection of three paintings. Both the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are traditional in composition; however, it’s the older looking Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that stands out with its spotted tiger.

Next to the Samseong-gak is an artificial cave. Out in front of the entrance to the cave is a seated statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This statue is joined by four other statues. Housed inside the artificial cave are a collection of three statues. Seated in the centre looks to be an image of Mireuk-bul. And this statue is joined on either side by Seokgamoni-bul and Gwanseeum-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Ilgwang subway station, stop K124, you’ll need to take a taxi to get to Baekdusa Temple. The taxi ride should cost about 7,000 won and take 16 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are beautiful paintings all throughout the temple grounds at Baekdusa Temple including the Palsang-do murals that surround the main hall, the murals inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, and the Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak. Adding to this artistry is the artificial cave and stone statues that guide you towards its entrance.

Podae-hwasang out in front of the main hall with the temple pagoda to the rear.
The signboard that hangs above the main entry at the Daeung-jeon Hall.
One of the masterful Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall.
One of the floral doors of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The Dragon King mural that hangs inside the Yongwang-dang Hall.
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas welcome you and guide you towards the Samseong-gak.
But before you get to the Samseong-gak, you’ll find the temple’s bell pavilion to the left.
A better look at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
Inside are housed these three murals on the main altar.
A better look at the older Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak.
The artificial cave to the right of the Samseong-gak.
A look inside…
…towards the statues.
The view that the statues get to enjoy out towards the Mireuk-bul statue.
And one last look at the temple grounds before heading towards my next temple adventure.

Bogwangsa Temple – 보광사 (Dong-gu, Busan)

Inside the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas at Bogwangsa Temple in Dong-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

North of Sujeong Tunnel, and southwest of Mt. Palgeumsan (236m), is where you’ll find Bogwangsa Temple in Busan. This modern temple can be found up a long narrow road that leads up from the mountain’s base.

Finally looking up from the temple’s parking lot, you’ll see the main gate precariously placed on the edge of a mountain ledge. Up the side-winding stairs, you’ll be welcomed by a gate that has Vajra warrior paintings framed by a blue background. And up above, you’ll see an intricate dragon mural.

Through the wooded gates, you’ll gain entry to the stacked temple grounds. Looking back, you’ll notice that the main temple gate also acts as the temple’s bell pavilion on the second floor. There’s a large bronze temple bell that takes up residence in this pavilion.

Straight ahead of you sits the main hall at Bogwangsa Temple. Out in front are a pair of beautiful lion based lanterns reminiscent of the ones at the famed Beopjusa Temple. Surrounding the exterior walls are simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals, as well as intricate dancheong colour patterns.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated inside a glass enclosure. Seated in the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of this main altar is a shrine devoted to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This slender, green haired statue of Jijang-bosal is backed by an intricate, red mural of the Bodhisattva. To the left of the main altar is another red mural. This red mural is the temple’s Taenghwa Shinjung, guardian mural.

To next shrine hall visitors can explore to the right, and almost stacked on the main hall, is the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas. Housed inside this large shrine hall, as the name kind of gives away, are one thousand all-white statues of the Buddha. The interior is colourfully painted, and a more modern guardian mural than the one inside the main hall hangs on the far left wall of the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.

Past the low hanging eaves to both the main hall and the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas, you’ll follow a pathway up to the Samseong-gak. Along the way, have a close look at the beautiful artwork that adorns the exterior walls and roof of the main hall. From the perch where the Samseong-gak is located, you’ll get a beautiful view of Busan in the valley below. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, you’ll notice yet another red hued painting; this time, this mural, in a set of three, is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left and right of the Chilseong mural are two modern paintings, beautiful in composition, dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Beomnaegol subway station, line #1, stop #118, you’ll need to leave the station and find the the bus stop called the “Beomnaegol Station Stop.” From this stop, take Bus #86. After 4 stops, get off at the bus stop called “Beomil Chodeunghakgyo Stop,” which is an elementary school stop. From this stop, walk three minutes, or 266 metres, to get to Bogwangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are several beautiful highlights to this modern temple like the beautiful shaman murals, the large Hall of 1,000 Buddhas with its modern guardian mural, the murals surrounding the main temple gate, as well as the Buddhist statues inside Bogwangsa Temple’s main hall. As you can see, there’s quite a bit to see at this little known temple in Busan.

A look up at the entry gate at Bogwangsa Temple.

A beautiful panoramic view of the murals inside the entry gate at the temple.

A look up at the dragon mural that adorns the ceiling to the entry gate.

The main hall at Bogwangsa Temple.

A look up at the intricate eaves.

One of the simplistic Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior wall to the main hall.

A look inside the main hall at the main altar with Amita-bul in the middle joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal.

The Jijang-bosal shrine to the right of the main altar.

Joined to the left by this Shinjung Taenghwa, guardian mural.

The bell pavilion that’s positioned above the entry gate at Bogwangsa Temple.

A look between the main hall and the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.

The amazing interior of the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.

To the left of the 1,000 white Buddhas is this newer in style guardian mural.

An up close look at the tiles on the roof of the main hall.

A look up at the Samseong-gak at Bogwangsa Temple.

A pretty nice view over the temple buildings down towards Busan.

The Chilseong mural inside the Samseong-gak.

The lonely looking mural dedicated to Dokseong.

And a rather original mural, housed inside the Samseong-gak, dedicated to Sanshin.

Gwangmyeongsa Temple – 광명사 (Busanjin-gu, Busan)

The view from the main hall towards the entry gate at Gwangmyeongsa Temple in Busanjin-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gwangmyeongsa Temple is located in Busanjin-gu on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Palgeumsan (236m) in Busan. The temple was first built in 1920 by the monk Hyosup. You first approach the temple through Busan’s back streets and byways, until you come to a hospital and urban farms.

Over a cement bridge, you’ll see the beautiful entry gate that first welcomes you to Gwangmyeongsa Temple. The exterior walls are adorned with fierce Vajra warriors. Stepping through the gates, but before entering the main temple courtyard, look around inside the temple entry gate. You’ll notice a beautiful set of intimidating Sacheonwang (Four Heavenly Kings) murals.

Finally inside the temple grounds, you’ll notice the Daeung-jeon Hall straight ahead of you. The main hall is book-ended on both sides by the monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre. The exterior walls to the main hall are beautifully adorned with masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Also, and up near the eaves, you’ll see fish wind chimes hanging from the corner of the rooftop. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated on the golden main altar. Seated in the centre is an image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). And hanging on the left wall is a simplistic Shinjung Taenghwa, guardian mural.

To the right of the main hall is a diminutive bell pavilion that houses a beautiful bronze bell. Standing about a metre and a half in height, the bell is adorned with swirling images of Biseon (Flying Angels) and various Buddhist iconography.

To the left of the main hall is the Chilseong-gak, which now acts as the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This simple building, which is both wood and brick in part, houses a beautiful older mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), which rests in the middle of a triad of shaman paintings. This painting is joined on either side by more modern murals of a frowning Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and a stern looking Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And as you exit, if you haven’t already, take a look up at the fading, but beautiful, signboard.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Beomnaegol subway station, line #1, stop #118, you’ll need to find the Beomnaegol bus stop called “Beomnaegol Station.” From there, take bus #29. After 6 stops, or 7 minutes, get off at the Anchangmaeul Ipgu (안창마을 입구) stop. From this stop, walk 4 minutes towards the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. Smaller in size, Gwangmyeongsa Temple in Busan has intimidating entry doors when you first arrive at the temple. Adding to this artwork is the beautiful bronze bell and shaman paintings housed inside the Chilseong-gak.

The entry at Gwangmyeongsa Temple.

The beautiful, yet intimidating, entry gate at Gwangmyeongsa Temple.

One of the fierce Vajra warrior paintings that adorns one of the temple entry gates.

One of the Four Heavenly Kings that adorns the interior wall of the entry gate.

The Daeung-jeon Hall at Gwangmyeongsa Temple.

One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

One of the metal fish chimes adorning the main hall.

The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

The guardian mural that takes up residence inside the main hall.

The temple bell pavilion.

Inside is housed this beautiful bronze temple bell.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gwangmyeongsa Temple.

It must have once been the Chilseong-gak.

The beautiful old Chilseong mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

The more modern Sanshin mural also housed in the Samseong-gak.

As well as this curmudgeonly looking Dokseong mural.

And the view from the Samseong-gak out towards the temple grounds.

Gayasa Temple – 가야사 (Busanjin-gu, Busan)

The ancient Iljumun Gate and temple grounds at Gayasa Temple in Busanjin-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gayasa Temple in Busan is located on the northern part of Mt. Palgeumsan (236m) in Busanjin-gu. The temple is located near downtown Seomyeon; and with the right angle, you can get some great views of Busan down below and the port off in the distance.

You first approach Gayasa Temple down some backstreets and up a slight incline in the mountain. The first thing to greet you is the leaf covered Iljumun Gate at the temple. Next, you’ll climb a set of stairs that are lined with beautiful, mature trees.

Finally, after climbing the set of uneven stone and cement stairs, you’ll come to the main temple ground. The original temple Iljumun Gate welcomes you to the temple courtyard. With its slender pillars and fading Manja (swastika) symbol in the centre, this Iljumun Gate gives a glimpse a bit further back into Korean Buddhist artwork and architecture.

To the right of the ancient Iljumun Gate is the temple’s main hall and pagoda. The five tiered stone pagoda looks newer in design. As for the main hall, the exterior walls are adorned with beautiful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main altar. Seated in the centre is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is an elaborate statue and mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And to the left of the main altar is a golden capped statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Rounding out the artwork in the main hall is a Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural) that hangs on the far left wall.

To the left of the main hall and pagoda are commemorative tablets to the left and a beautiful pond. The large stone image of Gwanseeum-bosal sits behind the pond with her left foot raised. Praying in the middle of the pond is a stone image of a dongja (assistant).

Behind the pond, and up a set of stairs, are a pair of shrine halls. The first of the two is the Chilseong-gak. Have a look at the shrine hall’s signboard as you walk in. It’s absolutely stunning. As you step inside this shaman shrine hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main altar with an elaborate Chilseong mural backing these three statues. And painted on the wall is another incarnation of Chilseong (a rarity at Korean temples).

And the second of these two shaman shrine halls is the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak. Again, this shrine hall has a beautiful signboard hanging over the entry. Stepping inside, you’ll see beautiful, but rather traditional, images of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) to the left and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) to the right.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gayasa Temple, you’ll first need to ride the subway to Gaya Station, stop #221. Then, take exit #3. Head to your right and take the first major road that heads south. From there, you’ll cross a major road. Continue to head south towards the mountain. Eventually, you should be able to see the signs that guide you towards the temple. In total, from the subway, the walk should take 7 minutes, or 500 metres.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While not the largest or most elaborate temple that you’ll visit in Korea, Gayasa Temple in Busan definitely has some beautiful highlights like the pair of Iljumun Gates that welcome you to the temple, as well as the temple pond and pair of signboards that hang over the entries of the shaman shrine hall.

The first of two Iljumun Gates at Gayasa Temple.

The set of stairs that lead up to the main temple grounds.

The beautiful, old Iljumun Gate that frames the rest of the temple grounds.

The memorial shrines at the temple entry.

The Daeung-jeon main hall and five tier stone pagoda at Gayasa Temple.

One of the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated in the centre of the main altar.

The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal and the two shaman shrine halls to the rear of the main hall.

A better look at the temple pond.

With Gwanseeum-bosal seated on the lip of the pond with a dongja praying towards her.

Inside the Chilseong-gak.

The mural that adorns an interior wall inside the Chilseong-gak.

The signboard that hangs above the entry to the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The rather traditional mural dedicated to the Mountain Spirit, Sanshin.

Joined to the right by this painting of Dokseong, the Lonely Saint.

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.

Gukcheongsa Temple – 국청사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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The three tier pagoda at Gukcheongsa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gukcheongsa Temple is located on the southern portion of Mt. Geumjeongsan in Busan. Gukcheongsa Temple is also just south of the Geumjeongsan Fortress walls. Gukcheongsa Temple was first constructed by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625-702) during the Silla Dynasty. The temple was also used as a strategic military command post for the Buddhist warrior monks against the invading Japanese during the Imjin War (1592-98). Later, in 1982, a three tier pagoda that sits out in front of the main temple grounds, and in a pond, was constructed to console the spirits of Buddhist monks that gave up their lives to defend Gukcheongsa Temple.

You approach Gukcheongsa Temple up one of the roads that connects it to the mountainside Sanseong community. The first thing to greet you is a stout two pillar Iljumun Gate that is colourfully painted. A little further up the temple road and to the right, you’ll notice the beautiful temple pond with the three tier pagoda in the centre of it. Surrounding the overgrown pond are various stone statues that include Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

A little further along, and past the temple parking lot, are the main temple buildings at Gukcheongsa Temple. But before you enter the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice an old monks’ residence that is no longer used. Have a look at its unique stone exterior.

Finally facing the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll notice two buildings book-ending the main hall. These are the new monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with masterful Ox-Herding murals, as well as the Bodhidharma and the myth behind the wooden moktak. As for inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful triad of statues that rest on the main altar. Sitting in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the left of the main altar triad is an older Shinjung Taenghwa guardian mural. And to the right is a newer mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

The only other shrine hall to visit at Gukcheongsa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with a majestic tiger mural, as well as a mural dedicated to the myth of the golden well on top of Mt. Geumjeongsan. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, there are three rather plain murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gukcheongsa Temple, you’ll first have to travel to Hwamyeong subway station on the second line (#235). From here, you’ll have to catch a Busan city bus from the Deokcheon Rotary. Take the Busan city bus identified as “Sanseong – 산성”. Ride this bus until you get to the centre of the mountain community of Sanseong, which will probably take 15 to 20 minutes. Nearing the outskirts of this community, get off near a large bathroom complex (yes, you heard me correctly). Facing this community bathroom, head in the direction that your back faces. You’ll see a small brown marker sign that directs you towards the northern gate (북문) of the Busan Mountain Fortress (Geumjeongsanseong). Follow this road for one kilometres. Along the way, you’ll come across Gukcheongsa Temple to your right. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the sort of out of place Iljumun Gate for the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Gukcheongsa Temple is beautifully located on the southern slopes of the towering Mt. Geumjeongsan. Adding to its natural beauty is the three tier pagoda that sits in the temple’s pond, as well as the triad of statues that sits on the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The entry stone at Gukcheongsa Temple.

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The stout Iljumun Gate at the temple entrance.

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The temple pond and the three tier pagoda that sits in its centre.

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A better look at the overgrown pond and pagoda.

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The stone statue that stands near the temple pagoda and pond.

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The temple grounds at Gukcheongsa Temple as you first approach it.

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The old monks’ dorms at the temple.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Gukcheongsa Temple.

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One of the ten Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.

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As well as this moktak mural.

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And this Bodhidharma mural.

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The elaborate main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The older guardian mural that takes up residence to the left of the main altar.

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And the Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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

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The relaxing tiger that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

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As well as this winged golden fish that helps depict the golden well associated with Mt. Geumjeongsan.

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The paintings inside the Samseong-gak.

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And the view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

Manseongam Hermitage – 만성암 (Geumjeong-gu, 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.