Jinhongsa Temple – 진홍사 (Buk-gu, Busan)

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Inside the main hall during Buddha’s birthday at Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone,

Jinhongsa Temple in Geumgok is a rather new temple in the northern part of Busan. While smaller in size, the temple is highly popular among the local population.

Located next to a university and a crowded amount of apartments, Jinhongsa Temple is the last structure before the forested hills of Mt. Geumjeongsan. The first structure to greet you at the temple is the simplistic Iljumun Gate. To the left of the Iljumun Gate lies a collection of stupas and a stele.

Past these introductory structures, and up a bit of an incline, are the three temple buildings at Jinhongsa Temple. To the far left is the monks’ dorms and visitors centre. Straight ahead, and above the temple’s kitchen on the first floor, is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are beautifully decorated with Palsang-do murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s joined on either side Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). The triad sit under a stunning red canopy that are adorned with twisting blue dragons underneath the canopy. And on the far left wall is a wooden guardian relief.

To the right of the main hall stands another two storied temple hall. The second of which is a shrine hall for people to pray in at Jinhongsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are lined with dongja (assistants) either playing or helping. Once you enter this hall, which you enter from the east, you’ll be greeted by a large red canopy. Underneath this canopy sit three slender statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined by the familiar statues of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And on the far wall there hangs a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take exit #6 at Geumgok subway station (#238) on the second line. At the first major road, you’ll need to cross the street and head east towards Mt. Geumjeongsan. Follow this road to the right of the university for 1.6 km. The hike should only take you 5 minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While not the most overwhelming of temples to visit in Korea, it’s a nice little oasis in northern Busan. While the temple buildings are made from concrete, all the statues on the main altars are masterfully sculpted, as are the paintings adorning the exterior walls to all the halls. There is also a restive Koi pond at the base of the main hall at Jinhongsa Temple. So while not the most expansive of temples in Korea, it makes for a nice little break from the urban clutter in northern Busan.

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The stupas and stele at the entry of Jinhongsa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple.

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The temple’s main hall during Buddha’s birthday.

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The meditative Koi pond out in front of the main hall.

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One of the Korean style Palsang-do murals adorning the exterior walls of the main hall.

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The nearness of nature at Jinhongsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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The unpainted wooden guardian relief inside the main hall.

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The other shrine hall at Jinhongsa Temple.

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One of the dongja murals that adorns the exterior walls to this shrine hall.

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Some of the decorative Buddhist artwork underfoot.

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The main altar inside the adjoining shrine hall.

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The Jijang-bosal mural at Jinhongsa Temple.

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One last look at one of the shrine halls at Jinhongsa Temple.

Seongamsa Temple – 성암사 (Nam-gu, Busan)

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The fall colours at Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern slopes of Mt. Hwangryeongsan in Nam-gu, Busan lies Seongamsa Temple. Through some twists and turns in the road and down some back alleys, you’ll come to this well-hidden temple.

You’ll know you’re close when you come to the end of the narrow road and there’s a parking lot. Up a slight bend in an adjoining road, it’ll lead you towards Seongamsa Temple. As you enter the temple courtyard, you’ll notice that it’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful, mature trees that are especially colourful during the autumn months.

The first building, rather uniquely, to greet you at the temple as you approach from the side is the Daeung-jeon main hall. The rather boxy main hall disguises the elaborate interior. As you first enter the main hall, you’re greeted by a set of Gwaneeum-bosal murals. The main hall, while narrow, runs rather deep with a wide main altar. Sitting in the centre of a triad of statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And all three are surrounded by miniature statues of the Buddha. To the far right sits Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha); while to the far left sits a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) who is surrounded by tiny, white statues of himself. And on the far right wall hangs one of the larger guardian murals I have yet to see at a Korean temple.

Past the temple’s bell pavilion, and just beyond the narrow seven-tier stone pagoda, sits the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are a set of beautiful shaman murals. While the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are rather typical in their design, it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that really stands out. Dressed in a yellow robe with a brown headdress, the Seongamsa Temple Sanshin really makes an impression.

A little hidden, but not impossible to find to the right of the Samseong-gak, you’ll see a brick wall with an opening in the centre of it. This is the Yongwang-dang. With wall-to-wall lights, ornamental stone flooring, and a radiant Yongwang mural, this Yongwang-dang is different from most others that I’ve seen in Korea. Of course, it’s the intricate mural dedicated to the Dragon King that truly stands out with three swirling dragons and a majestically seated Yongwang in the centre of it all. Have a look and get your fill, because this Yongwang mural is one of the best of its kind.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Munjeon Subway stop, line #2, stop #217 , you can board a taxi after exiting out exit #2 or #4. The ride should last about ten minutes, and it should cost you about 4,000 won. Either that, or you can simply walk the distance towards the temple. Head east towards Munhyeon Elementary School and the Munhyeon Girls High School. To head in this direction, go out exit #2. When you arrive at the schools, you should continue towards Hyeondae apartment. It’s just behind these apartments that you’ll find Seongamsa Temple. The walk should take you just under 30 minutes to cover the two kilometre stretch.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. It’s the shaman murals of Yongwang and Sanshin that really stand out about this temple; however, with that said, the autumnal hues and the elaborate main hall are something to have a look at, as well, when you visit Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan. While little visited by foreigners, it’s well worth the effort to go and see, especially if you’re in the area.

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The view from the temple.

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A look up towards Mt. Hwangryeongsan.

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As you first enter the temple grounds.

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The temple’s main hall.

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Inside the main hall with a look at the main altar.

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A look to the right reveals Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

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Keeping Yaksayore-bul company is this massive guardian mural.

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While to the left is this golden Jijang-bosal statue.

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Lining the interior of the main hall are several murals dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Inside reveals this amazing Sanshin mural.

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The Yongwang-dang entrance.

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Inside is this beautiful mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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Finally, it was time to go.

Cheongryangsa Temple – 청량사 (Gangseo-gu, Busan)

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A look through a window at the Minang-gak shaman shrine hall at Cheongryangsa Temple in Gangseo-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

Cheongryangsa Temple is located in an industrial part of western Busan, and it’s surrounded on all sides by neighbouring factories. You first enter the compact temple grounds off of one of the industrial roads, as you pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Painted inside this gate are four murals of the Four Heavenly Kings. And adorning the ceiling are a set of swirling Biseon. On top of the gate is the temple’s towering bell pavilion.

As soon as you enter the temple grounds, and pass through the diminutive dirt parking lot, you’ll be greeted by the newer looking main hall. The main hall is surrounded by some of the more beautiful Palsang-do murals that you’ll find at any temple throughout Korea. As for the interior, and sitting under a yet to be painted canopy, are a triad of smaller sized statues. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Bodhisattva of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Wisdom and Power or Amita-bul). On the far right wall is a memorial shrine for the dead and to the far left is a guardian mural. And just behind the main hall is a seated statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

In between the main hall and the temple bathroom is an ancient tree. Just behind this ancient tree are the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre.

Perhaps the most unique aspect to the temple is the Minang-gak, which houses the usual shaman suspects, as well as another highly original painting. The Minang-gak shaman shrine hall is painted with various murals of the Shinseon (The Daoist Immortals). As for when you first step into the Minang-gak, you’ll be welcomed by a highly original mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). To the right of this mural is an older looking painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). The next painting, and in the same style as the Sanshin mural, is a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The final mural in the set of four is the Dangsan painting. This highly original mural is dedicated to a female spirit that protects the temple grounds and the surrounding area. It was formerly housed in a shrine all to its own before Cheongryangsa Temple was first established. With the creation of the temple, Cheongryangsa Temple simply absorbed the shrine dedicated to Dangsan and housed the painting dedicated to this feminine spirit alongside other shaman deities inside the Minang-gak.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll need to take the subway to the Hadan subway stop, #102, line one. Take exit number 3 and find the bus stop where you can take town bus #3 or #15. The bus is smaller in size, and you’ll need to take it for 7 stops. Get off at the Sachuideung (사취등) stop. Look for the temple signs and walk towards the temple for about three minutes. Either that or you can simply take a taxi from Hadan subway station. The ride will take about 7 minutes, depending on traffic, and cost you about 5,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While small in size, Cheongryangsa Temple has the most uncommon of shaman spirits housed in one of the more unusual of shaman shrine halls, the Minang-gak, in all of Korea. This shrine hall alone is worth the attempt to find Cheongryangsa Temple. However, couple this with the newly constructed main hall and the murals it sports, and you’ll have more than enough reason to visit this unknown temple in western Busan.

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 A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the Four Heavenly Kings housed inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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The swirling set of Biseon painted on the ceiling of the Cheonwangmun Gate.

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A look up at the Cheonwangmun Gate and just some of the trees that line the temple grounds.

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A look at the newly built main hall at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the masterful Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls along the main hall.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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A statue of Mireuk-bul that sits in back of the main hall.

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The monks’ residence at the temple.

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Finally, a look at the Minang-gak shaman shrine hall at Cheongryangsa Temple.

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Just one of the Shinseon murals that adorns the shaman shrine hall.

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The earthy image of Sanshin inside the Minang-gak.

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A look at the other three murals that make up the shaman set of paintings.

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 A closer look at the Dangsan mural inside the Minang-gak.

Okryeonseonwon Temple – 옥련선원 (Suyeong-gu, Busan)

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A man prays to the massive Mireuk-bul statue at Okryeonseonwon Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okryeonseonwon Temple is located in the heart of Suyeong, in Busan, just outside Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. It has a commanding view of the ocean and trendy neighbourhood apartments.

You first approach Okryongseonwon Temple up a steep road that seems to be popular with mountain hikers. You’ll know that you’re getting closer and closer to the temple because you’ll see an extended three metre high wall made completely of roof tiles. When you do eventually arrive at the temple grounds, the first structure to welcome you is the Iljumun Gate that is decorated with a pair of guardian murals: Heng and Ha.

Passing through this gate, you’ll see the nuns’ quarters straight ahead. The lovely grass path is bordered on all sides by tall, lush hedges. The bell pavilion hovers over the hedges on the far end of this lower temple courtyard.

At the end of the path, and just before the bell pavilion, are a pair of stone lanterns with an assortment of figurines stuffed in all crevices and cracks. Just up the stairs, and you’ll finally arrive in the upper temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the compact main hall. Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre sits a slender statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by two equally slim-looking statues of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is a mural of the multi-eyed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Just to the left of the main hall, and up a set of stairs, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll get some more amazing views of the neighbouring cityscape from here. As for inside this shaman shrine hall, and unusually resting in the centre of the three, is a life-sized statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). He’s joined to the left by an unassuming Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and a pair of paintings to the right. The first is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while the other is a rather atypical painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King) joined by Dongjin-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Just to the right of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and behind the main hall, is a solitary three-tier pagoda.

The real highlight to this temple, and to the far left of the temple halls, is the massive 20 metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Mireuk-bul, from his commanding vantage point, looks out protectively over Busan. As you make your way back down to the lower courtyard, you’ll make your way past some beautiful landscaping. There are a combination of red roses, purple irises, and an assortment of flowers in bloom along the way. Make sure you visit either in summer or spring to this temple. You’ll be amazed by the landscaping if you do.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways in which you can get to Okryeonseonwon Temple. Both require that you first take the subway to Millak subway stop, #207. From there, you exit out exit #1 and catch a taxi. The ride should only take about 5 minutes, over 1.4 kilometres, and it should cost you 2,800 won. The other way that you can do it is by simply walking. Again, you’ll need to go out exit #1. Head towards the ocean and towards the second bridge to the south. Once you get to the bridge, hang a right. Head in this direction for about 300 metres. Then, hang another right towards the Millak Elementary School. Head up this road, which has a bit of an incline, for another 300 metres until you arrive at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. This has to be one of the most beautifully kept temples that you’ll visit in all of Korea. It’s beautiful lawns and amazing landscaping with an assortment of flowers and hedges make Okryeonseonwon Temple an amazing escape from the daily grind, especially if you’re in the Suyeong area of Busan. Add into the mix the view and the massive statue of Mireuk-bul, and you have plenty of reason to visit this little known gem.

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The road that leads up to the temple.

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Just one of several guardians that greet you at the temple entrance.

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The Iljumun Gate at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

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The beautiful hedges that welcome you to the temple grounds.

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 The view of the temple halls at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

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The bell pavilion that hovers over top of the tall hedges.

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 A look up towards the main hall.

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A closer look at the compact hall with the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall just to the left.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar. Sitting in the middle is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal. To the far right, you can see the elaborate mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 The amazing view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The life-sized statue of Sanshin.

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He’s joined to the right by these two murals dedicated to Chilseong and Yongwang.

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The solitary pagoda behind the main hall.

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And through the forest, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Mireuk-bul.

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A closer look at the masterful statue of the Buddha.

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And a look over his shoulder at the view he gets to enjoy.

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Just some of the amazing landscaping at the temple.

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A beautiful stone lantern surrounded by nature on all sides.

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 And lastly, some beautiful red roses that were still in full bloom at Okryeonseonwon Temple.

Haeinjeongsa Temple – 해인정사 (Saha-gu, Busan)

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The beautiful view of the Boje-ru pavilion from Haeinjeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Haeinjeongsa Temple is a newly rebuilt temple that hugs Mt. Gudeoksan in Saha-gu in Busan. To get to the temple, you’ll need to ascend the steep road that leads to the temple parking lot. You’ll first pass under the high vaulted ceiling of the Boje-ru pavilion. The ceiling is painted with beautiful dragon and Biseon murals.

Finally level with the temple grounds, you’ll pass by the temple’s visiting centre and kitchen. Ascending a set of stairs, you’ll enter the main temple courtyard. As you look up at the elevated main hall, you’ll notice the bell pavilion to your back. This is the upper portion of the Boje-ru pavilion that you first passed through to gain entrance to the temple. There are some amazing views of the west-end of Busan from these heights.

As for the main hall itself, it’s adorned with some of the more unique paintings you’ll see in Korea. These golden hued murals depict various episodes from the various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Buddhism. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are seven golden statues. The central figure is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked by two large seated statues of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the right.

To the left of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon. The exterior walls are adorned with various murals, but none as frightening as the judgment murals of Agwi and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left side of the hall. The interior of the hall is rather cavernous, and plain, because there is only a golden haired statue of Jijang-bosal with a golden scroll in his hand. Of note, the Ten Kings of the Underworld, which are so common in this type of hall, are absent.

And to the right of the main hall, and joined by the monks’ dorms to the extreme right, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. All of the exterior walls are adorned with various murals of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). There are various incarnations of the 33 forms that this Bodhisattva can appear like to people. As for the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon, and much like the Myeongbu-jeon, the only thing taking up residence inside this hall is a large golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The only other two shrine halls left to see at the temple are to the left of the main temple grounds. These halls are some of the most underwhelming halls dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) that you’ll see in all of Korea, especially after seeing the newly constructed halls in the main temple courtyard. These Korean War-looking bunkers house a statue of Yongwang and a painting of Sanshin in their respective shrine halls. If you don’t feel like being depressed, simply pass by these halls after visiting the three buildings in the main temple courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Haeinjeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Goejeong Subway Station #105 on line one in Busan. From there, you should take a taxi, because the roads that lead up to the temple are confusing and steep. It should only cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. This temple is a tough one to rate. It’s not the easiest to get to and it has the two dilapidated buildings dedicated to the two shaman deities to the side of the main temple grounds. However, the newly constructed buildings dedicated to Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as the main hall, largely make up for most short-comings. Also, the spectacular views of western Busan are pretty amazing. So a mixed bag of sorts will greet you at Haeinjeongsa Temple.

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The steep road that leads up towards the temple.

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A look through the Boje-ru pavilion.

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And a look up at the bell pavilion with a beautiful blue sky surrounding it.

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A look inside the bell pavilion.

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The amazing view of western Busan from the Boje-ru pavilion.

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The main hall and Myeongbu-jeon at Haeinjeongsa Temple.

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The golden paintings that adorn the main hall that depict Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

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A look inside the main hall at the elaborate main altar.

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One of the paintings that adorns the exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon.

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And inside the Myeongbu-jeon is a solitary statue of Jijang-bosal.

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To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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Just one of the beautiful paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the hall’s walls.

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The golden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that sits all alone inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.

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The amazing view of both Haeinjeongsa Temple and Busan down below.

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The bomb-shelter-like Sanshin-gak.

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The rather plain looking painting of Sanshin inside the Sanshin-gak.

Taejongsa Temple – 태종사 (Yeongdo-gu, Busan)

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 Just one of the amazing views from Taejongdae Park, where Taejongsa Temple is located in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Taejongdae Park and Taejongsa Temple are named after the 29th King of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.), King Taejong. King Taejong Muyeol (604-661) enjoyed archery and hiking in this area of Busan. He was also the father to King Sejong the Great. Taejongdae Park is well known for its scenic views. You can see Tsushima Islands in Japan, as well as the beautiful rock beaches. The park is also famous for a ritual for the rain. The ritual is performed on May 10th of the lunar calendar, and it’s called Taejong Rain. Besides Taejongsa Temple, you can also enjoy Gumyeongsa Temple, an observatory, the Yeongdo Lighthouse, the Sinseon Rock (where deities came to relax), and the Mangbuseok rock, where a woman is said to have waited for her husband who had been taken by the Japanese. Taejongdae Park is known as Scenic Site #17. But above it all, it’s the amazing views that people come to Taejongdae Park, and subsequently see Taejongsa Temple along the way.

If you take the more scenic route, which I strongly recommend, you’ll come to the mountainside Taejongsa Temple after about 30 minutes of hiking. About 100 metres up the trail, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple from the rear. So the first thing to greet you at the temple is the main hall. The main hall, which is rather underwhelming when you first see it, is made of concrete. Of note, the brown latticework is especially beautiful. On each corner is a manja. Housed inside the main hall, and sitting all alone, is a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Flanking this statue on either side are colourful murals of the Buddha. On the far right wall is the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian mural). It’s well populated with shaman deities and guardians. On the other wall is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Just to the rear of the main hall, and to the left, is the Sanshin-gak. Another concrete hall, this house-like structure has a nice painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). The painting is joined by a white statue of Sanshin-dosa (The Mountain Pass Deity). Just down the mountain, and to the left, is the Bo-gung shrine hall. Inside this hall are the purported remains of the Buddha that they received from Sri Lanka. As you enter this hall, you’ll notice a stone statue of a lying Seokgamoni-bul. Straight ahead is a large golden pagoda with an open chamber, where the partial earthly remains of the Buddha reside. Above is a window that lets in natural sunlight. Behind the golden pagoda are south-east Asian-looking statues of the Buddha. The walls inside this hall are lined with miniature statues of the Buddha.

Just out in front of this hall and the main hall is a very unique, non-traditional, three-story stone pagoda. Just beyond this pagoda is a field of stupas and the monks’ quarters. The final thing you can see, as you make your way back to the main road of Taejongdae Park, is a popular replica of a Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) statue.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Taejongdae Park, and then Taejongsa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Busan Station. From the Busan train station, you can catch city bus #88 or #101. When you arrive, and from the entry of Taejongdae Park, you should hang a left and head up the road for about a kilometer. The temple is on your left.


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OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, the temple might be a two out of ten. But Taejongdae Park, which is a ten out of ten, raises this below average temple to a sort of respectability. While the temple purportedly houses the Buddhas sari (crystallized earthly remains of the Buddha), take your time and enjoy the must more pleasurable, and scenic, Taejongdae Park. Little else of this concrete temple is worth seeing.

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One of the first openings you’ll come to at Taejongdae Park.

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Another amazing view, as boats leave and enter the neighbouring Busan port.

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A look over the sheer cliff at the neighbouring East Sea.

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Finally, after 30 minutes of hiking, you’ll come to Taejongsa Temple. The first thing to greet you is the temple’s main hall.

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The latticework on the main hall. Notice the manja design on the four corners of the windowpane.

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A look at the altar inside the main hall.

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A painting of Seokgamoni-bul beside the statue of a golden Buddha.

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The mountainside Sanshin-gak at Taejongsa Temple.

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A look inside at the mural of Sanshin, as well as a statue of Sanshin-dosa to the left.

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The Bo-gung hall that houses the partial earthly remains of the Buddha.

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The golden pagoda that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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A closer look at the open chamber with the Buddha’s remains inside.

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The Korean and south-east Asian style statues of the Buddha.

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One last look…

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The stupa field to the south of the temple.

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One last amazing view of the neighbouring sea, as you make your way back to the park exit.

Jijangam Hermitage – 지장암 (Geumjeong-gu, 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…Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

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The beautiful view at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone and Merry Christmas!!

Like so many people, I mark the passage of time through the milestones of certain achievements or memorable moments in my life. But unlike the vast majority of people, I tend to mark these memorable moments in the way that Korean temples change. I know that that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, these religious beacons that stand the test of time, but Korean temples do in fact change aesthetically. Perhaps this is indicative of the ten years I’ve been here, and perhaps it points to a greater affluence in the Buddhist community in Korea. Either way, change is in fact all around us.

Perhaps there’s no greater example in the way that temples change than Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan. This once out of the way temple, at least according to 2003, has grown to be arguably the most popular temple in Busan (and for good reason).

The first time I ever attempted to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was in the winter of 2003. And the first taxi driver I attempted to get a ride from in Haeundae hadn’t even heard of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple; and that was with the aid of a Korean written note to assist both him and I. It took a second taxi driver to finally know where I wanted to go. And when I finally did arrive, the temple parking lot was nothing more than a dirt road that they dropped you off at before you hiked your way towards the temple by the sea. Back then, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple didn’t even have a main hall.

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The view of the temple from 2005 with the newly built main hall.

But like so many things, time has a way of changing things, whether it’s a gradual change or quite dramatic in style. Now, when you arrive at the temple, there’s a large paid parking lot with a loud corridor of vendors that are pushing their wares. Also, if you’d rather a bus ride to take you out to the temple, there’s now a direct bus that takes you to the temple with a convenient bus stop just outside the well manicured grounds. Included in all this change are the number of shrines that have popped up all around the temple like the tire shrine to help those Koreans that don’t want to get into a car accident. Additionally, there’s now a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that is situated on a rock outcropping. Before this, it had been all black; and back in 2003, it simply didn’t exist.

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A look at the black Jijang-bosal, which is now gold.

Even the ocean-side view that formally had no fencing protecting you from the waves that crash upon the shore, has a knee-high fence warning you of any potential dangers from the mighty sea that gives Haedong Yonggungsa Temple so much of it’s amazing beauty. Yet another dramatic change from the winter of 2003 is that Haedong Yonggungsa Temple now has a beautiful, large main hall that is elaborately decorated both inside and out. But perhaps the greatest change comes in the form of just how many visitors frequent the temple each and every day. It used to be that you would be one, among a handful, of visitors. Now, especially if you visit on the weekend, you can be crushed (or at least pushed) by the throngs of people that come to the beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

So much about Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has changed in the ten years I’ve been here; but then again, the temple is really just symbolic of the many changes that have occurred in my life. Not everyone has something tangible to point to to highlight the rapidity of change, but I have Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

For more on Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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The coastal view where Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located.

Daegaksa Temple – 대각사 (Jung-gu, Busan)

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The beautiful blue lit Christmas tree in the heart of Nampo-dong in Busan. 

Hello Again Everyone!!

It had been nearly ten years since I last visted Nampo-dong, which is one of the major downtown areas in Busan. Just because of where I live now, and the distance it takes to travel to Nampo-dong, it’s been just as long since I last visited Daegaksa Temple, which is in the heart of it all. This part of town is usually pretty busy, but it’s easy busier (as you’ll see) during Christmas because of the lights and all the shopping.

Daegaksa Temple was first created by the Japanese during colonial rule. So a lot of its features still have a somewhat different feel than the typical Korean Buddhist temple. While the temple was quickly converted to be more Korean Buddhist-centric, there are still a couple holdovers from this earlier period in its history.

You first approach the temple down one of the wider roads in the Nampo-dong area. All but for a sign above the entrance to Daegaksa Temple, you might simply pass by the temple without even noticing it. Surrounded by coffee shops and apartments, this little Buddhist oasis is well tucked away from the daily life of most Koreans.

As you enter the compact temple grounds, you’ll immediately see the long main hall at Daegaksa Temple. This is the only building you can enter at the temple. To the left of the centrally placed stairs are two distinctly different pagodas. The first is a Korean-style five tier pagoda. Around the base are various motifs like a pair of fish, a lion, and a dragon. As for the body of the pagoda, there are five open chambers shielded by stone latticework. And at the base of the body, there are miniature stone stairs leading up to the first of these open chambers. It’s a very unique pagoda. Next to this pagoda, and surrounded by beautiful trees, is a Japanese-style pagoda. This pagoda harkens back to the days of Japanese rule, and it’s natural in its stone design.

Up the stairs, you’ll be greeted by a row of four small wooden lion statues. Around back are ten fading Ox-Herding murals, while on the left and right side of the main hall are two pastoral paintings. And hanging from the rafters are some of the largest paper lanterns that you’ll see at any temple in Korea.

Stepping into the spacious main hall, you’ll first notice the canopy of paper flowers overhead. These are joined by paintings of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Buddha) up near the ceiling and rafters. As for the main hall, there are seven statues that rest on the altar. The central statue on the main altar is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined to the right by a similar looking Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the right of this statue is a beautiful standing statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue is backed by an equally stunning multi-armed mural of Gwanseeum-bosal. The final statue to the far right is a smaller sized statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the left of Amita-bul, and the first in line, is similar looking Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). Next to Yaksayore-bul is a statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Without doubt, this Indian looking statue of the Future Buddha is a beautiful departure from a Korean influenced one. The final statue in the row to the left of Amita-bul is a reclining stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). In Korean, this statue is known as 일월동명불 (Ilwol Dongmyeong-bul). To the left of the seven statues that rest on the main altar is an older looking Shinjung Daenghwa painting, while to the far right is a golden memorial for the dead.

The only other structure at the temple is the visitors’ centre and the monks’ quarters, which are to the left of the main hall. Additionally, you get an amazing view of the Busan Tower from the main hall at Daegaksa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: You’ll first need to take the Busan subway, line one, to the Nampo Subway Stop, #111. Once there, go out exit #1 and head towards the stores. You’ll eventually come to the main road that intersects the Nampo-dong shopping area. Head towards the Christmas tree/statue of a woman with birds flying above her. Head up the road that runs to the north (the road that runs at a right angle). Head up this road for 200 metres until you see the Daegaksa Temple sign (대각사) on the left side of the road.


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OVERALL RATING: 3/10. I first stumbled upon this temple back in 2004, when I was shopping in Nampo-dong. It had been nearly ten years since I last visited, and so little has changed about it, while so much around it has. The temple on its own is rather small and underwhelming, but there are enough unique features to look at to pay it a visit. This, in combination with perhaps a day of shopping or an evening out for dinner, can make for a nice little time-out from the hustle and bustle of downtown Busan.

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 The beautifully lit tree in Nampo-dong, which is extremely busy during the Christmas season.

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 A closer look at the tree. It’s up this road that you’ll find Daegaksa Temple.

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 The sign that greets you at the temple.

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 The temple courtyard and main hall at Daegaksa Temple.

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 A better look at the rather long main hall.

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 The atypical pagoda that stands to the left of the main hall.

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 A closer look at its intricate beauty.

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 The lion that adorns one of the sides of the pagoda’s base.

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 The all-natural stone pagoda that is a hold-over from Japanese colonialism.

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 The compact bell that’s situated just outside the main hall doors.

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 Two of the lions that line the main hall.

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 A peek inside the main hall.

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 The weathered guardian mural inside the main hall at Daegaksa Temple.

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 The reclining stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul that rests on the main altar.

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 He’s joined by a Indian interpretation of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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 And to the far right is this beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

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 A combination of two towers: the stone pagoda at Daegaksa Temple and the neighbouring Busan Tower.

Bogyeongsa Temple – 보경사 (Dong-gu, Busan)

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The view of Mt. Gubongsan from behind the main hall at Bogyeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

So I continued to explore the Seodaeshin-dong part of Busan, which also includes the Busan Station area. This time, I looked around a part of the city that I last explored in 2005. This time, I re-visited Bogyeongsa Temple on Mt. Gubongsan.

Bogyeongsa Temple is situated on the highest part of Mt. Gubongsan on the south side. You get to the temple through a trail that leads past Hwaeomsa Temple. The hike is a very easy 200 metres up a forested trail. Along the way, you get some beautifully shrouded pictures of the Busan port and harbour.

Finally arriving at the temple, and past the orange bamboo railings that line the path, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful green lawn. Bogyeongsa Temple is a small temple. There are only two buildings on the temple grounds: the monks’ dorms and the main hall.

Standing in front of the modern-looking main hall is a five-tier stone pagoda. It is beautifully adorned around the base with the Eight Dharma Protectors. The plainly painted exterior walls of the main hall are made up for by the paintings inside the hall. Sitting on the main altar sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the immediate left of the altar statues are three paintings. The first is an original Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) painting. It is joined to the left by a Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisatttva of the Afterlife) painting, as well as a painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. To the right of the central main altar is a very ornate painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and a painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) next to it. The final painting inside the main hall is the guardian mural (Shinjung Taenghwa).

It’s next to the guardian mural, and if you look close enough, that you’ll notice a tiny crack of a door next to this mural. It’s through this door that you’ll enter the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You can also enter this hall, when looking directly at the hall from the exterior, from the far right door. Inside this hall hang three beautiful murals of shaman deities. In the centre hangs an attractive Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, as well as a statue. To the left is a statue and mural of Dokseong (The Recluse). And to the right is plain painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King), as well as an eye-popping statue of Yongwang.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Bogyeongsa Temple, you’ll first need to make your way to Choryang Subway Station, on the first line, stop #114. From this subway station, exit out exit #8. You’ll need to take a taxi, which should take about 8 minutes (or 1.5 k.m.). And the taxi ride should cost you under 3,000 won. Ask to go to Wolbongsa Temple. From this temple, you’ll notice a mountain trail to the right of Wolbongsa Temple. Take this trail for 200 metres until you get to Bogyeongsa Temple. You can do that, or walk, which should take about 25 minutes straight up towards Mt. Gubongsan. Head towards Busan Middle School to help you towards the temple. But by walking, it might be a lot more difficult to find Bogyeongsa Temple.


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OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. While nothing special in its own rights, Bogyeongsa Temple in combination with the ten other temples in the area make for a nice afternoon excursion. In fact, this is how I first found it. The two main highlights to the temple are the paintings inside the main hall and the statue of Yongwang inside the Samseong-gak.

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 The trail that leads up to Bogyeongsa Temple.

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 The former gate that once led into Hwaeomsa Temple.

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 The neighbouring Hwaeomsa Temple (it’s not clear if it’s still open or not).

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The view of Busan Station down below from the trail that leads up to Bogyeongsa Temple.

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 The orange lined bamboo path that first welcomes you to the temple.

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The modern-looking main hall with the five-tier pagoda out in front of it.

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 The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon.

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 A look to the left at the three beautiful paintings inside the main hall.

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 And a look to the right at the three others inside the main hall.

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 The tiny sliver of a door next to the guardian mural.

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 The altar inside the Samseong-gak.

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 One last look before I was onto my next temple adventure.