Dongmyeong Bulwon – 동명불원 (Nam-gu, Busan)


A look over at the temple courtyard and the massive main hall at Dongmyeong Bulwon in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had first visited Dongmyeong Bulwon (동명불원) back in 2004, and I had long wanted to re-visit this centrally located temple in Busan. So on Saturday, to beat the crowds, I made my way over to Dongmyeong Bulwon.

Dongmyeong Bulwon is a newer looking temple. When you first arrive at the temple, and turn left off of the busy city street, you’ll be greeted by one of the most impressive Cheonwangmun Gates in all of Korea. Sitting inside of this gate are four of the more menacing, and yet regal, looking Heavenly Kings. And they are trampling under foot some Japanimation-looking demons. This gate is finally decorated with the likes of the lion-headed door knockers, and the rendering of two more Japanimation-looking guardians just as you enter into the temple courtyard (which also acts as the temple’s parking lot).

To your immediate left, and as you enter the temple courtyard, is the temple’s bell tower. Equal in proportion to the rest of the temple buildings the bell is large in size. Straight ahead, and in the self-contained square set-up of the temple grounds, is the Nahan-jeon. This hall houses the sixteen nicely crafted statues of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). These statues surround a large golden statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), who sits on the main altar. To the right of this hall, and hidden behind shubbery that grows extensively throughout the rest of the temple grounds, is the hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Sitting on the main altar is Amita-bul. And he’s flanked by what looks to be Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul) on either side.

One thing that will have been impossible to miss is the mammoth two-story main hall, which is one of the largest in the country. Unfortunately, since it’s made out of concrete and some of the hall’s paintings are fading, it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. However, while the exterior isn’t all that attractive, the cavernous interior is amazing. Sitting on the main altar are three of the largest statues I’ve seen at any temple in Korea. Sitting in the centre of the triad is Seokgamoni-bul. He’s flanked by Yeondeung-bul to the left and Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) to the right. And if you look up at the ceiling inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by an impressive dragon mural. To the right of the large main altar is a highly original Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left is a rather plain guardian mural. Out in front of this main hall are two highly original pagodas. Standing at the top of both are four smaller looking pagodas, which almost make it look like a rook in chess.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Inside of this hall, and standing on the main altar, is a fiercely aggressive standing statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). He’s standing beside the angelic looking Gwanseeum-bosal.

Almost hidden away, and up a set of stairs to the left of the main hall, is an upper courtyard that houses three shrine halls dedicated to shaman deities. The first shaman shrine hall houses Dokseong (The Recluse). The statue that sits on the main altar is large, and Dokseong is wearing long, regal clothes. The next shaman shrine hall is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Interestingly, and rather strangely, there’s the temple’s main vegetable garden between the Chilseong-gak and the San shin-gak. Inside the San shin-gak is another large sized statue, this time, dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). He is joined by an even larger sized statue of an accompanying tiger.

The temple is free, and it’s open from 4:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Dongmyeong Bulwon, you’ll first have to take the Busan subway to Daeyeon Station on the second line. From there, take exit #10, and walk towards the U.N. cemetery for about 15 minutes. From the U.N. cemetery, you’ll have to walk another 15 minutes towards the mountains, with the signs as a guide along the way. Either that, or you can simply get off at Daeyeon Station and take a taxi from there. Simply say to the cabby, “Dongmyeong Bulwon.”

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. While newer and built out of concrete, Dongmyeong Bulwon is one of the more impressive Busan city located temples that I’ve visited. With its massive statues, the very impressive Cheongwangmun Gate, and the sheer size of the main hall, make Dongmyeong Bulwon a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The amazing Cheonwangmun that welcomes you to the temple.
Just some of the things that adorn the Cheonwangmun Gate.
One of the more amazing statues of a Heavenly King in Korea.
And equal to the Four Heavenly Kings in design are the multiple demons they are trampling under foot like this one.
This Japanimation rendering of a Korean guardian is highly, highly original, and it adorns the exterior wall of the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The towering bell pavilion that houses a large sized bronze bell.
A look at the Nahan-jeon with the temple’s bus out in front of the hall.
The hall dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
The main altar of the aforementioned hall with Amita-bul in the centre of the triad.
Inside the hall, and to the right of Amita-bul, is this rendering of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom that ferries people to the afterlife.
Also to the right of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
Another look at the massive main hall at Dongmyeong Bulwon.
The rook-like top of the pagoda that sits out in front of the main hall.
A look inside the main hall at a woman praying to the large sized statues on the main altar.
To the right of the main altar is this original painting of Jijang-bosal.
To the right of the main hall is the Gwaneeum-jeon hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is the altar inside of that hall.
In the upper courtyard are three shaman shrine halls. This is a view from the Chilseong-gak at the Dokseong-gak.
A look inside the Dokseong-gak at the regal looking Dokseong (The Recluse).
And a look inside the Chilseong-gak at Chilseong (The Seven Stars).
A look at the temple’s vegetable garden with the San shin-gak in the background.
A look inside the San shin-gak at the large sized San shin (Mountain Spirit) statue and painting. It’s only surpassed by the size of the accompanying tiger.