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.

Hongbeopsa Temple – 홍법사 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

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A beautiful look through the gorgeous landscaping at Hongbeopsa Temple towards the giant golden Amita-bul statue on top of the main hall.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had seen the golden head of a giant Buddha a few times while travelling around the northern parts of Busan. And it wasn’t until I looked at a temple blog written by a Korean that I realized that it was the ultra-modern Hongbeopsa Temple.

When you first arrive at Hongbeopsa Temple (홍법사), after circumnavigating the perimetre of the temple, you find yourself in a large parking lot. And while the temple wasn’t busy on this cloudy morning, it speaks to just how busy Hongbeopsa Temple can get. As you pass through the lion-based entrance markers, the one on the left is written in Chinese characters, while the one on the right is written in Korean, you’ll notice the ever-present giant golden statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) staring out over the temple grounds from the main hall. The first set of statues you’ll encounter are a triad of childlike stone statues that embody the idea of “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” This is a theme that will come up later. A little further along is another beautiful statue that depicts Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And at her feet is a stone statue of a helper.

As you near the modern-looking main hall, which could also be mistaken for a large sized auditorium, you’ll notice a beautifully maintained lawn and temple grounds to your right. Really, it is one of the best landscaped grounds in all of Korea. To the left is the main hall itself. In front of a large flight of stairs that leads up to the main hall is a beautiful bronze incense burner with eight decorative lions holding up the roof of the incense burner. This incense burner runs parallel with a row of perfectly placed bridges and lotus ponds. And just before you make your way up the stairs to the main hall, there’s a serenely standing golden statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine) with a handful of kids at his feet. What sets this statue apart is the waterfall that falls in front of the golden statue’s face.

As you ascend the flight of stairs that leads up to the ultra-modern main hall, you’ll probably be wondering where you can gain access to this Buddhist hall. It was a question I was asking myself as I stared at the circular structure. If you make your way to the right, alongside the main hall, you’ll eventually arrive at an entrance almost completely at the rear of the main hall. To the right of the elevator that brings you all the way up to the fifth floor to where the massive statue of Amita-bul sits, is the entrance for the main hall. After taking off your shoes, you can grab either a Buddhist prayer book or a set of prayer beads. After entering into the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a low ceiling with beautiful decorative paintings as well as male Biseon. To your immediate right you’ll notice one of the more original statues you’ll ever see at a temple. The statue is a beautiful two metre long replica of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom with both a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at the back of the boat with recently deceased patrons on board.

If you completely turn 180 degrees from where you stand as you look at the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, you’ll be greeted by a massive prayer section inside the main hall. Sitting on the expansive main altar, and well lit from behind, are three paper lanterns that once more depict the “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” theme of the statues in the courtyard. In front of these large size paper lanterns are three smaller sized golden statues with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. He’s flanked by Jijang-bosal to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal to the right. Interestingly, and slightly to the right of the main triad, is a row of seven statues that depict Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) in the centre. To the right of the main altar is a pastoral painting of Seokgamoni-bul praying with his disciples. Complimenting this painting, and on the far left side of the main altar, is a painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

Once you’ve viewed all that you need to see inside the main hall, you can exit from where you first entered. To the left of the elevator is a set of stairs. These stairs will bring you to the top of the main hall. At the top, you’ll get an amazing view of both the serene face of Amita-bul as well as the beautiful view of the temple, Busan to the south, and the city of Yangsan to the north. After climbing the final set of stairs, you’ll get an even better view of all you had seen from the previous floor. Amazingly, you can enter inside the massive Amita-bul statue. And sitting on the altar is a gorgeous crystal palace with what looks to be a historical sari front and centre.

After descending from the fifth floor, you can make your way over to the left side of the temple courtyard. To the left, again, are some beautifully maintained grounds with both cherry blossom and magnolia trees well represented. In front of the hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse), is a large sized coy pond with a statue of a large sized and jovial Dharma. Inside of the shaman shrine hall are two newly painted, and beautifully rendered murals of Dokseong in the centre flanked by San shin to the left. Interestingly, Chilseong is noticeably absent in this shaman shrine hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is a Hongbeopsa Temple shuttle bus that leaves from Nopo-dong Subway Station, #134 in Busan. This bus leaves every 30 minutes between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. However, there has to be at least five people for the bus to leave the station. And to return back to Nopo-dong Subway Station, the bus leaves Hongbeopsa Temple at 15 and 45 minutes on the hour, every hour. As for lunch, buses do not leave between 11:00 to 12:15.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Without a doubt, the highlight of this temple is the massive golden statue of Amita-bul that sits on top of the modern looking main hall. Both the artistic rendering of this Buddha of the Western Paradise, as well as the inner contents of the golden Buddha easily makes it a must see. In addition, the beautiful paper lanterns that sit on the main altar, as well as the wooden statue of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, and the beautifully cared for grounds of the temple make Hongbeopsa Temple a must see if you’re in the northern part of Busan.

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The first good look at the golden Amita-bul statue as seen through the entrance at Hongbeopsa Temple.
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The triad of statues that represent, “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil,” with a curious Amita-bul peering over their collective shoulders.
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And the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits in the temple courtyard.
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The beautiful bronze incense burner at the temple.
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And a look at the neighbouring bridges and lotus streams that run parallel with the incense burner.
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The water that flows in front of the Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) in front of the main hall.
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The beautiful, and intricate, paintings that adorn the interior of the modern-looking main hall.
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The highly original Dragon Ship of Wisdom statue inside the main hall.
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A different angle of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.
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A look up at the golden main altar inside of the main hall. The customary centre triad is flanked to the right by seven statues centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) and large sized paper lanterns of the “Hear no..” theme.
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Finally, an up close look at the giant golden Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) that sits on top of the modern-looking main hall at the temple.
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An up close look at Amita-bul’s face.
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And a look at Amita-bul’s mudras.
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And you can go inside of Amita-bul. Inside is this chamber where you can pray.
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Sitting on the altar is this amazing crystal palace statue. It’s fronted by what looks to be a sari.
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Walking away from the main hall, there are several beautifully landscaped paths at Hongbeopsa Temple.
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A look at the shaman hall that houses both Dokseong (The Recluse) and San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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A gorgeous piece of artwork that adorns the exterior base of the shaman shrine hall.
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The San shin painting sits to the left on top of the main altar inside the shaman shrine hall.
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In front of the shaman shrine hall is this beautiful view with the neighbouring Geumjeongsan mountains and a large lotus pond with the Dharma at its centre.
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And one last look at the modern-looking main hall from the shaman shrine hall.