Haeeunsa Temple – 해은사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress near Haeeunsa Temple.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on top of Mt. Bunseongsan, which is just south of the Gimhae Gaya Park, is Haeeunsa Temple. Uniquely, the temple is perched on the peak of Mt. Bunseongsan, which measures a respectable 326.8 metres in height.

As you make your way up the mountain, and towards the temple, you’ll pass by one of the eastern walls of Bunsanseong Fortress. This fortress was first constructed in 1377 to guard against the Japanese. From the fortress walls you get some beautiful views of Gimhae down below. A little further up the trail and you’ll come to a clearing where Haeeunsa Temple is located.

To the left, and up a gravel trail that skirts a wall that obscures the temple courtyard from view, you’ll find an artificial pond with Yongwang (The Dragon King) in its midst. This stone image of the Dragon King sits in the centre of a lotus pond. And joining this shamanic deity to the left is a jolly stone image of Podae-hwasang.

Through the slender Iljumun Gate, you’ll finally enter the compact temple courtyard. Straight ahead is one of the more unique temple halls that you’ll find at any temple throughout the Korean peninsula. Housed inside this unadorned, and newly built, hall are two murals. One is dedicated to the famed Gaya king, King Suro (?-199). He’s joined to the right by an equally beautiful mural dedicated to his Indian wife, Queen Heo.

To the left of this shrine hall is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with Palsang-do murals. As you first step inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by an elaborate guardian mural. Next to this mural, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. In the centre of the triad sits a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left sits a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

To the right of the shrine hall dedicated to both King Suro and Queen Heo is a pathway that leads past an old tree. At the top of these stairs is the Sanshin-gak in a clearing. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall are two rather plain looking images: one of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and one of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left of this hall, and up on an elevated stone platform, is a stone altar with a stone stupa in the centre. This stupa is adorned with wildly elaborate images that are reminiscent of South-East Asia.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gimhae City Hall subway stop, you should catch a taxi to get to Haeeunsa Temple. The trip should last about 15 minutes and cost about 6,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Haeeunsa Temple was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting anything more than the beautiful paintings of King Suro and Queen Heo, but there was so much more to this temple than these two foundational murals. Adding to the overall feel of this temple is the neighbouring Bunsanseong Fortress as well as the highly elaborate stupa at the summit of Mt. Bunseongsan.

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The mountainside trail that leads up to Haeeunsa Temple.

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The outskirts to the temple grounds.

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Yongwang in all his glory.

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Who is joined by Podae-hwasang to the left.

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The slender Iljumun Gate at Haeeunsa Temple.

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The shrine hall that houses the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo.

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A better look at King Suro.

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And his wife, Queen Heo.

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A look towards the main hall at Haeeunsa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the temple.

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The altar dedicated to Amita-bul.

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One of the Palsang-do murals adorning the main hall.

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The view from the temple courtyard.

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The trail that leads up to the upper courtyard at the temple.

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The view from the upper courtyard down towards Gimhae.

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The Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall at Haeeunsa Temple.

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With Sanshin to the left and Chilseong to the right.

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The elaborate stupa at Haeeunsa Temple.

Wonmyeongsa Temple – 원명사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A view of the peaceful Wonmyeongsa Temple grounds.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Wonmyeongsa Temple is located up a side street that winds its way through older looking houses in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do. It eventually connects to a forested road that leads past a set of stupas. Past these stupas, and slightly up an embankment, is Wonmyeongsa Temple.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is a beautiful new bell pavilion. This bell pavilion, uniquely, is situated a fair distance from the temple’s courtyard. Housed inside of this bell pavilion are newly crafted percussion instruments. Both the Brahman Bell and the Cloud Gong still have the fresh bronze look to them. And the colourful Fish Gong is second-to-none in both its design and bright colours.

A bit further up the embankment is the uninviting front facade to the temple. You’ll have to pass by a family of guard dogs that are unchained. Interestingly, the visitors’ centre and kitchen are the face to this temple. Up a set of cement stairs, you’ll first enter the grassy temple courtyard. On the far right side of the temple courtyard are the monks’ dorms.

Straight ahead is the larger sized main hall at Wonmyeongsa Temple. Out in front of the main hall, and an overriding theme at this temple, is an eloquently designed statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Surrounding the exterior walls of this main hall is the set of Shimu-do murals. While simple in design, the Ox-Herding murals are masterfully painted.

As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s flanked by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). This main altar is flanked by another triad to the left. In the centre of this triad is a seated Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). He’s flanked by Ilgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Sun) and Wolgwang (The Bodhisattva of the Moon) on either side. And yet another triad sits to the right of the main altar. In the centre of this triad is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the left is Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). All of these triads are surrounded by towering red canopies. Also, the base of the altar is comprised of the Palsang-do motif. On the far right wall is the temple’s guardian painting that has several dozen Bodhisattvas and shaman deities. And on the far left wall is a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal and a large sized mural of the Bodhisattva, as well. Flanking both of these murals, the one of Jijang-bosal and the guardian painting, are dozens of tiny Buddha and Bodhisattva statues.

The other building that you can visit at the temple is the newly constructed Jijang-jeon dedicated to Jijang-bosal. While this hall is still unpainted, the interior has a set of seven Jijang-bosal statues centred by a larger sized seated Jijang-bosal statue. And to the left of this hall is a stoically standing granite statue of Jijang-bosal. In his right hand rests a golden staff and in his left rests a cupped pearl.

HOW TO GET THERE: Using the Busan subway system, you’ll need to get off at Gupo Subway Station (line 3). From there, exit the subway station and find the Gupo bus stop. Take Bus #125 for 16 stops, or 22 minutes, and get off at the Chojeong bus stop. From there, walk about 850 metres, or 12 minutes, to Wonmyeongsa Temple. Along the way, you’ll see a brown sign with the temple name on it leading you towards the temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. There are definitely a couple of highlights to this temple that houses so much Jijang-bosal iconography. One is all the artwork and statues that sit upon the altar inside the main hall. Another is the base of the altar itself with the colourful depictions of the Palsang-do motif. And finally, the large granite statue of Jijang-bosal, and the neighbouring bronze statue of this Bodhisattva, which round out the highlights to this peaceful temple.

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The uniquely located bell pavilion at Wonmyeongsa Temple.

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The colourful fish gong inside the bell pavilion.

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The rather uninviting yellow front facade at Wonmyeongsa Temple.

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The large main hall at the temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar. Seokgamoni-bul is joined by Munsu-bosal and Bohyun-bosal.

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To the left of the main altar is this shrine dedicated to Amita-bul in the centre. He’s joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal.

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And to the right sits Yaksayore-bul in the centre of his own shrine.

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Some of the intricate main altar wood work. This panel depicts Maya, Buddha’s mother, having a dream of her son’s impending birth.

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From birth to death, this is the final panel in the collection of Palsang-do etchings.

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The large guardian mural inside the main hall at Wonmyeongsa Temple.

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A uniquely designed Nathwi adorning one of the exterior doors to the main hall.

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One of the simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

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To the left of the main hall is the Jijang-jeon.

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A look at the main altar inside the Jijang-jeon at Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

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The view across the Jijang-jeon at the main hall.

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And a beautiful look up at the unpainted Jijang-jeon.

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And last, and to the left of the Jijang-jeon, is this beautiful granite statue of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife.

Gyeongunsa Temple – 경운사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautiful main hall and grounds at Gyeongunsa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gyeongunsa Temple is located on the west side of Gimhae and past a few plots of land that grow vegetables. Located at the base of Mt. Gyeongunsan is the temple by the very same name: Gyeongunsa Temple.

Up a long flight of stairs, and to the left of the temple’s visitors’ centre, are the main temple grounds at Gyeongunsa Temple. The temple grounds are well kept. Past a pair of stone lions lies the temple’s main hall. However, before you make your way up to the unique main hall, have a look at the tiny meditative pond to the left of the twin lions.

As for the main hall itself, it’s fronted by some amazing latticework. At the top of the latticework are a selection of various Bodhisattvas which include Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). At the base of the latticework are an assortment of water fowl including ducks and cranes. As for the exterior walls of the main hall, they are decorated with some unique Palsang-do murals. And up in the eaves, near the roof, you might be able to see a pair of monkeys near the hall’s nameplate.

Inside the main hall, and resting on the main altar, sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Power and Wisdom of Amita-bul). To the left of this triad stands Jijang-bosal. And to the right is the first V-shaped guardian mural I have seen in Korea.

To the right rear of the main hall, and up the embankment, are two shaman shrine halls. The first to greet you is the Yongwang-dang, which is spelled backwards as 당왕용. Inside this hall is one of the most original murals dedicated to Yongwang in all of Korea. Yongwang is very non-traditional, as he almost looks like a super-hero in the painting.

Slightly to the left of this shaman shrine hall is the Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this hall is another original painting, probably by the same artist, of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). With a unique headdress and two descriptively painted assistants, this painting is something to take your time and enjoy, as well.

The remaining structure to the rear of the main hall is the miniature replica of Dabo-tap pagoda from Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. While only a third of the size, this newly constructed pagoda is just as intricate in its design. And the final building on the grounds that visitors can enter is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall. Rather strangely, there are only two paintings inside this hall: the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) painting and the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting. But both are rather rudimentary in comparison to the other two highly elaborate murals to the north of the main hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: On the Busan/Gimhae subway line, you’ll need to get off at the Royal Tomb of King Suro, stop #17. After taking exit #2, you’ll need to walk to get to the bus stop, which is called Gimhae Library. After boarding the bus, you’ll need to take the bus for 6 stops and get off at the Oedong chuk hyeop stop. Walk 10 minutes towards Mt. Gyeongunsan and you’ll find the temple behind Gaya Elementary School.

OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10. While rather small in size, Gyeongunsa Temple packs a punch. This punch comes in the form of two amazing shaman murals and a highly decorative and detailed main hall. Enjoy the Yongwang mural at this temple, because you’ll probably never see anything like it at any other temple in Korea. Also, the amazing latticework is nearly unrivalled. This shaman packed Buddhist temple is a must for any Korean shaman aficionado.

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The long flight of stairs that await you at the entrance of the temple.

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The view from the pond towards the main hall.

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Some of the latticework adorning the front of the main hall. This, in particular, is Gwanseeum-bosal.

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 The wooden monkey that takes up residence up in the eaves of the main hall.

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Just one of the Palsang-do murals.

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The main altar inside the main hall at Gyeongunsa Temple.

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The path that leads up to the Yongwang-dang.

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Yongwang: The Super-hero!

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The Sanshin-gak.

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With the highly original Sanshin mural inside.

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 The view from behind the Dabo-tap pagoda replica.

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The Samseong-gak Hall to the left of the main hall.

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The rather rudimentary, and somewhat cross-eyed, mural of Dokseong.

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The view from the Samseong-gak towards the main hall.

The Story of…Seonjisa Temple

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The main hall and Sanshin-gak at the very unique Seonjisa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I first visited Seonjisa Temple a year and a half ago, and I invited people to visit this unique temple on the west side of Gimhae in Gyeongsangnam-do. I’m not sure if anyone really took me up on this offer, but I hope a few of you did just to meet the head monk.

I first heard about Seonjisa Temple while watching a Korean documentary about the temple. There are quite a few unique aspects to this temple like the Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) statue that dates back to 1605, as well as the 500 Nahan (The Disciples of the Buddha) statues that reside inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple. And until I met the head monk at the temple, I thought the most unique feature to the temple was having Jesus in the main hall alongside Buddhist figures and paintings.

My wife and I were preparing to leave when the head monk, and only monk at the temple, waved us over for tea. He’s a very nice man that has a lot of followers that come to the temple. It was only when he started talking that I really understood that not only was he kind, but that he was a bit odd in his personal beliefs, as well.

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Jesus front and centre inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple.

At first, he simply talked about some of the Buddha’s teachings, as well as Korean history. Then, the conversation turned left as he hit upon a few other topics. A couple things really stood out during our 45 minute conversation like how Jesus is a disciple (a Nahan) of the Buddha. Now, that’s not all together surprising as a few of their philosophical ideologies overlap; but what surprised me was when he said that Jesus visited China to learn the Buddha’s teachings and that there is actually physical proof at one of the monasteries there. And how does he know this? Well, he went and visited this monastery during one of his trips to China.

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Old or new technology? You be the judge.

Okay, a bit of a stretch, but what was to follow really threw me for a loop. He claimed that the continents separated, not from geological or seismic activity, but from nuclear bombs. He claimed that nuclear bomb technology is an old idea. In fact, if true (according to him), nuclear bomb technology is over 200 million years old. This is quite extraordinary being that homo sapiens date back to a mere 200,000 years ago. And how could he be so sure of this? According to him, he learned all of this through his studies.

As I said, while the head monk is really nice, some of his ideas are a bit out there. He only speaks a little English, so you’ll either have to speak Korean for yourself or bring a Korean friend along, if you want to hear his ideas on world and religious history. I can guarantee you, your trip to Seonjisa Temple will be well worth it.

For more on Seonjisa Temple, please follow this link.

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A broader look at the 500 Nahan statues inside the main hall at Seonjisa Temple.

The Story Of…Buljosa Temple

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The view from Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do before the incident.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’ve literally been to hundreds of Korean temples and hermitages during my time in Korea. And in all that time, I’ve only ever been denied entrance to one temple. I’ve been restricted from seeing certain halls that were off-limits, but never been told that I couldn’t see an entire temple. That all changed when I visited Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do in the summer of 2012.

Before visiting a good friend in Gimhae at 5 p.m., I decided to visit Buljosa Temple in northern Gimhae. I had driven by it a couple times, so I decided to do a little research online to see what the Korean blogs were saying. Simply put, I liked what I saw, so I decided to visit Buljosa Temple the next time I was in the neighbourhood.

Having parked my car just outside the long staircase that led up to the temple courtyard, I decided to take a few pictures of the beautiful valley down below. And as I made my way up the stairs, I decided I would take a video of the climb.

At first, I didn’t even notice him. It wasn’t until I got near the top that I finally noticed a monk. Right away, I could tell, as he stood by a white dog, that something was a bit off. Immediately, I could tell that he had some sort of brain surgery, as his head was a bit misshapen. He had a strange look in his eye, with his shoulders slumped over, as he told me, in Korean, “안돼요! 들어오지 마세요!” (or “No! Don’t come in here!”,  in English). So in Korean, I asked him why?

A short video of the head monk at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae.

He looked a bit surprised that I would ask him why. I guess his word was gospel. He simply said no again. So I asked him if he was a monk, because he wasn’t dressed like one. He told me that he was. So I then asked again why I couldn’t come in. He simply said no and pointed me back towards my car.

Perplexed, I decided to call my wife and ask her to talk to the monk. Unfortunately, he had disappeared as soon as he had appeared. So my wife phoned the temple some time after I left.

The same monk answered my wife’s phone call. She asked him why he had denied me access to Buljosa Temple. His first response was that he hadn’t. Then he said I misunderstood him because I couldn’t speak Korean, even though I was conversing with him in broken Korean. Finally, he came clean and rather strangely answered that people had been spying on him. He never said who, but I would assume it was Koreans. So it was strange that he would deny the only non-Korean to ever visit the temple. My wife then explained to him that I had the Jogye card, which is a card that gains you access to any temple under the largest Buddhist sect in Korea, which just so happens to be Jogye, to which Buljosa Temple falls under. This went on for a bit longer, until he finally apologized for not allowing me to see the temple. He invited me back to his temple, but it would take another year until I finally decided to see this beautiful temple. However, this second time, I was able to avoid him and see the temple unhindered from his strange and paranoid gaze.

Please check out here for more information on Buljosa Temple.

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Almost a year later, I was finally able to see Buljosa Temple…without incident.

Jangyusa Temple – 장유사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

CSC_2474The view of the main hall and Samseong-gak hall at Jangyusa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Jangyusa Temple is named after the famous monk Jangyu. Jangyu just so happened to be the brother of Queen Heo, who just so happened to be the wife of King Suro. Jangyu is largely credited with spreading Buddhism throughout the Gaya Kingdom (42 A.D. – 562 A.D.).

Located on the west side of Gimhae, and looking new in appearance, Jangyusa Temple has a long and rich history. You first approach the temple up a very scenic mountainside road. While you’re at the base of the mountain, you’ll see the beautiful Jangyu waterfall. Unfortunately, when I visited the temple, the waterfall was running dry.

Having finally arrived at the temple parking lot, you’ll first be greeted by a very large golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He’s situated on an elevated shrine where people can pray. He’s joined on either side by six life-size statues of himself in granite.

To the left of this shrine, and after you’ve passed by the trail head that takes a kilometer to get to the top of the mountain, is the Cheonwangmun Gate. With fading paintings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Biseon around its exterior walls, the second floor of this structure acts as the temple’s bell pavilion. On the first floor are the four Heavenly Kings. Very unique, and somewhat disproportionate in design, the four Heavenly Kings, with their eyes bulging, protect the temple from evil spirits. As for the second floor of this structure, it houses all the percussion instructions for daily services.

Having passed through the Cheonwangmun Gate, you’ll enter into the temple courtyard. This spacious, but lesser populated, courtyard houses four temple structures. To the far left is a new temple building that’s just under construction. Next to this hall are the monks’ facilities like the kitchen and dorms. It’s also from this vantage point that you can see some beautiful views of the city of Gimhae down below in the rolling folds of the mountains.

To the right of these buildings is the large main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls are the fading Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. And crowning the hall is a broken black dragon whose ceramic spine runs the entire length of the roof. As for the interior, and as you first enter the main hall, you’ll see a skillfully executed Shinjung Taenghwa painting. Additionally, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the interior is filled with smaller sized statues of Jijang-bosal. As for the main altar, and sitting front and centre, 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 to the left is a shrine for the dead.

Between both the main hall and the monks’ quarters is the modern looking Samseong-gak. The front façade of the building is adorned with the four Heavenly Kings. And the building itself is adorned with various murals like a tiger and deer. As for the interior, and sitting in the centre of the three shaman paintings is a large, elaborate painting of Chilseong. It’s one of the best that I’ve seen in Korea. To the right is a typical Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) painting. And to the left is a beautiful painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse), who sits under a bright setting sun. The final painting in the hall is to the far right and it’s of Jangyu. I’ve only ever seen a painting of Jangyu inside a hall at the neighbouring Buljosa Temple in Gimhae.

The final area of interest at the temple is situated behind the main hall. Situated up a slight embankment is a budo that houses the remains of Jangyu. The budo is situated under a beautiful red pine and it’s joined by other budos, as well. So don’t leave this hidden area off your things to see at the temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: With there being very little public transportation in this newer part of western Gimhae, it’s virtually impossible to get to Jangyusa Temple without a car. So with that being said, unless you have a car and a good GPS system, you’ll find it extremely hard to find Jangyusa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.


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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Jangyusa Temple is rather remotely situated; however, the views are part of what make up for this isolation. Additionally, the large and beautiful Chilseong painting, as well as the Jangyu painting and his remains make this temple a good little day trip especially if you pack a picnic and enjoy it around the neighbouring waterfall (hopefully, it’ll have water).

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The Cheonwangmun Gate and the Bell Pavilion with the golden Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Afterlife).

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The triad of turtle-based steles that welcome you to the temple.

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The largest Jijang-bosal statue that I’ve seen that sits in the centre of the outdoor shrine.

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A closer look at Jijang-bosal.

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Two, of the four, Cheonwang (Heavenly Kings) inside the entrance gate.

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A look around the courtyard at Jangyusa Temple with the main hall to the right, the monk quarters to the left, and the Samseong-gak shrine hall above that.

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The view from Jangyusa Temple.

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A better look at the main hall at Jangyusa Temple.

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A great look at the intricate artwork along the main hall.

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The stunning floral latticework and sinister Nathwi that adorn the main hall at Jangyusa Temple.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar to the left.

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A closer look at the guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The pathway that leads up to the budo that houses the sari (earthly remains) of the monk, Jangyu.

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A look at the Jangyu budo with the main hall in the background.

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A look up at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The stunning, and massive, Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural.

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The right corner inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) to the left and a mural of Jangyu to the right

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The waterless waterfall at Jangyu.

Buljosa Temple – 불조사 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view of the rolling mountains out in front of the main hall at Buljosa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

This temple has a bit of a back story to it. The first time I attempted to visit this temple, I was told, at the entrance, that I wasn’t allowed in by the head monk. There was something about the monk worrying that people were spying on him. So after a quick phone call from my wife, he invited me back. Well, it’s a year later, and I was finally able to tour around the temple without any sight of the paranoid monk. So just be aware, at least if you’re visiting Buljosa Temple, that you may be denied entrance.

This temple was first constructed, in 1995, to commemorate the monk, Jangyu, who first arrived on the Korean peninsula in 46 A.D. Jangyu, whose original name was Heo Bo-ok, was the brother of Queen Heo. And Queen Heo was the wife of King Suro, who was the first king of the Gaya Kingdom (42 A.D. to 532 A.D.). Jangyu, in his own right, was a prince from Ayodhya in India. He, alongside twenty servants, sailed with his sister, Queen Heo, to the Korean peninsula. It’s believed that Jangyu introduced Buddhism to the Gaya Kingdom; and therefore Korea, upon his arrival. In later life, Jangyu lived and meditated on Mt. Bulmosan and Mt. Jirisan, where he trained the seven sons of King Suro in the doctrine of Buddhism. In fact, he was so successful in his training that after two years the seven sons became Buddhas at Chilbulsa Temple in Jirisan National Park.

You first arrive Buljosa Temple up a countryside road that runs north of Gimhae, in Gyeongsangnam-do Province. Eventually, the temple comes into sight. The first thing to greet you, besides a long set of stairs that lead you towards the temple courtyard, is the monks’ quarters to the right. This is where the head monk first headed me off.

Up the long set of stairs, you’ll notice a mountainside filled with Buddhist halls. Straight ahead is the main hall at Buljosa Temple. Out in front of the newer looking main hall is a rather detailed three tier stone pagoda. Around its based are the twelve zodiac generals, and around its body are stone reliefs of Buddhas. Past this pagoda, and up a flight of stairs, you’ll come to the main hall. Uniquely, and beneath the main hall’s name plate are a pair of fish with a golden pearl between the two of their mouths. Wrapped around the exterior walls to this hall are a pair of paintings. The first set, which stands above the other, is the Palsang-do murals that illustrate the eight stages from the Buddhas life. And the second set, which are painted above the first set, are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, you’ll find a triad of statues beneath a large red canopy and backed by a golden relief with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre surrounded by various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and guardians. As for the triad itself, and sitting in the centre, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul, who is joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And to the left is the guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa.

To the right of the main hall, and on the same lower courtyard, is a hall solely dedicated to the monk, Jangyu. Painted around the exterior are various murals of monks, as well as the Dazu Huike and Bodhidharma encounter. As for the interior, there is a solitary painting of Jangyu resting on the altar. This painting, which is predominantly uses black and gold colours, is skillfully executed, and it rests under a compact canopy.

Just up the stairs, and to the right rear of the hall dedicated solely to Jangyu, is the Sanshin-gak. The hall is surrounded by pastoral paintings, as well as a fierce tiger painting on the left side of the hall. As for inside, there is a large sized Sanshin Taenghwa painting dedicated to the shaman Mountain Spirit. Have a look at this rather original painting with the sun shrouded in mountain clouds.

The final thing to see at Buljosa Temple is a stone sculpture dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). This sculpture, and corresponding shrine, crown the heights of the neighbouring mountain. To get to the image of Yaksayore-bul, you’ll have to follow the trail that starts to the immediate right of the Sanshin-gak. Follow the trail for about 250 metres until you come to a mountainside ledge that steeply looks out over the temple compound, as well as the rolling mountains that appear on the horizon. The sculpture of Yaksayore-bul stands at least five metres in height, and it’s skillfully rendered with a medicine bowl appearing in his left hand and his right hand raised in the symbolic mudra of fearlessness.

For more information about Buljosa Temple, please check out The Story of Buljosa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Gimhae Intercity Bus Terminal, which is called the 외동터미널 (Oedong Terminal), you can either take bus #71 or #72. You’ll then have to get off at the Gwangjae bus stop, which is 40 minutes away, or 24 stops. From the stop, and as you’re looking away from the bus stop, you’ll have to head right for about 100 metres on the main road. At this point, you’ll see the sign for Buljosa Temple that leads you up the mountain and towards the temple. Be careful on this road because it’s busy and there’s no side-walk.

View Buljosa Temple in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10Buljosa Temple has a lot of original aspects to it, which includes the rather strange head monk. If you’re able to avoid him, you’re in for quite a treat with beautiful paintings of Sanshin and Jangyu. Also, the golden main altar inside the main hall and the crowning sculpture of Yaksayore-bul that protectively looks out over the temple compound, make the gamble to visit Buljosa Temple worth it. But again, be on your toes for you know who.

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The main hall at Buljosa Temple.
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The pagoda out in front of the main hall in the temple courtyard.
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The unique pair of fish below the main hall nameplate.
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The final mural in the Shimu-do set.
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The main altar inside the main hall.
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The guardian mural, the Shinjung Taenghwa, inside the main hall.
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Both the Jangyu Hall to the right and the Sanshin-gak to the left.
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The painting of the influential monk, Jangyu.
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Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the Sanshin-gak.
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The amazing view from the Sanshin-gak.
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And a look towards the main hall from the Sanshin-gak.
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The trail that leads up to the Yaksayore-bul sculpture.
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The first look at the sculpture as you turn the bend in the trail.
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 A better look at Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine).
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And an even closer look.
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And then it was time to get out of Dodge before the head monk showed up.

Heungbuam Hermitage – 흥부암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazing view of downtown Gimhae from Heungbuam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

If you’ve ever been to downtown Gimhae, you’ll notice something on the face of a small mountain. Well the name of the mountain is Mt. Imhosan, and the name of the temple is Heungbuam Hermitage. Long admiring and wondering about this hermitage from afar, I thought I would give it a closer look.

Up nearly a 500 metre climb at a 30 degree angle of winding road is Heungbuam Hermitage (흥부암). Other than the parking lot, the other thing that greets you is a modern looking building and the hermitages edifice above you. Walking up a couple set of long stairs, and under a security fence (much like a downtown convenience store) that was up for the hermitages opening hours, you’ll pass under a modern looking conference hall. After passing under, and through, this area of the hermitage, you’ll find yourself in Heungbuam Hermitage’s courtyard. First, you’ll have to pass under a stone entrance gate to gain admittance to the hermitage grounds.

The courtyard itself is divided into two areas. First, there is the north side of the hermitage that houses the main hall, monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre. As you make your way towards the main hall, which is rather large for such a small hermitage, you’ll pass over painted green cement floor that is peeling. Also, as you continue, you’ll notice that there are an endless amount of protective Plexiglas areas for people to pray under. The Plexiglas, I’m guessing, is to protect those that wish to pray in the bad weather when there’s no room to pray inside any number of shrine halls at the hermitage. Finally, having made your way over to the main hall, you’ll notice the exterior of the hall is adorned with the Shimu-do paintings, or the Ox-Herding murals, in English. They are simple, but they’re nice. As for the interior of the main hall, it is nicely adorned with various paintings like the Dokseong (The Recluse) mural and the guardian painting on the right side of the hall. And on the far left side of the hall is a Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting. All are nice, but again, they’re simple. The main altar itself inside of the main hall is framed by tiny white ceramic Buddha statues. As for the main altar itself, there’s a stunning golden centre piece with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. In front of this golden centre piece is a golden seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue that dates back to the 18th century. Remarkably, this golden statue is made of stone.

After viewing the main hall, you can make your way to the south side of the hermitage, which houses three additional structures. As you go, you’ll see a collection of Buddhist iconographic statues and stuffed animals to your right. And interestingly, and perhaps you were unable to see it as you first entered the hermitage grounds, is a statue of Samshin Halmoni, probably left behind by a shaman.

Finally having arrived on the south side of the hermitage, and still travelling over the weather worn peeling green paint, you’ll first be greeted by the San shin-gak. This hall is slightly elevated above all the other shrine halls at the hermitage. Both the inside and outside of the hall are adorned with Daoist religious figures. As for the San shin painting itself, it’s rather interesting. The San shin (Mountain Spirit) displays a sad face. This is in contrast to the usual confident or re-assuring face that he displays in most other paintings. Also, one of the accompanying attendants is riding the tiger, and not San shin, which are two rather unique attributes to the painting.

Further along in this upper courtyard is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who sits on the main altar inside of this hall. The interior is brightly decorated, which is in contrast to the rather simplistic exterior. The only other structure at this hermitage is the larger sized bell pavilion that houses an equally large sized Brahma Bell. It’s from this vantage point that you get beautiful views of the downtown area of Gimhae including King Suro’s Tomb.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Bonghwang Subway Station along the new Gimhae subway line. From there, use exit #1 and head straight towards the mountains for about 100 metres. Cross over the cross-walk and turn right. Walk a short distance, and then you’ll see a brown sign to the left that reads “흥부암.” From there, follow the signs as they lead you up a small housing area and up the steep road. Eventually, and after a five hundred metre climb, you’ll arrive at Heungbuam Hermitage.

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OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed by Heungbuam Hermitage. I don’t know if it was the expectations going into it, or the peeling green paint, or the campy Plexiglas structures everywhere, but this hermitage was a bit of a letdown. In total, there were really only three highlights to this hermitage. One is the scenic views of downtown Gimhae, while another is the golden stone Gwanseeum-bosal statue that dates back to the 18th century. But for me, perhaps the greatest highlight was the highly original San shin painting with a frowning San shin and rodeo riding dongja.

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The first set of stairs that leads up to the hermitage.
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Just one of the large Biseon paintings that adorns the ceiling as you make your way up to the hermitage courtyard.
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The stone gateway and the main hall at Heungbuam Hermitage off in the distance.
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The countless amount of statues and stuffed animals that are perched on a ledge just before you make your way over to the main hall at the hermitage.
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A better look at the main hall with just one of the many Plexiglas set-ups at the hermitage.
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A good example of just one of the simplistic Shimu-do paintings that adorns the main hall at Heungbuam Hermitage.
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The golden centre piece inside of the main hall that backs the golden stone statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
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The elaborate, yet simplistic, guardian painting inside of the main hall.
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The equally simplistic Chilseong (Seven Stars) painting that adorns the left side of the wall inside of the main hall.
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And the final mural that adorns the interior of the main hall is this painting of Dokseong (The Recluse).
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The entrance to the elevated San shin-gak at the hermitage.
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The atypical mural of San shin at Heungbuam Hermitage.
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The beautiful altar inside of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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And a beautiful view of downtown Gimhae, with the new elevated subway system, in the distance.

Video: Wonmyeongam Hermitage

Hello Again Everyone!!

I recently visited this rather remote hermitage, Wonmyeongam Hermitage, in northern Gimhae. It was one of the last larger sized temples or hermitages in the area that I had yet to visit. And while it wasn’t the most extravagant, it had a lot of natural charm and a lot of newly built halls. With a large focus on Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), try to count just how many statues and paintings of this Bodhisattva are at this temple. Enjoy!

Seongjoam Hermitage – 성조암 (Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautiful compact courtyard at Seongjoam Hermitage in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongjoam Hermitage was yet another hermitage I wanted to visit in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam. So adding to a list of a few temples I would be visiting in Gimhae, I made it the third and final one to visit in the day.

Seongjoam Hermitage, which is located on the face of a smaller sized mountain, is rather remote even though it’s near the downtown part of Gimhae. As you make your way up the winding road, and past the collection of burial mounds, you’ll finally arrive at the foot of a long set of uneven stairs. These stairs lead up, and under, a set of beautifully arranged paper lanterns. Having finally climbed up these uneven set of stone stairs, you’ll be greeted by a pair of gorgeous purple Jacaranda tree flowers. So the best time to visit this hermitage is in the springtime.

To the right of these trees, and the first thing to welcome you to the hermitage, is the monks dorms and kitchen. A little further east, and you’ll be greeted to the hermitage by the hermitage’s main hall. This main hall is average in size, but the paintings that adorn the exterior of this main hall are anything but average. There are numerous Daoist figures in the paintings, as well as the Shimu-do paintings, and other highly original paintings like the Big Dipper stars paired with the moon and a fish standing vertically. This painting is at the rear of the main hall. As for the interior of this hall, and sitting on the main hall, is a unique triad. It’s not unique because of the figures that sit on it, like Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre, Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right, and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left; instead, what makes this triad so different is that Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal are white, while Seokgamoni-bul is gold. The only other painting inside of this main hall is the guardian painting that rests on the right side of the hall.

The other main attraction in the hermitage courtyard is a newer looking sculpture of Yongwang (The Dragon King) etched into the face of the neighbouring mountain face. This beautiful stone sculpture is joined by an altar out in front of it, as well as a smaller wooden statue of Yongwang.

Up the mountain, and down a trail, you’ll encounter the first of two San shin-gaks. You’ll realize, after seeing the first, why they built the second. The older San shin-gak is missing half of its roof on the right side. Also, the walls are peeling both of their paintings that adorn them, as well as the walls themselves. In both cases, the dirt interior of the roof and walls are revealed. The paintings that adorn the three exterior walls are beautiful pastoral paintings, but they have nearly faded into oblivion. As for the interior of the older hall, there is an older looking painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the diminutive older hall.

A bit further up the mountain trail, and across a somewhat treacherous tree rooted path, is the newer San shin-gak. I think this is a first for me. A temple usually tears down the older shrine hall, replacing it with a new one. The newer San shin-gak is brightly adorned with San shin related motifs around the exterior like the tiger that sits on the right side of the shrine hall’s wall. As for the interior of the hall, a typical painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) sits on the left, while a painting of Dokseong (The Recluse) sits on the right. It’s from this shrine hall that you get a nice view of the hermitage’s courtyard and the purple Jacaranda flowers down below.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways that you can get to Seongjoam Hermitage from Busan. The first way is from Gupo Sijang (Market). You can board Bus #63 and ride it for 33 stops until it comes to Seongjoam Hermitage. This is the quicker of the two routes. The other way you can get to Seongjoam Hermitage is to take the subway to Deokcheon St., on the second line, and get off there. From this subway station, you can take Bus #8-1. You’ll have to ride the bus for 37 stops and get off at Yaksuteo (Mineral Springs) Stop. From this stop you’ll have to walk 350 metres, or 5 minutes, to the entrance of the hermitage. Complicated, but possible.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. Definite highlights at this hermitage are the two San shin-gak shrine halls at Seongjoam Hermitage. Even though the one has seen better days, and is being reclaimed by the mountain, it is still something unique to see. Additionally, the paintings around the main hall and the white statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal are two more highlights to this hermitage. And probably the most beautiful aspect to this hermitage are the twin Jacaranda trees that have purple flowers that bloom in the springtime.

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A look past a collection of burial mounds reveals Gimhae down in the valley below.
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The view that welcomes you to Seongjoam Hermitage when you first arrive.
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A closer look at the beautiful Jacaranda trees that were in full bloom.
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A collection of paintings that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall. The two bottom ones depict the Shimu-do murals, while the one on top depicts a group of monks.
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A couple more paintings from the Ox-Herding mural set, with a rather unique painting of the Big Dipper on top of the two other murals around the exterior walls of the main hall.
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The unique triad of statues that sit on the altar inside the main hall. In the centre sits a golden Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), while on the right is a white clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and an equally white clad Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the left.
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A look across the beautiful front facade of the main hall.
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The newly sculpted stone sculpture of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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And the wooden Yongwang that sits on the altar in front of the stone sculpture of himself that rests on the neighbouring mountain’s face.
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The first, and older, San shin-gak.
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A better look at the shrine hall that is being slowly reclaimed by the mountain.
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The fading pastoral painting on the rear side of the San shin-gak shrine hall. Still beautiful.
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And the older San shin (The Mountain Spirit) painting that is located inside the older San shin-gak shrine hall.
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A look down at the temple buildings from the bend in the trail that leads up to the newer San shin-gak shrine hall.
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The densely rooted trail that leads up to the new San shin-gak.
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The view from the new San shin-gak of the hermitage courtyard and main hall down below.
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A good look at the new, and compact, San shin-gak.
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A tiger mural that adorns the right exterior wall of the new San shin-gak.
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And the pair of murals that reside inside the new San shin-gak. On the left is the mural and statue of San shin (The Mountain Spirit), while on the right is a statue and mural of Dokseong (The Recluse).