The Story of…Unheungsa Temple

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A picture of the nun leading the funeral service at Unheungsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

After already having visited both Bohyunsa Temple and Munsuam Hermitage in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the winter of 2013, I decided to visit Unheungsa Temple, as well. After all, I hadn’t driven all the way to Goseong to see just a couple temples.

About thirty minutes away, and up an icy valley that gets just a bit of sunlight during the day, I finally found Unheungsa Temple. When I visited, the temple was under a fair bit of construction, as the front façade of the temple was being re-organized and re-constructed.

Not knowing where I should park, I continued up the road that I first entered the temple grounds on. I had no idea that this road would become a dead end near the temple buildings. I had wanted to turn around a couple of times, finally realizing where I was headed, but there was nowhere to turn until I got to the temple. It goes without saying that I got a few dirty looks even though I never intended to park in the temple courtyard. Quickly, I made my way down the hill to get a better parking spot.

After parking, I made my way around the beautiful temple grounds. There are numerous halls like the Daeung-jeon, the Myeongbu-jeon, and the Sanshin-gak just to name a few. At first, I only peaked my head into the main hall, the Daeung-jeon, because I could hear, what I thought, was the morning prayers. I try not to interfere with people’s prayers, and I never take pictures of people while they are praying inside halls. However, I did want to at least see how the main hall looked inside.

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The beautiful and large main hall to the left at Unheungsa Temple.

Seeing my hesitation after having seen inside the beautiful main hall, an older lady invited me in. I wasn’t sure, but she insisted; so I decided to at least sit and enjoy the morning prayer. However, as soon as I stepped inside the expansive main hall, I realized that a morning service wasn’t taking place; instead, it was a funeral service. I was later to learn that the temple is quite famous for holding funeral ceremonies. If I wasn’t already uncomfortable, I definitely was now. Getting up to leave, and wanting to make as little noise as possible upon my exit, the older lady noticed me again, and waved me to politely sit. Like me, I realized, she was attending the funeral service. Not wanting to bother anyone, I sat through my first Buddhist funeral service as an attendee.

All I can say is that it was a beautiful and enlightening experience, and it was a long way from how I first started off seeing Unheungsa Temple.

For more information on Unheungsa Temple, please check out this link.

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A look up at the main altar from my cushion during the funeral service.

Unheungsa Temple – 운흥사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Unheungsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. The face of peace and love: Jijang-bosal. 

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Unheungsa Temple, in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do, is situated on the side of Mt. Waryongsan in a deep valley. It was first constructed in 676 A.D. by the famous monk, Uisang-daesa. It was also the base for the warrior monk, Samyeong, and his 6,000 monk soldiers during the Imjin War (1592-1598). A large portion of the temple was destroyed at this time. The temple was later rebuilt in 1651, and the main hall, the Daeung-jeon dates back to around this time when it was re-built in 1731. At the same time, the unique Yeongsan-jeon Hall was built, as well.

You’ll first approach Unheungsa Temple up a long valley road. This secluded road leads up to the secluded temple grounds. Presently, there is a bit of construction going on at the temple, with the front facade being renovated. Once you get past all this construction, and to the right, you’ll finally come to the compact temple courtyard.

The first building to greet you is the uniquely designed Yeongsan-jeon Hall that dates back to 1731. Presently, it seems as though this hall acts, in part, as the administrative offices to Unheungsa Temple. In addition to these duties, the hall also acts, yearly, as a place where ceremonies are held for deceased monks, as well as deceased warrior monks that fought in the Imjin War.

Once you make your way past this uniquely shaped hall, you’re instantly greeted by the large main hall at Unheungsa Temple. But before approaching the simple exterior of the Daeung-jeon, and to its immediate left, is a smaller sized hall that sits on an upper embankment. This hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall. Much like the main hall, the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon Hall are only adorned with the Dancheong traditional paint designs. As for the interior, and sitting on the main hall, is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The altar triad are surrounded by the sixteen Nahan statues, who were the disciples of Seokgamoni-bul. While they are simple in design, they are still quite elegantly sculpted.

As for the main hall, and the real highlight to this temple, you’re in for a nice surprise once you enter it. When I visited, there was a memorial service taking place. At first, I wasn’t going to go in until one of the people attending the service invited me in. Sitting under a large ornamental canopy are three equally large statues. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined to the left by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), and to the right by Yaksayore-bul (The Buddha of Medicine). To the left of this triad, and hanging on the wall, are three beautiful murals. The closest to the main altar is a replica of an ancient mural dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. Next to this painting is the Vulture Peak Assembly mural. The final painting in the set is the Shinjung Taenghwa guardian mural. To the right of the main altar, and perhaps the most interesting mural inside the main hall, is a funeral mural dedicated to the dead. Inside this mural, it shows the journey of the soul through the underworld. While I was there, a pair of nuns were chanting in front of it, as those attending the memorial service prayed in front of it. To the left of this unique mural is a newer, more vibrantly painted, mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This main hall is absolutely packed with both history and artistic beauty.

To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Much like the other halls at this temple, the exterior is only adorned with the Dancheong colours. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a solitary Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Uniquely, his hands strike a mudra, and are a void of either his customary staff or pearl. This cushioned statue is surrounded by ten large seated statues of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. And rather strikingly, the entrance door to this hall is protected by two fiercely carved guardian statues.

The only other hall at this temple is the Sanshin-gak. This hall is solely dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Inside this smaller sized hall, and hanging on the main altar, is a beautiful painting dedicated to this shaman deity.

For more on this temple, follow this link.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Unheungsa Temple from Busan, you’ll need to get to the Seobu Bus Terminal in Sasang, second subway line, stop #227. From here, you can purchase a ticket to Samcheonpo Intercity But Terminal. There are several buses that leave during the day, the first of which leaves at 6:00 a.m., and it should cost you 9,600 won. In total, the bus ride lasts two hours. From Samcheonpo, you can catch bus #30 to get to Unheungsa Temple. This bus goes directly to the temple. This bus says “Budu (부두) – Unheungsa (운흥사).” There is also the same numbered bus, #30, that reads  “부두-홀곡-운흥사”; this bus also goes to Unheungsa Temple, but it takes ten more minutes. In total, the direct bus #30 takes thirty minutes (and 16 stops), while the longer one will take forty minutes.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. This temple is ripe with both historical and artistic importance and beauty. Both the Yeongsan-jeon and the main hall date back to 1731, and the interior of the main hall is loaded with beautiful paintings including the unique funeral painting. Add to it the beautiful Sanshin painting and the large wooden carvings of the Ten Kings of the Underworld, and this extremely remote temple becomes a must for any temple adventurer.

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A look at the Yeongsan-jeon Hall, which is the first building to greet you at the temple.
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Next to it, and slightly up the embankment, is the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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Four, of the sixteen, Nahan statues inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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A look across the front facade of the main hall with the Myeongbu-jeon Hall off in the distance.
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The front doors, reserved for nuns only, at the main hall.
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The large main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
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The murals to the left of the main altar with a prayer mat in the foreground.
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One of the nuns residing over the memorial service in front of the underworld mural.
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The Sanshin-gak to the right of the main hall.
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All alone inside the Sanshin-gak sits this beautiful mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And book-ending the temple buildings is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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Sitting on the main altar is this statue of Jijang-bosal.
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And he’s joined by the Ten Kings of the Underworld. In this picture are just four of the ten large seated statues of the kings.

Bohyunsa Temple – 보현사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam)

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The beautiful view of the East Sea from Bohyunsa Temple.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Just a kilometre down the road from Munsuam Hermitage, with perhaps an even more impressive view of the East Sea, is Bohyunsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Up an equally side-winding road that leads to the south lies the crowning Bohyunsa Temple. This temple is named after the Bodhisattva of Power, Bohyun-bosal.

From the large parking lot, you’ll approach the Iljumun Gate that greets you at the temple. Past this gate is the solitary hall that resides at the temple. And hovering over this three story modern looking main hall is a golden statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

Up a long gravel path, you’ll come to the main doors at the temple’s main hall. On the first floor, and inside the first floor’s main hall, is a solitary picture of a famous monk that resided at the temple. This picture is bookmarked by a pair of statues, both medium and small in size, of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). Before you enter this hall, however, there are a pair of paintings framing the entrance to this hall of Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal.

To the left or right of this first floor hall are a set of stairs. Up the right set of stairs are a pair of paintings. The first is of Dazu Huike and the Bodhidharma, while the second illustrates Wohyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa. The left set of stairs simply illustrates the Dharma all by himself. And after ascending either set of stairs, you’ll come to the second floor hall. Inside this hall, at least when I was visiting this temple, was a nun doing the morning chant. Sitting on the main altar inside this hall is the centrally located Yaksayore-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by the familiar pairing of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left. The entire altar is backed by a beautiful Buddhist mural, and to the left of the main altar is a shrine for the dead.

And to the left and the right of this second floor hall are two more sets of stairs that lead up to the third, and final, floor that houses the massive Yaksayore-bul statue. Through the right side set of stairs, you’ll first run into an atypical painting of a Shinseon (A Daoist Immortal), as well as a vibrant painting of Jijang-bosal. To the left, you’ll encounter first an angelic Biseon painting and then another vibrant painting, this time, of the Dharma playing with children, as well as Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings).

Finally, when you do get to the third floor, you’re first greeted by some very beautiful Nahan and Palsang-do murals that surround the circular third floor. In addition to these paintings, you’ll also notice, that unlike the other two floors, this one is open. And surrounding the walls, on the outer walls, are numerous miniature ornamental bronze bells. Approaching from the right side of the statue, you’ll notice just how large the Yaksayore-bul statue truly is. Fronting this massive Buddha with a Manja and the East Sea at his back, is a smaller sized statue of himself, as well as a pair of bronze incense burners. There is, in opposition to the open idea of the third floor, an enclosed area where you can pray in relative warmth during the winter months.

Outside of this enclosed area, there are a pair of doors that lead to an outlining observation area that you can have the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, Munsuam Hermitage off in the distance, the silky black waters of the East Sea, as well as the tiny islands that dot the horizon. Surrounding the walls of this observation area are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Take your time and enjoy the sites and sights, because they really are second-to-none in all of Korea.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Goseong from Busan, which is where Bohyunsa Temple is located, you’ll first have to get to the Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal. You can easily get to this terminal from the Busan station system, if you get off at the Nopo-dong subway stop, #134, on the first line. The earliest bus leaves at 7:45 a.m., and the ride takes you two hours and twenty minutes. The bus ride will cost you 10,100 won. After arriving in Goseong, you’ll then have to take a taxi to get to Bohyunsa Temple. You’ll have to do this because there’s absolutely no bus that goes to the temple from Goseong. In total, the taxi should cost about 12,000 won, and the ride should last about twenty five minutes.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. While the sights of the sites are equal, if not a little better than the ones that can be viewed from the neighbouring Munsuam Hermitage, the temple structure itself at Bohyunsa Temple isn’t even close to its sister hermitage. And that’s why this temple rates a little bit lower than Munsuam Hermitage. With that being said, this temple is a must see if you’re in the area, and even if you’re not. And in combination with the kilometre away Munsuam Hermitage, well…you get the picture.

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A look down at Bohyunsa Temple and the East Sea.
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The Iljumun Gate that welcomes you to the temple.
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A look off at Munsuam Hermitage from the entrance of Bohyunsa Temple.
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The path that leads up to the main hall with the hovering Yaksayore-bul in the background.
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A better look at the lone hall at the temple.
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The first floor of the main hall.
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The second floor of the main hall with Yaksayore-bul in the centre and a flanking pair of Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal.
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A painting of Jijang-bosal on the way up to the third floor.
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On the bottom is the final painting in the set of Palsang-do murals and on top a Nahan painting.
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The open courtyard on the third floor.
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And a look up at Yaksayore-bul as you enter the open courtyard.
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Finally, a good look at the massive statue of the Medicine Buddha and the East Sea off in the background.
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A look at Munsuam Hermitage and the Z shaped road that leads up to it.
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A look down at the village below.
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The view from the observation area of the third floor off at the beautiful Munsuam Hermitage.
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One from the Ox-Herding mural set.
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The miniature bronze bells on the third floor.
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And the view of both the East Sea and the temple together.
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 Through the trees and you see…
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…the East Sea.
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One final look up at Yaksayore-bul who is bathed by warm sunlight on a chilly winter day.

 

Munsuam Hermitage – 문수암 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The spectacular view from Munsuam Hermitage in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first arrive at Munsuam Hermitage up a zig-zagging road that winds up Mt. Cheongryangsan. When you finally do arrive at the hermitage, you’ll first realize that Munsuam Hermitage buildings are precariously placed on the very face of the mountain that it resides on. The second thing, or perhaps even the first thing, you’ll realize are the spectacular views of the East Sea, the tiny islands that dot the horizon, and the neighbouring Bohyunsa Temple, which is named after the Bodhisattva of Power: Bohyun-bosal. And all of this can be seen from the hermitage parking lot.

After zig-zagging the final road that leads up to the delicately placed temple courtyard, and after passing by a cute wooden carving with travelers’ rocks placed all around it, you’ll first be greeted by the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas that lies to your immediate left. Underneath this hall is the administrative office, but it’s really the second floor that houses wall-to-wall Buddha statues that really stands out. Sitting under a bright red canopy on the main altar are a triad of statues. In the centre sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. Other than the beautiful one thousand Buddha statues, the ceiling is painted with portraits of various Nahan figures.

As you make your way from this lower courtyard, to the upper courtyard, where a handful of other hermitage buildings rest, you’ll pass by a supply building and an observation deck. It’s from this observation deck, which also houses the earthly remains of the renowned monk, Cheongdam, that you’ll get the best view of the sights off in the distanct. Joining these remains are a turtle based stele and a stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul that looks out onto the ocean with you.

Further up the path, and now on the upper courtyard at Munsuam Hermitage, you’ll see the main hall to your right. This hall is surrounded by beautiful Shimu-do, Ox-herding, murals. As for the interior, and sitting all alone on the is a seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, who is backed by a red mural of herself. To the left of the main altar is a standing statue of Jijang-bosal, who is backed by an elaborate mural of himself. And on the far left wall hangs a rather uniquely coloured guardian mural. And to the right of the main altar is a statue of an attendant riding a blue lion. This statue is backed by a glass window that looks out onto a neighbouring mountain crevice. And on the right wall is a memorial shrine for the dead.

To the right of the main hall is another observation deck that looks out more towards the rolling mountains and the valleys that part them. And to the left of the main hall is the monks’ quarters. It’s from out in front of this building that you get another great view of the ocean and temple down below.

The final hall at the hermitage is the Dokseong-gak, which is dedicated to Dokseong (The Recluse), and lies up a treacherous mountainside path. In fact, a portion of the mountain’s face has been cut away to allow access to this hard to reach hall. Once you do arrive at the Dokseong-gak, which crowns the heights of the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a solitary statue of Dokseong inside this hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Goseong from Busan, which is where Munsuam Hermitage is located, you’ll first have to get to the Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal. You can easily get to this terminal from the Busan station system, if you get off at the Nopo-dong subway stop, #134, on the first line. The earliest bus leaves at 7:45 a.m., and the ride takes you two hours and twenty minutes. The bus ride will cost you 10,100 won. After arriving in Goseong, you’ll then have to take a taxi to get to Munsuam Hermitage. You’ll have to do this because there’s absolutely no bus that goes to the temple from Goseong. In total, the taxi should cost about 12,000 won, and the ride should last about twenty five minutes. Just make sure you hang onto your taxi, because it’s a long walk back to the terminal.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. The stunning ocean side sights are similar to Boriam Hermitage in Namhae, and yet Munsuam Hermitage is a lot less crowded. Also, the hermitage buildings, like the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas, the crowning Dokseong-gak, as well as the colourful main hall allow this hermitage to slightly edge ahead of Boriam Hermitage. That, as well as the mysterious Buddha that lies off in the distance along the mountain folds of Mt. Cheongryangsan make this reclusive Goseong Hermitage a must for the temple adventurer!

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The warm sunshine view of the ocean that greets you at Munsuam Hermitage.
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A look up at the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.
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And the wooden mask that greets you as you make your way up to the hermitage.
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The view from the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas.
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A look inside the hall. It’s obviously earned its name.
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A look around the observation deck.
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The view from the observation deck down on Bohyunsa Temple and the East Sea off in the distance.
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A closer look at Bohyunsa Temple and the large statue of Yaksayore-bul that sits in its midst.
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The islands that dot the crystal seaside.
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A look at the main hall in the foreground with the monks’ quarters in the background.
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A look inside the main hall.
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An even closer look at the guardian mural.
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As well as a closer look at the main altar with Gwanseeum-bosal sitting all by herself.
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The blue lion riding attendant with a window at his back.
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The window looks out onto a crevice where the statue of Munsu-bosal miraculously appeared to Uisang-daesa, the founder of the hermitage.
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The set of stairs that lead up to the Dokseong-gak.
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The Dokseong-gak.
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A look inside the Dokseong-gak at a statue of Dokseong (The Recluse).
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The breath-taking view from the Dokseong-gak.
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And one last look through the trees at the Hall of 1,000 Buddhas before I head out.

Video: Munsuam Hermitage

Hello Again Everyone,

It had been a while since I last visited Goseong, in Gyeongsangnam-do, and what better reason than to visit the little known Munsuam Hermitage. So this video is from the breath-takingly beautiful Munsuam Hermitage. Off in the distance, besides the dark ocean waters, in Bohyunsa Temple with a large sized statue of Yaksayore-bul on the horizon. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend this unknown hermitage in a lesser travelled part of Korea.

Video: Okcheonsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Okcheonsa Temple, in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do, is known for a long and militaristic history in defending the nation against foreign invaders. In addition to this past, it has beautiful halls and artwork all throughout the compact temple grounds. So follow me as I explore another amazing Korean Buddhist temple.

Video: Gyeseungsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone,

While this temple is virtually unknown, the views are unforgettable. This video is from the extremely picturesque Gyeseungsa Temple in Goseong. From it’s massive main hall, to the rock-face stairway that leads up to a handful of shrine halls and shrines, this temple is truly a hidden gem. So follow me as I explore the beauty of Gyeseungsa Temple.

Gyeseungsa Temple – 계승사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The stunning view of the main hall and valley at Gyeseungsa Temple in Goseong.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gyeseungsa Temple in Goseong was a temple I didn’t really know that much about. I had read a couple of reviews on it, and I thought I would chance it and see what the temple had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the temple.

You arrive at Gyeseungsa Temple up probably one of the longest and most treacherous roads I’ve been on in a car. You finally arrive at the temple, which has an amazingly beautiful view of the valley down below. Facing the temple, you’ll be greeted by a bell pavilion which also acts as the entrance to the temple.

Immediately, you’ll be greeted by the large sized main hall which entirely conceals a multi-tiered surprise behind it. But more on that later. To the immediate left of the main hall are the monks’ living quarters, visitors centre, and the kitchen. As for the exterior of the main hall, it’s adorned with simplistic paintings of both the Palsang-do murals and the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The latter is on top, while the former is on the bottom. As for the interior of the main hall, there’s a massive guardian painting as you enter the hall. As for the main altar, Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy) sits in the centre with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to his right. The only other thing inside the main hall, besides floral paintings and a couple paintings of a white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), is a shrine of pictures dedicated to the dead. So be respectful while inside this main hall.

Stepping outside the main hall, and making your way to the rear of this structure, you’ll be greeted by an amazing sight. Up the sheer rock face of the mountain, and up a set of stairs both made out of the mountain as well as roof tiles, are a set of shrine halls. The first, up the long set of stairs, is the Gwaneeum-jeon. The exterior of this hall is adorned with another set of Shimu-do murals, which are even more finely crafted than the ones on the main hall. As for the interior, the hall is all but adorned, all but for the dancheong traditional paint scheme. However, the plainness of this interior is more than made up for by the altar. Sitting on the altar is a multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal. It’s one of the more impressive statues of this Bodhisattva that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Up another set of stairs, you’ll come to the final terrace, which houses the Geungnak-jeon. Mythical creatures, pastoral scenes of nature, deer, and crane adorn the exterior of this hall. It’s also from this vantage point that you get the most spectacular view of the temple and valley below. As for the interior of the hall, once more, it’s largely void of murals. However, sitting on the main altar are a triad of large golden statues that are quite stunning. Sitting in the centre is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He is joined by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom).

The final hall, which is more like a shrine, is barely noticeable to the left of the Geungnak-jeon. All but for a final flight of stairs that leads up to this shrine, you might miss it all together. This shrine is dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The design is rather unique, even if the glass encasement of this shaman deity is a bit underwhelming.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to the Goseong Bus Terminal, which is called the Goseong Yeogaek. From here, you’ll have to find a town bus, which is typically smaller than local buses, that goes to Daebeob-ri (대법리). The buses leave four times a day from Goseong, and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Daebeob-ri from Goseong. You’ll have to get off at the Daebeob-ri stop and walk the remaining 30 minutes to Gyeseungsa Temple. It’s a bit of a hike, and you might be able to catch a taxi from here, but don’t count on it.

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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The highlight to this temple are the views of the valley below both from the entrance gate, and especially from the Geungnak-jeon. But a close second is the sheer size of the main hall and the guardian mural that rests inside of this hall. In addition, the uniqueness of the terraced halls behind the main hall, as well as the amazingly graceful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, make Gyeseungsa Temple a must see if you’re in the Goseong area.

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The beautiful view of the valley below from in front of the main entrance gate at Gyeseungsa Temple.
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Looking up at the main hall through the entrance gate.
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The bell pavilion/entrance gate that welcomes you to the temple.
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A look inside the beautiful bell pavilion.
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The large main hall at Gyeseungsa Temple.
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The murals that adorn the exterior walls of the main hall. On top is just one mural from the Palsang-do set. And on the bottom is a mural from the Shimu-do set.
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The large guardian painting that welcomes you as you step into the main hall.
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The triad of statues that sit on the main altar inside the main hall. In the centre is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).
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The stone and tile stairway that leads up to the terraced shrine halls.
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The first of the terraced shrine halls is the Gwaneeum-jeon Hall.
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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Gwaneeum-jeon.
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The multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that sits on the main altar inside the Gwaneeum-jeon.
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A look up at the Geungnak-jeon Hall.
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A look inside the Geungnak-jeon Hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal.
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The view between the Geungnak-jeon Hall and the shrine dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit).
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And a look at San shin. I always hate when they put a glass frame over the painting because I always get a reflection.
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And one last look up at the colourful main hall before I was onto another temple.

Okcheonsa Temple – 옥천사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A stunning look at the famous Jabangnu Hall at Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had long wanted to visit Okcheonsa Temple in Goseong, Gyeongsangnam-do. Knowing that Goseong has quite a few famous temples, and that the most famous and popular of those temples is Okcheonsa Temple, it made perfect since that I would want to visit this temple.

Okcheonsa Temple (옥천사), which means Jade Springs Temple, in Goseong dates back to 670 A.D., and it was established by Uisang-daesa. The name for the temple comes from the famous spring to the right of the main hall. And during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598, the temple acted as a defence temple for managing the armed monk soldiers. After being burnt down during the Japanese Invasion, it was later rebuilt and used once more as a defence temple against the potential invasion of the Japanese, once more. Between 1733 to 1842, some 340 soldiers called the temple home. And during the 20th century, it was the first religious home to the famous monk, Cheongdam, who was a reformer of Korean Buddhism.

You first arrive at the temple parking lot up a very long and winding road. As you enter the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a stele to your immediate left, and the hidden bell pavilion a bit further to the west. However, the most imposing building to greet you at the temple, which harkens back to its military origins, is the Jabangnu Hall. It’s situated in front of the temple courtyard like a fortress. It’s extremely long in length and it’s decorated with numerous pastoral scenes. The hall was used for military meetings and training.

Ascending the stairs to the left of the Jabangnu Hall, you’ll enter into the compact courtyard. Buildings almost seem to be touching each other because they’re so close in proximity. To your immediate left and right are the administrative buildings at Okcheonsa Temple. And straight ahead is the main hall. The original main hall was burnt down during the Imjin War, however, it was later rebuilt in 1657 by Monk Yongseong. The exterior of the hall is largely unadorned all but for a handful of fading murals. As for the interior of the main hall, and sitting on the main altar, is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. To his right and left are Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Amita-bul’s Power and Wisdom). A couple interesting notes about the interior of the hall is that both the murals of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Recluse) are housed inside the main hall for reasons that will become obvious later. Another mural that’s inside the main hall is the guardian mural to the left of the altar, as well as a set of murals dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the right of the main altar. Additionally, the entire interior of the main hall is beautiful decorated with various floral and scenic murals.

To the immediate right of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The beautiful hall is dedicated to the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Sitting on the main altar is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that is surrounded by the 16 Nahan. Above the main altar is a gorgeous dragon mural. As for the rest of the interior of this hall, there are numerous dragon heads up in the ceiling which are some of the finest I’ve yet to see. And next to the Nahan-jeon is the spring for which the temple gets its name. Be careful if you decided to enter into the hall that houses the jade spring because of the low entry. Also, there’s a mural above the spring with a triad of figures like Yongwang (The Dragon King).

To the left of the main hall is one of the more beautiful, and seemingly cavernous, Myeongbu-jeon Halls in all of Korea. The present Myeongbu-jeon Hall dates back to 1895. Much like the main hall, the exterior is largely unadorned. It isn’t until you step inside of this hall that you get the full effect of its beauty. Like stepping into a wooden cave, you’re first greeted by a pair of guardians. As you step further inside, you’ll notice the 10 Kings of the Underworld surrounding Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), who sits on the main altar. All the statues look older in age; however, the murals that back the 10 Kings are nothing more than copies of the originals, which I assume reside in the temple museum. Fortunately, there’s some elaborate dancheong mural designs throughout the interior of this hall.

Behind the Myeongbu-jeon are a row of three buildings on the upper terrace. The first of the three, and to the far left, is a beautiful hall dedicated to prominent monks at the temple. Sitting at the centre of the various monks is Uisang-daesa. Next to this hall are two shrine halls that are under renovation/reconstruction depending on which way you want to look at it. These are the former residences for San shin and Dokseong, and that’s why the paintings of these two shaman deities are housed inside the main hall.

The final hall at Okcheonsa Temple is the Palsang-jeon dedicated to the eight murals of the Buddha’s life. Unfortunately, the murals inside of this hall are just replicas of the originals. However, there is a beautiful statue of Jijang-bosal inside this hall, as well as a finely executed Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural at the foot of the Palsang-do replica murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: While Okcheonsa Temple is a bit complicated to get to, it’s well worth the effort. First, you’ll have to catch a bus to the city of Jinju. If you live in Busan, you can catch a bus from the Seobu Bus Terminal to Jinju Bus Terminal. Starting from 5:40 a.m., the buses leave every 15 minutes. In total, the bus trip will take you about an hour and twenty minutes, and it’ll cost you 6,700 won. At night, which starts at 10 p.m., a bus ride will cost you 8,500 won. From the Jinju Bus Terminal, take the bus that reads “Goseong haeng” (고성행), which means “towards Goseong.” You’ll then have to get off at Geumgok. From this stop, you’ll then have to take a taxi the remainder of the way. You can either ride the taxi all the way, or you can get off at the Okcheonsa Temple entrance and walk the remaining 30 minutes to the temple courtyard.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. There’s a lot to see at this historical and militaristic temple, which all starts at the Jabangnu Hall. The highlights continue with the interior of the main hall, the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Nahan-jeon. And it’s all capped off with the unique jade spring that gives the temple it’s name, Okcheonsa Temple.

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A look across the front facade at Jabangnu Hall.
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The pagoda to your immediate left as you enter the temple grounds.
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And the bell pavilion that runs parallel to the pagoda.
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The compact temple courtyard with the main hall to the left.
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Inside the main hall and a look at the altar with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the cetnre. And both Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal are flanking the celestial Buddha.
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A look up at the wonderfully decorated canopy inside the main hall.
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A beautiful floral pattern inside the main hall and to the right of the main altar.
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The set of murals that flanks the main altar to the right.
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And as you enter the main hall, and to your immediate left, is this San shin (The Mountain Spirit) mural. Surprising, I know!
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The view from the main hall out onto the temple courtyard with the Jabangnu Hall in the middle.
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A look inside the militaristic Jabangnu Hall.
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Just three, of the sixteen, Nahan statues that sit inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
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Just one of the decorative dragons that adorns the ceiling inside the Nahan-jeon.
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The famous spring that the temple gets its name from.
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A closer look at the jade spring.
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Behind the main hall is the Palsang-jeon Hall dedicated to the murals that depict the eight stages of the Historical Buddha’s life.
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A look inside the Palsang-jeon Hall.
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A look over at the Myeongbu-jeon Judgement Hall to the left of the main hall.
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This simplistic painting adorns the exterior wall of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at the main altar and Jijang-bosal.
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The renovated/reconstructed, depending on how you view it, halls dedicated to both San shin and Dokseong. Perhaps that’s why they temporarily reside inside the main hall.
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A mural of Uisang-daesa, just one of the famous monks that resided at Okcheonsa Temple at one time or another. It’s housed inside the hall dedicated to prominent historical monks at the temple.