Gwangsansa Temple – 광산사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautifully framed temple courtyard at Gwangsansa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

You first approach Gwangsansa Temple up some country back-roads and then finally up a long winding road that runs part of the way up Mt. Gwangryeosan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. With all 752 metres of the towering mountain to frame the temple, it makes for quite the beautiful location.

As you first approach the temple grounds, the view is blocked by a stone front façade. Up a set of stairs, you’ll pass through the Haetalmun Gate to enter the temple courtyard. Straight ahead lays the temple’s main hall. Surprisingly, a stone pagoda is missing out in front of the main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are some masterful Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s flanked on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). Hanging to the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and hanging to the left is the main hall’s guardian mural.

The other two halls that visitors can explore at Gwangsansa Temple are two shamanic halls. The first, which lies to the right of the main hall, is the Sanshin-gak. Before entering the hall, have a look on the right exterior wall to see a fiery coloured tiger with her two cubs. As for inside this hall, there hangs a modern painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a ginseng carrying donja (attendant) that has the ginseng, for some unexplained reason, wrapped in white cloth. To the left of the main hall stands the hall dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). While this hall was locked when I visited, you can peer through the front latticework to get a look at the equally modern incarnation of Dokseong.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to exit the terminal and make your way to the bus stop across from the Juchajang Pharmacy parking lot. From there, take Bus #710 for 12 stops, or about 20 minutes. Get off at the Lotte Mart stop and walk to get to the Samgye Hyundai apartments. It’s really close, about 150 metres, so you should be able to see the apartments. From the Samgye Hyundai apartments, take Bus #52 for 12 more stops, or 18 minutes, and get off at the Sinmok pongjeom stop, which is also the last stop on the route. From this stop, walk about 10 minutes, or 650 metres, to Gwangsansa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are just a couple highlights to Gwangsansa Temple like the beautiful location and the masterful modern painting of Sanshin. But be warned, there is an older Korean woman that volunteers at the temple that will not allow any photography of the temple, even though the temple is little known and less traveled by foreign visitors. So if you want to get a couple pictures of the place, be forewarned that it might be difficult with her around.

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The stairs that lead up to the temple courtyard.

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A look through the Haetalmun Gate.

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

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One of the Shimu-do murals.

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The entry to the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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A look towards the Sanshin-gak.

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The sign for the Sanshin-gak.

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The decorative tigers adorning one of the exterior walls of the Sanshin-gak.

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And a look at the Mountain Spirit.