Bulgwangsa Temple – 불광사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam)


One of the monks at Bulgwangsa Temple out for a morning walk with the temple’s duck.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bulgwangsa Temple is located in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And Bulgwangsa Temple is really nothing more than a visitors’ centre, the monks’ facilities, and the main hall. When you first enter the gravel courtyard, you’ll be greeted by the visitors’ centre to your immediate left. Straight ahead are the monks’ facilities, which includes the monks’ dorms and kitchen

The only real place that a Korean temple adventurer would be interested in is the rather long main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple. To the left of the temple’s main watering hole is a display case with a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside. He is stoically sitting on a throne with a flaming pearl in his right hand and a root in his left. Backing this watering hole is a larger stone statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). He is joined by a square stone engraving of a triad of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The triad seems to be centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

Surrounding the exterior of the main hall are some beautiful murals. There are a variety of them like Wonhyo-daesa’s awakening, the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, as well as various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. At the rear of the main hall is a bricked pagoda that is used for ceremonies for the dead as is made evident by the neighbouring Judgment painting along the exterior of the main hall.

I was surprised when I visited the left side of the main hall to see a red beaked duck that all the workers at the temple, as well as the monks, greeted the duck with a revered “hello.” I’m not sure what this means, but since the monks walk and pet the duck, and the workers feed it, it must have some unexplained meaning.

Inside the elongated main hall, which can obviously accommodate a few hundred worshippers, is an equally long main altar. In the centre is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light), and he’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Buddha Body) to the right. There is a gorgeously designed statue of the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the left. In front of this statue is a picture of a white tortoise. This picture ties into both Gwanseeum-bosal and the aquarium next to the monk lectern in front of the main hall. According to Buddhist scripture, Gwanseeum-bosal will return as a white tortoise. And on the far right is a statue of a glass encased Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He is fronted by a beautiful brass statue of the contemplative Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Finally, the left side wall has a rather large guardian painting that must have over one hundred guardians. Surrounding this mural, much like the right side, are dozens of smaller sized statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Bulgwangsa Temple in one of two ways. First, you can catch a bus to Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal and catch city bus #2000. The bus ride will take you about 40 minutes, and you’ll have to get off at Jujin Village in Soju-dong. Either that, or you can catch city buses # 247 or #301 from the Busan City Bus Terminal in Nopo-dong. You’ll then have to get off at Jangheung. Before ascending the mountain, you’ll see a Buddhist temple to your left. This is Bulgwangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. This is a temple that should be seen with a more prominent temple. And fortunately for you, Bulgwangsa Temple is perfectly situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan just before you make your way towards either Mitaam Hermitage or Hwaeomsa Temple. Besides filling up on water and taking a rest before the hardy climb, Bulgwangsa Temple has a few highlights like the temple duck, the main altar aquarium, and the multi-armed and faced Gwanseeum-bosal statue.


The main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple with Mt. Cheonseongsan looming in the background.


A collection of statues at the temple.


A statue of Yongwang near the temple’s watering hole.


The beautiful Wonhyo and Uisang painting that adorns the exterior wall to the main hall.


The brick pagoda to the rear of the main hall.


The well-loved duck at the temple.


The temple’s abbot feeding the red-beaked duck.


A look inside the main hall at the main altar.


Surprisingly, there’s an aquarium inside the main hall with this albino turtle inside it.


The guardian mural inside the main hall.


The triad of statues that rest on the main altar with Birojana-bul in the centre.


To the left of the main altar is this elaborate statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.


And to the right of the main hall is this statue of Mireuk-bul and Jijang-bosal.

Bohyunsa Temple – 보현사 (Goseong, Gyeongsangnam)


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.

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