Updated: Gwaneumsa Temple – 관음사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The all-new Samseong-gak at Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought I would return to the lowest rated temple on the site after I had recently seen pictures online that showed some new landscaping and repairs. With that in mind, I give to you, once more, Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Gwaneumsa Temple is located behind row upon row of apartments on the north-east side of Mt. Obongsan (533m). Down a mountainside back alley, you’ll see a new stone sign that reads “관음사” that welcomes you to the temple. To the left side is the temple’s monks’ facilities and dorms. Up a steep cemented incline that leads past terraced vegetable gardens and a beautiful stone lantern, you’ll finally come to a newly built stone stairway. At the base of the stone stairs that lead up to the main hall are a pair of stone frog statues.

Climbing the numerous stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the temple’s main hall. The boxy main hall has beautiful large Palsang-do murals dedicated to the life of the Historical Buddha, as well as some twisting blue and yellow dragons near the entrances. Stepping inside the rather plainly adorned interior, you’ll notice a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre of the three is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar is a blue Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). Look closely for Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with his trusty tiger on his shoulder.

While one of the big changes to the temple is the landscaping, the other big change is the all new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall. The exterior walls are made from brick; and regrettably, the old exterior painting of a male and female Sanshin is gone (see below). However, somewhat making up for this loss, as you step inside the Samseong-gak, is a large three-in-one mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (Seven Stars), and Sanshin. Take a close look at the beautiful starry background to the Chilseong mural, as well as the mountainous background in the Dokseong and Sanshin parts of the mural. And to the rear of the Samseong-gak is a beautiful mature bamboo forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gwaneumsa Temple, you can get off at Namyangsan subway station, line two, subway stop #242. After exiting from the subway station, head west for about 30 minutes. You’ll pass by a Dunkin’ Donuts at the 5 minute point, but keep heading west. You’ll then meet a steep hill with a Paris Baguette at its base at the 10 minute mark: keep heading west. Once you’re at the top of the hill, at the 20 minute mark, you’ll notice a Buddhist statue to the left. You have to turn right, where the apartments end, and head up another steep hill. Once you’re at the top of this hill you’ll notice a sign pointing you towards the temple.

NOTE: Not sure why the temple is referred to as Bogguam Hermitage on Google, but it is most definitely Gwaneumsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. With the new landscaping and the all new three-in-one shaman mural, Gwaneumsa Temple is lifted out of the basement on the site. Also, have a good look at the Shinjung Taenghwa with a smiling Sanshin and tiger.

The Gwaneumsa Temple sign that first greets you at the temple.

A look at the newly landscaped Gwaneumsa Temple.

The newly constructed stone stairs that lead up towards the temple’s main hall.

The main hall at Gwaneumsa Temple.

Some of the beautiful artwork in and around the main hall.

As well one as one of the beautiful blue dragons that adorns the exterior of the main hall.

The main altar inside the main hall.

A closer look at Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

As well as a closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

The Shinjung Taenghwa to the right of the main altar.

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

The highly unique three-in-one shaman mural inside the Samseong-gak.

A closer look at the Chilseong mural.

The mature bamboo forest to the rear of the Samseong-gak.

And a look from the main hall towards the row upon row of apartments.

The old Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall taken in 2011.

A closer look at the male and female Sanshin mural that used to adorn the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

Suamsa Temple – 수암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Buleum Falls at Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is located on the northern slopes of Mt. Togoksan. It’s located between two towering mountain peaks and next to a beautiful tall waterfall called Buleum Falls (불음폭포).

You first make your way towards Suamsa Temple up a long valley. The valley stretches four kilometres in length and ends at the temple. Along the way, you’ll encounter several smaller rapids cascading over the jagged rocks. A short trek up a set of uneven stairs will bring you to the beautiful Buleum Falls. Amazingly, this waterfall is almost unknown, while the smaller Hongryong Falls at Hongryongsa Temple is much more famous. There are several great angles to enjoy this waterfall, but it’s a bit difficult to get to the base of the falls as there are no stairs that give you immediate access to Buleum Falls.

Walking across the Y-shaped green metal bridge, you’ll need to walk a bit further up the mountain trail to get to Suamsa Temple. But to keep you company along the way is the beautiful falls to your left through the forest.

Finally stepping into the temple grounds, you’ll notice the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre to your far right. Perched to the left is the temple’s main hall. Uniquely, the exterior walls to the main hall are built from stone. I’ve never seen this before at a temple. I’ve seen other shrine halls, like the Yaksa-jeon Hall at Mangunsa Temple, built from stone; but never the main hall. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first step onto a concrete floor. It’s from there, after taking off your shoes, that you can walk around the main hall. Seated on the main altar, in the centre, is a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues are backed by a beautiful white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). While to the left are two additional paintings: one of Jijang-bosal and the other is the temple’s guardian mural.

The other shrine hall visitors can explore is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, which is slightly elevated to the right rear of the main hall. This shaman shrine hall is built from brick, and when you first step inside this hall you’ll instantly notice that the main altar is slightly different than other temples. Usually, the main altar is comprised of three paintings dedicated to Chilseong (which hangs in the middle). This painting is then joined on either side by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Instead, at Suamsa Temple, a painting of Dokseong rests in the centre of the main altar. And to the right is Sanshin, while to the left hangs a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Obviously, Suamsa Temple has given prominence to a different set of shaman deities then most other temples.

HOW TO GET THERE: Outside of owning a car, the only way to get to Suamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, line 2, stop #240. The taxi ride should take about 35 minutes and cost you 30,000 won (one way).

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Suamsa Temple is a little known temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. However, the temple’s natural beauty is nearly unrivaled by a lot of other temples on the Korean peninsula. Buleum Falls majestically flow next to the temple. As for the temple itself, it has a few quirks like the murals in the Samseong-gak, as well as the stony exterior of the main hall.

The first evidence of Buleum Falls.

The cascading water that flows as you make your way up to Suamsa Temple.

A mini-falls along the way as you get nearer and nearer to the temple grounds.

The green Y-shaped metal bridge that stands out in front of the falls.

Paper lanterns are the surest sign that a temple is nearby.

The beautiful Buleum Falls!

 A closer look at its natural beauty.

A pretty amazing view at the entrance of the temple grounds.

The main hall at Suamsa Temple.

The unique concrete entry to the main hall.

The main altar in surround sound.

The view from the main hall with its stony exterior.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A look across the main altar.

A closer look at the jovial Sanshin.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall.

Cheonjuam Hermitage – 천주암 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The compact Cheonjuam Hermitage is located in northern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. And it’s beautifully situated on the eastern slopes of Mt. Cheonjusan, which stands an impressive 639.5 metres in height.

Follow the plethora of mountain hikers as you make your way towards Cheonjuam Hermitage. The first thing to greet you is the stone front façade to the hermitage. Before entering the hermitage, turn around to get a beautiful view of northern Changwon down below.

To the right, follow the pathway up towards the lower courtyard. Situated in the lower courtyard is a two story building that acts as the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage. To the left of the monks’ dorms, and overhanging from the upper courtyard, is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It’s rather surprising that a hermitage so small in size would have such a large bell; but it does!

Having climbed the stairs either to the right or left of the bell pavilion, you’ll see the main hall to your right. The main hall is surrounded around the exterior by beautiful blue hued Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a main altar comprised of three seated statues. Sitting in the centre is the image of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined to the left by a green haired Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and a crowned Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. And hanging over top of these three statues is a large red datjib. To the right of the main altar is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the left is the temple’s guardian mural.

The only other shrine hall that visitors can explore at Cheonjuam Hermitage is the newly constructed Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the right rear of the main hall. Both the Chilseong and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) murals are rather typical in composition; it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that stands out a bit with a dongja offering Sanshin an assortment of fruits including grapes and a watermelon. Also worth having a look is the fiercely painted tiger on the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Cheonjuam Hermitage from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal by taxi. The taxi ride should last about 10 minutes and cost 6,000 won. And after visiting the hermitage, there’s plenty of mountain hiking to enjoy.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. During Buddha’s birthday, when the paper lanterns are hanging in the upper hermitage courtyard, Cheonjuam Hermitage is especially beautiful during these mid-spring months. Added to this aesthetic beauty is the large hermitage bell, as well as the Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall and the Sanshin and tiger murals housed in and around the Samseong-gak Hall.

The front facade as you make your way up to the hermitage grounds.

The view from Cheonjuam Hermitage towards northern Changwon.

The entry to the hermitage grounds with the monks’ dorms to the right.

The bell pavilion at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

A large bell for such a small hermitage.

The main altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre.

The amazing datjib canopy above the main altar.

The guardian mural to the left of the main altar.

And to the right is this mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

One of the Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the main hall at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

The beautiful scenery that surrounds the main hall.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the rear of the main hall.

A closer look at the Samseong-gak Hall.

The Sanshin mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

A decorative tiger that adorns the left exterior wall of the Samseong-gak Hall.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall over the monks’ dorms at Cheonjuam Hermitage.

Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and the three tier pagoda at Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of the towering Mt. Togoksan (855m) is Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. In fact, if you look towards Togoksan, you’ll be able to see the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple from Yeongamsa Temple.

You’ll first approach Yeongamsa Temple down one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on while visiting a temple in Korea. After finally traversing the pothole filled country road, you’ll be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. You’ll be greeted by this gate and a very friendly Jindo dog. Painted on the doors are two intimidating guardians. With the doors wide open, the painted Heavenly Kings take up residence behind the large wooden entry doors.

Entering the temple’s lower courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ residence to the right and the kitchen and visitor’s centre to the left. There is a stream that divides the two sides up the centre. It’s up the embankment that you’ll enter the upper courtyard. It’s the upper courtyard that houses all of the shrine halls at the temple.

Sitting in the centre of the upper courtyard is the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are two different types of mural sets. The lower set, which are masterful in composition, are the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The upper set is the Palsang-do murals. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. These jade-looking statues that are green in hue are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) and Gwanseum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is surrounded on the main altar by row upon row of smaller sized green Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statues. To the left of the main altar is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And this bodhisattva is backed by a dark Gamno-do painting. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is a biseok, while out in front is a three tier stone pagoda. To the right rear of the main hall is a glass shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Out in front of the Yongwang-dang is a stagnant pond with, miraculously, Koi fish inside. Stepping inside the Yongwang-dang, you’ll be greeted by another green statue; this time, of Yongwang.

Over the ridge, and to the rear of the main hall, in a plum tree orchard, is the Samseong-gak. The plainness of the shaman shrine hall is elevated by the natural beauty of the flowering plum trees during the spring months. The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural is traditional in composition, while the blood-red eyes of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and the atypical appearance of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) standout. To the far right of the Samseong-gak, and over the bisecting stream, is another stone pagoda. This pagoda is seven tiers in height.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest, and perhaps only way, to get to Yeongamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, #240, in Yangsan. The taxi ride should last about 30 minutes and cost 15,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a bit treacherous to get to, Yeongamsa Temple is surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. As for the temple itself, the main highlights are the interior of the main hall with its jade-like looking ceramic statues, as well as the eerily dark Gamno-do painting.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Yeongamsa Temple.

The stream that bisects the temple grounds.

The friendly Jindo dog that might just accompany you around the temple grounds.

The main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The biseok to the left of the main hall.

One of the murals from the Palsang-do set that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

As well as one of the masterful Shimu-do murals that also adorns the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The unique main altar inside the main hall.

The Jijang-bosal altar inside the main hall with the Gamno-do mural backing the green bodhisattva.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

The view from the Yongwang-dang towards the main hall.

The glassy exterior to the Yongwang-dang.

The hulk-like looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the Yongwang-dang.

The plum tree orchard that fronts the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A closer look at the boxy Samseong-gak.

Some of the beautiful nature that surrounds Yeongamsa Temple.

Unfortunately, the Sanshin mural was placed in a glass frame. But his red eyes are still pretty menacing.

It’s not everyday that you get to see Dokseong with such a unique hairstyle.

And the seven tier pagoda through some of the plum trees.

Seongheungsa Temple – 성흥사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The beautiful bell tower at Seongheungsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongheungsa Temple is located in southeastern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. It’s scenically located in a valley with a stream that flows the length of it. And beautifully framing Seongheungsa Temple to the north is the towering Mt. Gulamsan, which stands 663.1 metres in height.

You first approach the temple down the long valley with the tranquil stream to your left. Eventually you arrive on the grounds at the terraced temple parking lot. A little further up the paved pathway that leads towards the main temple grounds, you’ll notice a large seven tier stone pagoda to your right. Lined with pink flowers around its base, and fronted by two stone lanterns, the pagoda is well protected on all four corners by stone guardians.

Just a little further up the path, you’ll see that the temple grounds are beautifully backed by the towering mountains to the north. To gain access to the temple grounds, you’ll pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this temple gate are four statues dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Each appears to be older in age.

Finally standing in the lower temple courtyard, you’ll notice the visitors’ centre to your left and the monks’ dorms to your right. These two buildings are the only buildings at the temple that are unadorned at Seongheungsa Temple.

Up a small flight of stairs, you’ll see the main hall straight ahead of you. Populating the well-manicured main courtyard is an older tree to your left with colourful paper lanterns hanging from its limbs, as well as the two storied bell pavilion to your right. On the first floor of the bell pavilion is a large bronze bell, while the second floor houses a large drum.

Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll notice a large guardian mural on the far left wall. And on the far right wall is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). As for the main altar, you’ll see a triad of seated statues. In the centre rests Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Strength and Wisdom for Amita-bul). The exterior walls to the main hall are only adorned with the traditional dancheong colours, and the Daeung-jeon Hall dates back to the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the Nahan-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated on the main altar. In the centre of the three sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The triad is then joined by two levels of Nahan statues. Seated on the ground, and much larger in size, are the sixteen disciples of the Buddha, while in the upper levels are smaller statues of additional Nahan statues.

And to the right of the main hall rest`s the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls to this hall are beautifully adorned with the most popular shaman deities, as well as a realistic depiction of a tiger on the left rear exterior wall. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll first be greeted by a painting and statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). The next pair of a painting and a statue are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), while in the centre of the main altar hangs an elaborate mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stairs). The final pairing is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). While the painting is rather bland, the realistic features of the statue are something to keep an eye out for.

HOW TO GET THERE: The only real viable option to get to Seongheungsa Temple is by car. So a taxi from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal to Seongheungsa Temple takes around 40 minutes, and it’ll cost 28,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While not a huge temple, Seongheungsa Temple has a lot of features to draw a visitor in like the large seven story stone pagoda at the entrance of the temple, as well as the dozens of Nahan statues and the paintings adorning the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach the temple grounds with Mt. Gulamsan in the background.

The large seven tier stone pagoda at Seongheungsa Temple.

A closer look at the beautiful pagoda.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate towards the main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

One of the four Heavenly Kings inside the gate.

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

Some decorative paper lanterns hanging from a temple tree.

A monk performing the morning ritual inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall.

One of the simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The view from behind the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated in the centre.

The rows of Nahan statues inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the right of the main hall.

The Sanshin mural that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The statue of Yongwang that fronts the painting of the Dragon King.

The statue and painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

And the view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall out towards the temple’s bell pavilion.

Bokcheonjeongsa Temple – 복천정사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

As you first approach the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

So this is a first for me: an abandoned temple. Located in southwestern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, just below the towering peak of Mt. Togoksan (855m), is Bokcheonjeongsa Temple. The abandoned temple formerly belonged to the Cheontae-jong Buddhist Order.

You first approach the temple up an equally abandoned road that brings you to within 800 metres of Bokcheonjeongsa Temple. The rest of the way is up an overgrown trail. In parts, the trail is completely covered for several metres in leaves that make the climb a bit slippery and treacherous. In total, from where the road ends and the mountain trail begins, the climb will take about thirty minutes (and it’s quite the climb).

Finally having arrived at the base of Bokcheonjeongsa Temple, it almost seems like a ghost town with several buildings with their windows smashed out. It’s actually quite haunting. When first approaching the temple grounds, you’ll notice the kitchen and temple facilities to the right of you in a white building. And to the left is large yellow building that looks to have been the former monks’ dorms.

It’s straight ahead, that you’ll find the two story main hall at the abandoned temple. You can gain access to both shrine halls. On the first floor, it almost looks to have been a shrine hall for Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise); but without any shrine hall statues or paintings around, this is just a guess. This shrine hall has been stripped clean of its former self.

Climbing up the stairs to the right, you’ll be able, like the first, to gain admittance to what was formerly the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Upon first entering, you’ll notice a flowery altar to your left. A little further along, and on the main altar, hangs a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This is the only painting that still remains at the temple.

To the left of the main hall, and on the elevated upper courtyard, is an overgrown pathway that leads towards what looks like the former head monk’s dorm. It’s between the upper and lower courtyard at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple that you see a set of stone cairns.

To the rear of the main hall is a shrine hall that looks as though it was formerly dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The reason I say this is that there is a slow flowing waterfall that collects at the base in a beautiful clear pool of water.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Mulgeum train station in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, you should catch a taxi from there. The taxi ride up to the temple, or at least as far as the road will allow, will take about 36 minutes (17,000 won). And depending on where the taxi lets you off, it will take an additional 30 minutes to hike the remaining 800 metres up the hiking trail. Not easy, but doable.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. The views from Bokcheonjeongsa Temple down from the heights of Mt Togoksan are breath-taking. This temple was much larger than I thought, and it must have once been a very beautiful temple. But without people and the spirituality associated with a Korean Buddhist temple, the abandoned buildings and the winter landscape make Bokcheonjeongsa Temple appear hauntingly eerie. If abandoned places are your thing, then this temple is a must see.

The climb up Mt. Togoksan where Bokcheonjeongsa Temple is located.

The abandoned temple first coming into view.

The windowless residence for former monks at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

The kitchen and temple facilities that have held up a bit better than the monks’ dorms.

A bridge that leads to a garden like island at the temple.

The two story main hall at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

The abandoned main altar inside the first floor shrine hall.

And the view to the right.

And the view to the far right wall and the altar without altar pieces.

The view from the second story hall.

The flowery altar as you first step inside the second story shrine hall.

The second story shrine hall painting of Jijang-bosal.

The amazing view from the second story shrine hall.

And a different angle to the right of the second story shrine hall.

A pathway that leads up towards another abandoned building at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

And the abandoned building that the pathway leads up towards.

Another overgrown, and haunting image, of the abandoned temple.

Some of the cairns between the storage shed and the monks’ dorms.

A look up towards the main hall.

The former shrine behind the main hall.

A ray of sunlight through the face of the mountain.

Some ice building up at the edge of a pool of water.

From a rather dry waterfall that falls freely to the back of the temple grounds.

And the pool where the water collects.

Watch your step as you make your way down the mountain.

Bongseosa Temple – 봉서사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The view from next to the main hall at Bongseosa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Like so many temples in the Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do area, Bongseosa Temple is located in and around the Mt. Muhaksan area. Specifically, Bongseosa Temple is located to the east of Seohaksa Temple and on the eastern slopes of the mountain near a cluster of older apartments.

On the last road before the mountain begins, you’ll find a long set of stairs that leads up to the Bongseosa Temple grounds. Passing through the beautiful Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate combination, you’ll notice four paintings of the Four Heavenly Kings next to each of the gate’s pillars. To the left where the trail takes you, you’ll find a stone statue of a child-like Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).

Just beyond the Munsu-bosal statue is the main temple courtyard. To the right are the monks’ facilities like the kitchen and to the left are the monks’ dorms. Between both of these sets of buildings is Bongseosa Temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set and the Palsang-do mural set, as well.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a glassed off interior that houses the triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits 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). All three are beautiful in their complex designs. To the right of the main altar is a newly painted guardian mural and to the left are judgment murals for the afterlife.

To the right of the main hall, and almost fully encompassed by the temple’s facilities, is the temple’s large bronze bell. And out in front of the main hall is a stately five tier stone pagoda with ornate stone lanterns on either side.

To the rear of the main hall, rather strangely housed in a sheet metal looking shed, is the slender Yongwang-dang. Housed inside this peculiar shaman shrine hall is an older looking mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the left of this painting is an Indian wooden relief of the various stages from the Buddha’s life.

The final shrine hall that visitors can explore at Bongseosa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three wooden reliefs dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korea: Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Bongseosa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk north for about a kilometre and then head towards the mountain to your left. There will be signs along the way to guide you.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. The main highlights to Bongseosa Temple are the main hall altar pieces, as well as the older Yongwang painting to the rear of the main hall. Other highlights are the temple’s bronze bell as well as the temple’s stone pagoda.

The Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate at Bongseosa Temple.

One of the Four Heavenly Kings housed inside the Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate.

The child-like statue of Munsu-bosal.

The main hall at Bongseosa Temple.

One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.

As well as the last painting of the Palsang-do murals.

A look inside the main hall at Bongseosa Temple.

This Judgment mural is painted on the wall to the left of the main altar.

The view from the main hall out towards the temple’s stone pagoda and row upon row of apartments in Masan.

The large bronze bell at Bongseosa Temple.

The older Yongwang mural to the rear of the main hall.

It’s joined by this panel from the wooden relief of the Buddha’s life.

As well as this one.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The wooden relief of Dokseong housed inside the Samseong-gak.

As well as this Sanshin relief.

And the view from the Samseong-gak.

Seohaksa Temple – 서학사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The view from Seohaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seohaksa Temple is located on the eastern side of Mt. Muhaksan (761.4 m) in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And the view out towards the Masan harbor, especially in the early morning, is stunning.

Up a steep incline, and a paved road, you’ll find Seohaksa Temple on a 250 metre plateau on the mountain range. The first thing to greet you to the right of the temple grounds are the monks’ dorms and temple facilities. It’s past this cluster of buildings that you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard at Seohaksa Temple.

Standing in the middle of the temple courtyard are a pair of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statues. The one to the left is a taller more refined image of the Bodhisattva, while the one to the right is a little less polished. And both statues are backed by a wall of mountain rocks.

To the right of the main hall is an all brick shrine hall. I haven’t seen too many of these around Korea. Housed inside this hall is a contemplative statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

To the left of the courtyard statues is the temple’s main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall that looks out towards Masan harbor are a pair of mural sets. On the bottom are the ten Ox-Herding murals. And on top of these murals are eight standard paintings of the Palsang-do set. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main hall. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues have a fiery golden nimbus surrounding their heads. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural and a rather plain Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. And to the left are two older murals. The first is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King); but it’s the older, more curmudgeonly image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that you’ll need to keep an eye out for.

To the rear of the main hall, and up a very steep set of stairs, you’ll find the extremely compact Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this hall is a rather plain looking image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s from this shaman shrine hall that you get the best views of the valley and harbor down below.

Rather strangely, and to the left of the actual temple grounds, is another Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll need to exit the temple grounds and climb your way up a set of uneven stairs that run alongside the main temple grounds, to get to this shaman shrine hall. It’s strange because this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is on the other side of the walls for Seohaksa Temple. I’m not sure if this is a Samseong-gak for Mt. Muhaksan or whether a monk is making a statement at Seohaksa Temple; but either way, it’s a first for me. Housed inside the Samseong-gak is a plain image of Dokseong. There’s  also an older image of Chilseong, but it’s the Sanshin mural reminiscent of Water Moon Gwaneum Painting that should captor your eye with its deep implicit meaning.

And it’s just above this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and up another set of uneven stairs, that you’ll find one last shrine hall at Seohaksa Temple. This time, it’s a compact Yongwang-dang dedicated to the Dragon King. This time, there’s a stone image and a painting dedicated to Yongwang.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Seohaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about twenty to twenty-five minutes to Seohaksa Temple. There are several signs that lead you in the direction of the temple so just follow them along the way. But be prepared for a bit of a hike at the end.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. It’s the views at Seohaksa Temple that gives it such a high rating. The views are pretty special. Adding to the temple’s natural beauty is all the shaman iconography spread throughout the temple grounds, as well as the main hall’s statues that rest on the altar. While a bit of a climb to get to, this temple is worth the effort.

The sign out in front of the temple bathroom leading you towards the temple grounds at Seohaksa Temple.

The monks’ dorms and temple facilities.

The shrine hall that houses Mireuk-bul.

A look inside at the Future Buddha.

The pair of statues of Gwanseeum-bosal in the temple courtyard with the Sanshin-gak perched above them.

A look at the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.

One of the Palsang-do murals.

As well as one of the Ox-Herding murals.

The guardian mural housed inside the main hall.

Joined by this Chilseong mural to the right of the main altar.

The beautiful view even from inside the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.

The main altar statues with their decorative fiery nimbus’ surrounding each of their heads.

The Yongwang mural to the left of the main altar.

Joined by this angry looking Dokseong mural.

The Sanshin-gak to the rear of the main hall.

The plastic covered painting dedicated to Sanshin.

The amazing view from the Sanshin-gak at Seohaksa Temple.

The sun peaking in under the roof of the main hall.

The temple’s slender pagoda and the wall that separates the temple grounds from the outlying Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The aforementioned Samseong-gak.

Which houses this older image of Chilseong.

The Sanshin mural that’s reminiscent of the Water Moon Gwaneum Painting.

To the rear of the Samseong-gak is a Yongwang-dang that houses both images of the Dragon King.

Hakryongsa Temple – 학룡사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The bell pavilion at Hakryongsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

To the south of Mt. Muhaksan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do sits the compact grounds to Hakryongsa Temple. You first approach the temple grounds off a highway that runs through the city and across from Cheonggu Genesis apartments.

The first thing to greet you at the temple is Hakryongsa Temple’s entry gate. Each gate door is decorated with two intimidating guardian paintings. As you enter through this gate, you’ll notice four life-size stone statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. To the right of these nicely executed statues is the temple’s bell pavilion. The temple’s bell hangs on the second floor of this structure, as you make your way past the temple’s facilities and towards the main hall at Hakryongsa Temple.

Out in front of the main hall are a collection of stone statues. The first four statues fronting the collection of stone monuments, and starting from the left, is a tall statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To her right are two seated statues. The first is of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha), while the other is of Gwanseeum-bosal. The other statue in this collection is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And all four statues are backed by a collection of stone Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) statues.

The exterior walls to the main hall are decorated with various Buddhist motif murals like the Bodhidharma. Also, the front latticework has detailed images of Nathwi at the base of the front doors. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits a seated statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). To the left of this triad, and hanging on the wall, are a pair of wooden relief carvings. The first is a guardian relief, while the other is a relief dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And to the right of the main altar is a wooden relief dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

To the left of the main hall rests the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. As you first step into this hall, you’ll be greeted by a rather plain Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, as well as a Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural to its left. But it’s the mural to the far left, the Yongwang mural, that’s the highlight of the three with a descriptive depiction of The Dragon King.

The final hall that visitors can explore at Hakryongsa Temple is the Nahan-jeon Hall to the left of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside this newly built hall are row upon row of smaller sized statues dedicated to the Nahan. Seated in the middle of these beautiful statues is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul and joined on either side by Mireuk-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Future) and Jaehwagalra-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Past).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus Terminal, there is a bus stop at the McDonald’s. From there, take bus #262. After nine stops, or twelve minutes, get off at the Jeonwon APT stop. From there, walk about five minutes, or 340 metres, to get to Hakryongsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/10. This temple’s main highlights are the statues strewn throughout the compact temple grounds at Hakryongsa Temple. The first of these beautiful statues are the Heavenly Kings that welcome you at the entry gate and continue onto the collection just out in front of the main hall. And they end with the colourful rows of Nahan inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The greeting stone that welcomes you to the temple.

The entry gate at Hakryongsa Temple.

Three of the Four Heavenly Kings just inside the temple entry gate.

With an up close of the fourth.

The collection of stone statues just out in front of the main hall.

And a closer look at the rows of Nahan statues.

A look across the front of the main hall up towards Mt. Muhaksan in the background.

The painting of the Bodhidharma that adorns one of the exterior walls to the main hall at Hakryongsa Temple.

One of the Nathwi reliefs adorning the main hall.

The main altar inside the main hall.

The wooden carving guardian relief inside the main hall.

Joined by this relief of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

And to the right of the main altar is this relief dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.

Inside is this painting dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

And to the left of the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.

Which is then surrounded on both sides by these colourful statues of the Nahan.

The temple pagoda out in front of the Nahan-jeon Hall with the bell pavilion in the background.

Euirimsa Temple – 의림사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

csc_6211

The main hall at Euirimsa Temple in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Euirimsa Temple is located in south-western Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do in a valley below Mt. Inseongsan. Euirimsa Temple was first constructed in 688 A.D. by the famed monk Uisang-daesa (625 A.D. – 702 A.D.). Initially, Mt. Inseongsan was called Mt. Yeohangsan. The name Mt. Yeohangsan was in reference to the Buddha’s teachings enlightening all living beings towards Paramita (perfection or completeness). Like Mt. Yeohangsan, Euirimsa Temple was initially called Bongguksa Temple. It was only after the Imjin War (1592-98), after the warrior monk Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610) defended the nation from this temple, that the temple changed its name to Euirimsa Temple. During the Korean War (1950-53), Euirimsa Temple was completely destroyed. It was only a full forty years after its destruction, in 1995, that Euirimsa Temple was rebuilt to its former glory. And even now, in 2016, Euirimsa Temple continues to undergo renovation and reconstruction.

You first approach Euirimsa Temple down a long country road. You’ll know that you’ve arrived at the temple when the road ends and the temple parking lot begins. Just before the temple parking lot is a colourful and stately built Iljumun Gate. Have a look up as you pass under it at its intricate patterns and vibrant colours.

After passing under the Iljumun Gate, you’ll approach the outskirts of the main temple grounds. The front façade that first welcomes you to the temple courtyard is Euirimsa Temple’s bell pavilion and conference hall. Taking the stone stairs to the right of both of these structures, you’ll be able to see all that the temple has to offer.

To your far left is the temple’s main hall. The exterior walls are adorned with an expanded set of thirty-two Palsang-do murals. Have a look, because I’ve never seen anything like them before. And to the left of the main hall is an eloquent Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue. As for inside this large main hall, and resting on the main altar, are three large seated statues. The first one in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the main hall, which is one of three, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three paintings, it’s the older Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that’s the most unique. But the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, with its white tiger, is also pretty nice, as well. Rounding out the set is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre.

The next hall in the line of three shrine halls is the Nahan-jeon Hall. While this unpainted shrine hall looks older in style, the interior is newly redone. The interior of this hall is filled with brand new paintings adorning its walls, as well as several dozen all white statues of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha).

The final hall of the three, and also unpainted like the Nahan-jeon, is the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. Out in front of this hall is an ancient three tier pagoda. As for inside, and seated all alone, is a beautiful statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. To the left of the main altar is a magnificent guardian mural. And rounding out this hall are various painted incarnations of Gwanseeum-bosal, so have a look around.

It should be noted that Euirimsa Temple, as of late 2016, is under major restorations.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Euirimsa Temple is from the Masan Nambu Intercity Bus Terminal. From the terminal, take a taxi for 24 minutes, or 18 kilometres. The ride will set you back 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. There are quite a few things to explore at Euirimsa Temple like the older painting dedicated to Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak. Also, the artwork in and around the Gwaneum-jeon Hall is really second to none, as are the extended Palsang-do murals that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon main hall.

csc_6202

The newly built, and colourful, Iljumun Gate at Euirimsa Temple.

csc_6205

The front facade to Euirimsa Temple.

csc_6207

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Euirimsa Temple.

csc_6206

The old three tier pagoda in the temple courtyard.

csc_6208

The Gwanseeum-bosal statue to the left of the main hall.

csc_6220

The fifteenth painting from the extended set of Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.

csc_6232

A better look at some more of the extended Palsang-do set at Euirimsa Temple.

dsc_6156

A look inside the main hall during morning prayer.

csc_6209

The bell pavilion at Euirimsa Temple.

csc_6241

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

csc_6242

The mural of Sanshin and his white tiger.

csc_6247

As well as this older Dokseong mural that resides inside the Samseong-gak.

csc_6277

The Nahan-jeon Hall to the right of the Samseong-gak.

csc_6252

A look inside the Nahan-jeon at the main altar.

csc_6255

The rows of white Nahan statues inside the hall.

csc_6279

And the Gwaneum-jeon Hall to the right of the Nahan-jeon Hall.

dsc_6197

The main altar statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

csc_6264

A look at the guardian mural inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

csc_6269

As well as one of the murals of Gwanseeum-bosal adorning the interior walls.