Geumryongsa Temple – 금룡사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The unique entry to Geumryongsa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ever since visiting the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage in the winter of 2015, and passing Geumryongsa Temple by, I thought I would revisit this temple as well as the eastern portion of Mt. Muhaksan in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Geumryongsa Temple down some narrow side streets, until you eventually stumble upon the outskirts of the temple grounds and the welcoming Iljumun Gate. Besides the two pillar entry gate, and a steep incline to crest before entering the main temple grounds, you’ll also notice a golden three tier pagoda standing on the heights of the temple grounds to the left of the Iljumun Gate.

Walking up the paved incline, you’ll finally have a better idea of what Geumryongsa Temple has to offer a visitor. To your immediate right and left are the temple’s visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms. It’s also to your right that you’ll be welcomed to the temple by a jovial, golden statue of Podae-hwasang.

Straight ahead, on the other hand, is the Daeung-jeon main hall at Geumryongsa Temple. The exterior is painted with various Biseon either offering up fruit or playing a musical instruction. Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be able to see a main altar centred by a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and joined by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) on either side.

To the left rear of the main hall is a small overgrown pond with an even smaller granite bridge spanning its depths. It’s to the left of the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, that you’ll next come to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three newer, well executed, shaman paintings dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

The final shrine hall to be visited at Geumryongsa Temple lies up another set of stairs; this time, to the rear of the Samseong-gak. Rather strangely, this diminutive shrine hall is a Gwaneum-jeon Hall dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), which is made apparent by the solitary golden statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, you can take Bus #101, or City Bus #122 at the Daeshin Bookstore, which is just outside the terminal. You’ll need to take either bus for ten stops and get off at the Burim Market stop. You’ll need to walk towards the hill for ten minutes from the stop to get to Geumryongsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While certainly not as impressive as the neighbouring Seongdeokam Hermitage, Geumryongsa Temple has a few highlights of its own like the small pond and the shaman paintings inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the very entry to the temple. In combination with Seongdeokam Hermitage, or along the way, Geumryongsa Temple can make for nice little add-on to your temple adventure in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The cityscape from the entry of Geumryongsa Temple.

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The steep incline towards the main temple grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The statue of Podae-hwasang that greets you at the temple.

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Part of the grounds at Geumryongsa Temple.

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The Daeung-jeon Hall.

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Some of the decorative Biseon that adorn the exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar and Seokgamoni-bul.

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The pond to the left of the main hall.

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The view as you near the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall with the city of Masan all around you.

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The previous pond down below as you continue to climb the stairs.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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The painting of Sanshin that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak.

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The Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as a mural of Dokseong inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look over top of the Samseong-gak.

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From the rather strangely placed Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

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And inside the Gwaneum-jeon is this solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Geumsuam Hermitage – 금수암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The entry to Geumsuam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumsuam Hermitage, which is located on the north-western portion of the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, means “Golden Water Hermitage,” in English.  Geumsuam Hermitage is a hermitage meant for the daily worship practices of the Buddhist monks. With that in mind, Geumsuam Hermitage is a place to be on your best behavior.

When you first approach Geumsuam Hermitage up a winding road that twists and turns through the Korean countryside, you’ll finally arrive at a car bridge at the base of the hermitage. There is a newer looking white building as you approach. The road will lead to the right, which circumnavigates around the large garden that supports the monk population at the hermitage.  At the entrance is a cute looking younger dog that can be a bit rabid at times, so try not to pet it (just in case you were thinking of petting it).

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll see a beautiful gate that is usually closed to the public for the purpose of maintaining peace and quiet for the monks. Fortunately, it was open when we visited.  As you pass through the hermitage gate, you’ll see a beautiful metal dragon crest holding the ringed door knob. Decoratively, the gate is adorned with paintings of monster masks. The Korean name for these masks are “nathwi”. “Nat” means face, while “hwi”, in Chinese characters, means multi-coloured. These monster masks are placed on Korean Buddhist structures as guardian spirits. And depending on their gaze, that is the direction they are protecting.

After passing through the gate, you’ll enter into the simple and compact courtyard at the hermitage. There are only two hermitage structures in the courtyard at Geumsuam Hermitage. To the right, is the main hall, and to the left is a meditation pavilion. The highlight of the hermitage is a tranquil Koi pond in front of the meditation pavilion. There are two smaller sized pagodas on either side of the meditation pavilion. There are also numerous atypical statues of Bodhisattvas in the courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight, turn right and continue heading in that direction for one kilometre.  There are a cluster of hermitages. Follow the signs the rest of the way to Geumsuam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING:  2.5/10. Because Geumsuam Hermitage really isn’t meant for the public to visit, like Jajangam Hermitage or Biroam Hermitage, there is very little to actually see and enjoy at Geumsuam Hermitage. While there are a couple highlights, like the compact Koi pond, the meditative pavilion, and the atypical Buddhist statues, this hermitage should be saved for all but the greatest of Korean temple adventurers.

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As you first approach the hermitage grounds.

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The fields at Geumsuam Hermitage used by the monks for sustenance.

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As you approach the hermitage entry gate.

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The guard dog that welcomes you to the hermitage.

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The view through the hermitage gate.

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The ornamental door knocker at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A decorative Nathwi painting that adorns the entry gate at the hermitage.

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The main hall at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A statue of Yaksayore-bul outside the main hall.

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And the tiger riding Munsu-bosal in statue form.

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A fish designed wind chime that hangs from the main hall.

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The hermitage’s beautiful meditative pavilion.

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Colourful Koi swim in the pond.

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Protective guardians at the entry of the pavilion.

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One of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

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A slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Baekryeonam Hermitage – 백련암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The monks’ dorms at Baekryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, and in a cluster of hermitages directly associated with the famed temple, is Baekryeonam Hermitage. Alongside Samyeongam Hermitage, Okryeonam Hermitage, and Seounam Hermitage, these hermitages make for a really nice day around the picturesque grounds of Tongdosa Temple.

Down a forested road, you’ll eventually come to the outskirts of the hermitage grounds when you arrive at the hermitage parking lot. Past a stone marker that reads “Namu Amita-bul” in deference to the Buddha of the Western Paradise, as well as along a tall traditional stone wall, this wall helps guide you towards Baekryeonam Hermitage’s main courtyard.

With your feet firmly planted in the hermitage courtyard, you’ll have an unadorned visitors centre to your back with the monks’ dorms to both your right and left. It’s the long main hall in front of you that will most definitely grab your attention first. Stepping over the stepping stones that stand like mini islands in the centre of a gravel courtyard, you’ll be welcomed to the main hall by a long wooden corridor. Decorating the doorknobs to the main hall are brown wooden turtles. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a lone Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the main altar. To the far left of the spacious interior is a highly skilled guardian mural.

Between the main hall and the turtle-spouted water fountain at Baekryeonam Hermitage is a set of stairs that lead up to the second shrine hall at the hermitage. This elevated shrine hall is called the “Bright Light Hall” in English, or the Gwangmyeong-jeon in Korean. Adorning the exterior walls of this hall are various murals like Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment, as well as a mural dedicated to the monk Ichadon who helped bring Buddhism to the Silla Kingdom. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by 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). Completing the artwork in this hall are four more paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Lonely Saint), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and the guardian mural. All are done by the same artist and all are beautiful.

It’s from the heights of this hall that you get an amazing view of the valley down below. Also, the walk down the stairs are accompanied by well-manicured grounds and a towering cedar tree.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Baekryeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Tongdosa Temple. And to get to Tongdosa Temple you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds. Once you get to the parking lot for Tongdosa Temple, keep walking up the road for cars to the left.  Follow this road for about a kilometre. The road will fork to the right or go straight. Follow the road that leads straight. Continue up this road for another two kilometres and follow the signs as you go because there is more than one hermitage back there.

Admission to Baekryeonam Hermitage is free; however, to get into the grounds, you’ll have to pay 3,000 won at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. Baekryeonam Hermitage is placed amongst some beautiful gardens and mature trees. Also, the artwork inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall are some beautiful examples of some masterful Buddhist artwork.

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The traditional Korean wall that guides your way towards the main hermitage courtyard.

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A stone prayer to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) with the hermitage grounds behind it.

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The main hall at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The visitors’ centre that the main hall looks out towards.

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The watering hole at the hermitage with a turtle spout.

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The corridor out in front of the main hall’s entrance.

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A turtle door knob that adorns one of the main hall’s doors.

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A look inside the main hall at Amita-bul that sits all alone on the altar.

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On the far left wall is this stunning guardian mural.

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The main hall view of the beautifully kept grounds at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The view as you make your way towards the hermitage’s Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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A beautiful pink flower along the way.

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The Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall coming into focus.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting that adorns an exterior wall to the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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The Ichadon mural that adorns the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall, as well.

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The main altar inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

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The mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit)

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As well as this up-close with Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

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The view from where Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall is housed.

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A look out towards the neighbouring mountains and the rest of the hermitage.

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The entry and exit to Baekryeonam Hermitage.

Daeilam Hermitage – 대일암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Dongjin-bosal from the guardian mural at Daeilam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the northern side of the rather diminutive Mt. Jeungsan (133m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is Daeilam Hermitage (a hermitage after my own heart). While small in size, the hermitage more than makes up for this with its beautiful Buddhist artwork.

You make your way towards Daeilam Hermitage down a country road and up the hermitage’s twisting driveway. When you do finally arrive on the outskirts of the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a modern home that also acts as the monks’ dorms. It’s beyond this that you’ll see a pair of shrine halls. Out in front of the monks’ dorms is a slender five-tier stone pagoda. It’s next to this pagoda, and through the shrubs, that you’ll find one of the scariest embodiments of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) in Korea.

The first of the two hermitage shrine halls is the Wontong-jeon main hall at Daeilam Hermitage. Adorning the exterior walls to this hall are ten exquisite renderings of the Ox-Herding murals. Stepping inside the main hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is Gwanseeum-bosal. She sits comfortably on a plush red pillow. On the far left wall, and painted directly on the wall, is a masterful Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) mural. This mural is then joined on the left side by an intricate guardian mural. To the right of the main altar is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This mural is then joined by a mural painted on the main hall’s wall of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the Wontong-jeon main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. And the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage has a bit of a twist. Joining the beautiful murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are a pair of murals on the far left wall dedicated to King Suro and his wife, Queen Heo.

HOW TO GET THERE: After exiting Jeungsan Subway Station (stop #240) through exit #1, head straight down the main road. Head in this direction for about 500 to 600 metres until you meet the first road to your left. Head down this road for about 400 metres until you see the sign for Daeilam Hermitage to your right. Follow the signs the rest of the way up to the hillside hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While this hermitage has seen better days, there are numerous paintings at Daeilam Hermitage to keep a temple adventurer interested. Such paintings as the main hall guardian mural and the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo in the Samseong-gak are something to keep an eye out for when visiting this little known hermitage. Besides the paintings, what’s not to love about the name of this hermitage?!?

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The slender five-tier pagoda that greets you at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The not so medicinal looking hermitage water with a mural of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) backing the spring.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls to the Wontong-jeon Hall.

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The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon hall with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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A mural of Munsu-bosal that adorns the far left interior wall.

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Directly to the left of the main altar is this amazing guardian mural.

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

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And the all-white Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the far right interior wall to the main hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The mural of Sanshin that hangs inside the Samseong-gak.

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The mural of King Suro that hangs on the far left wall.

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King Suro is joined by his wife, Queen Heo.

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One of the scariest Gwanseeum-bosal statues I’ve seen in Korea.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located in northern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongbulsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Hyangrosan, and next to the flowing Lake Miryang. It’s beautifully situated in the very scenic Baenaegol Valley. Seongbulsa Temple is on the very outskirts of the Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do city limits. Just to the north and west lie the cities of Ulsan and Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

In an elbow of the lake, and past a few pensions, you’ll make your way towards Seongbulsa Temple up a country road. The first thing to greet you is an elevated golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In front of this elevated statue are three smaller stone statues of the Buddha enacting the hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil motif, as well as a stone statue of Podae-hwasang.

To the left of this elevated statue is the Gwaneum-jeon. Housed inside a cave, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall houses a maroon clothed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. She’s joined to the left by a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). Painted on the rock face to the right is a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Yongwang. And to the left of the main altar are rows of jade-like statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the right of the golden statue of Mireuk-bul, and under the temple’s Iljumun Gate, is a set of cement stairs. These stairs lead up towards the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple. The entrance to the left reveals rows of bronzed coloured Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a rather spacious interior for devotees. Resting on the main altar is a uniquely clothed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of a triad of statues. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this main altar is a darkened mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

Stepping outside the Geukrakbo-jeon and past the graffiti written on the walls of the main temple courtyard (yes, a first), you’ll notice a tall stone statue dedicated once more to Gwanseeum-bosal. Somewhat camouflaged by the neighbouring folds of the mountain, Gwanseeum-bosal is cradling a baby in her hands.

It’s to the left of this statue that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three rather plain murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

And it’s to the left of this shaman shrine hall, and up an overgrown forested pathway, that you’ll find a mountainside shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). If not for the blue sign pointing me in this direction, I would have missed the emaciated statue of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi out to Seongbulsa Temple because there is no public transportation out to this remote area. The taxi ride should last 40 minutes and cost 22,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Seongbulsa Temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. While it’s beautifully situated next to Lake Miryang in Baenaegol Valley, the temple itself almost seems abandoned. In fact, I thought it might have been abandoned all but for the monk that greeted me as I was leaving. As for the temple itself, the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall, as well as the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the rear of the temple grounds are a couple highlights at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The entry to Seongbulsa Temple.

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A stone statue of Podae-hwasang in the foreground with Mireuk-bul in the background.

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A closer look at Podae-hwasang.

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And a closer look at the golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The view that Mireuk-bul gets to enjoy.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the side of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon

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The view of the valley from the temple’s main hall.

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The granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The painting of Dokseong that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Who is joined by this close-up of Dokseong.

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A shrine to the left rear of the Samseong-gak.

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The shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that’s up an overgrown pathway.

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The Gwaneum-jeon cave hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A look inside reveals a haunting atmosphere.

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall.

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One more amazing view of the Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located.

Daewonam Hermitage – 대원암 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view from Daewonam Hermitage near Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daewonam Hermitage is located to the west of the famed Pyochungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do. When you first approach the compact courtyard to Daewonam Hermitage, you’ll notice a uniquely designed entrance gate. There are two fading murals of a dragon to the left on the exterior walls of the gate. The interior has some fiercely painted guardians on either side of the gate as you first enter it. And as you pass into the courtyard, you’ll notice, what seems to be, two of the ten Ox-Herding murals.

Having passed through the uniquely illustrated gate, you’ll notice the kitchen complex to the left and the nuns’ dorms to the right. Strangely, the main hall appears more like a dorm than it does like a main hall. Stepping up onto the hallway that rests just outside the entrance of the main hall, you’ll be able to see the older-looking guardian painting tucked away in the corner on the far left. I slid the doors open nervously, not knowing if I was opening a nuns’ dorm or the main hall. Fortunately, I was opening the door to the main hall. Resting on the walls next to the main altar are a pair of stars: one pink and one gold. This is combined with a ceiling full of pink paper lotus flowers.  And sitting on the main altar is a centralized Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And he’s flanked by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right. Other than this, there’s an altar on the far right wall for the deceased and nothing else inside the main hall.

Passing by the kitchen to your left, on the way up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine, you’ll notice a door opening to your right. This opening is attached to the main hall, and looks to be a storage area. Resting on the wall, above a make-shift altar, is a painting of Jowang (The Fireplace King Spirit).

Continuing, you’ll walk up an uneven set of stone stairs on your way towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The paintings of the three shaman deities inside this hall are beautiful. Both the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), as well as the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) paintings are newer looking, while the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting in the centre is definitely older in appearance. The exterior of this hall is painted with murals that are related to these three shaman deities.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Pyochungsa Temple, take an intercity bus to the Miryang bus terminal.  From there, you can catch a bus to Pyochungsa Temple which runs from 7:35 a.m. to 8:20 p.m. every 40 minutes.  The ride will take you between 40 to 50 minutes. Instead of heading straight towards the Iljumun Gate, head right at a road that heads towards the hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. This hermitage will certainly not blow you away with its splendour. With that being said, there are a few highlights to Daewonam Hermitage. One highlight is the fierce looking guardians inside the entrance gate. Another is the decorative main hall and the Jowang mural in the adjacent storage area. Finally, the older looking Chilseong painting inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is another highlight that shouldn’t be overlooked at this hermitage. In combination with Pyochungsa Temple, it can make for a nice little outing in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam.

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The gate that welcomes you to Daewonam Hermitage.

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A dragon mural that adorns the outer walls of the entry gate.

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A look through the entry gate towards the main hall at the hermitage.

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One of the guardian murals that adorns the entry gate.

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As well as another guardian mural.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the inner portion of the entry gate.

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The diminutive main hall at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The view of the neighbouring mountains from the main hall.

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The guardian mural that hangs just outside the main hall entrance.

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The colourful main hall interior.

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The extremely rare kitchen guardian, Jowang, at Daewonam Hermitage.

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The fierce tiger that adorns the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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The older and elaborate Chilseong mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

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As well as the accompanying Dokseong mural.

Chukseoam Hermitage – 축서암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look at the hermitage courtyard at Chukseoam Hermitage with the Chiseosan Mountains towering above.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Chukseoam Hermitage is one of nineteen hermitages directly associated with the famed Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Chukseoam Hermitage down some country back roads. Finally, the road will start climbing, when you finally arrive at the outskirts of the hermitage. The hermitage is spread out over two courtyards. The lower courtyard wasn’t all that well maintained. The lower courtyard houses the monks’ dorms.

Walking through the staircase that divides the lower courtyard residences, you’ll arrive in the upper courtyard, where all of the significant buildings at the hermitage reside. To the left is an older looking building that acts as the residence for the monks. And to the right is the hermitage kitchen and visitors’ centre. Straight ahead is a rather non-descript main hall. The exterior is unadorned. All that adorns this bare exterior are the earthen dancheong colour tones that adorn all temples and hermitages in Korea. Inside, you’ll see a rather sparsely decorated main hall. On the main altar sits a unique triad of statues with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. The reason I say unique is that the statues seem to be rather squat in appearance and cube-like in the face. On the far left wall is the smaller sized guardian mural.

To the left rear of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The shaman shrine hall is unadorned on the exterior, but it’s backed by a beautiful pine tree forest and the heights of Mt. Chiseosan. Inside the shrine hall, as you walk upon the rickety floor boards, you’ll see a set of gorgeous shaman deities. Unfortunately, the paintings are covered by glass, which takes away from getting a good picture of them; however, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are beautifully rendered.

HOW TO GET THERE: Chukseoam Hermitage is tricky to find. With your back to the main gate at Tongdosa Temple, head straight for about 200 metres. Turn left at the first major road. This road will head straight, beside the Tongdosa Temple parking lot, for about 300 metres. As the road forks, head left around a curved road for about 200 metres. You’ll then see a handful of taller apartments. Head straight once more for about 400 metres with Tondo-Fantasia (an amusement park) to your right. Again, you’ll come to a fork in the road at a farmer’s field. Take the road that heads left. Follow this road for about a kilometer. During this one kilometer hike, you’ll be able to see signs that guide your way. Follow these signs until you arrive at the hermitage behind a few larger sized houses.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Chukseoam Hermitage certainly won’t blow you away. Much like Sudoam Hermitage, also associated with Tongdosa Temple, there is very little to see at the hermitage; however, with that being said, there are a couple of things that are unique to Chukseoam Hermitage. One is the gorgeous vista of the Mt. Chiseosan range behind the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, as well as the intertwining pine tree forest. Also, the gorgeous paintings of the shaman deities inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall certainly are the handful of highlights at the hermitage. But unless you have an easy way to get to Chukseoam Hermitage, the trip may not be worth it.

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The entrance that leads up to the hermitage courtyard.

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A look at a couple of the halls at Chukseoam Hermitage and the surrounding beauty.

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The compact main hall at Chukseoam Hermitage.

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A look inside the compact main hall.

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Both the main hall and Samseong-gak together.

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A better look at the beautifully located Samseong-gak.

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The beautifully manicured grounds that surround the shaman shrine hall.

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The modern Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look up at the peak of Mt. Chiseosan.

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The view from the Samseong-gak.

Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The central altar statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple in Yangsan Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

Wongaksa Temple is situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do down a nearly deserted country road. When you first approach the temple, the first thing to greet you is a yellow sign with the Korean word “원각사” and an arrow pointing towards the temple grounds. Up the temple driveway is the visitors’ centre with the dorms and kitchen to the right.

To the left of this initial cluster of buildings are the temple halls. Next to the visitors’ centre is a stone statue and alcove that houses a standing statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). This statue is backed by a bit of a fading picture of lotus flowers. Around this outdoor altar are smaller statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Further left, and next to the outdoor altar centred by Yaksayore-bul, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall dedicated to three shaman deities. This temple hall appears to the right rear of the main hall. Inside the shrine hall are three beautiful renderings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

Next to the Samseong-gak shrine hall is the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. In front of this hall is a three-tier pagoda that is Silla inspired. Inside the hall, and sitting on the main altar, is the triad of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left. The hall has two walls of miniature statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Next to these bronze coloured statues, on the far right wall, is an elaborate guardian painting. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Ox-Herding murals. These murals are said to have been painted by the head monk at Wongaksa Temple. Strangely, and this is a first for me, there was a punching bag to the right rear of the main hall. I guess when you need to get your stress out, no matter your calling, you have to get it out!

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Wongaksa Temple is to take a taxi from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take about 20 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, this temple really doesn’t have that much to offer. It does have a quaint outdoor altar dedicated to Yaksayore-bul, as well as the beautiful murals inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall and the head monk’s Ox-Herding murals around the main hall. And don’t forget the punching bag behind the main hall. However, if you include this temple with a couple other temples and hermitages in the area, it can make Wongaksa Temple worth the trek.

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The view as you make your way towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The welcoming yellow sign that greets you at the temple.

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A look around the temple courtyard.

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A standing statue of Yaksayore-bul at the temple.

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A closer look at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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Inside hangs this impressive incarnation of Chilseong.

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As well as this equally impressive Dokseong mural.

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The visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms at the temple.

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The Silla inspired three-tier stone pagoda out in front of the main hall.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The guardian mural that hangs inside the main hall.

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Another look around the main hall’s interior.

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One of the murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

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The rather odd punching bag that’s placed behind the main hall. Perhaps one of the monks fancies himself a boxer in his spare time.

Colonial Korea: Gwanryongsa Temple – 관룡사 (Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The early Joseon Dynasty era Yaksa-jeon Hall at Gwanryongsa Temple in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the 753 metre peak of Mt. Gwanryongsan in the scenic city of Changnyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do lies the historic Gwanryongsa Temple. The name of the temple harkens back to the famed monk, Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). One day while Wonhyo-daesa was praying with one of his disciples, Songpa, during a one hundred day prayer session, they saw nine dragons appear from a neighbouring pond and soar up to the sky around the peaks of Mt. Hwawangsan. With this in mind, “Gwan” means “see” in Chinese characters, while “ryong” means “dragon.” So the name of the temple, Gwanryongsa Temple, literally means “See Dragon Temple,” in English.

While Gwanryongsa Temple was considered one of the eight most important temples of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.E to 935 A.D), the exact date of the temples creation is unknown; however, this hasn’t prevented scholars from speculating. One foundation myth states that Gwanryongsa Temple was first established in 349 A.D., while another states that the temple was first built in 583 A.D. by Jeungbeop-guksa.

In total, Gwanryongsa Temple houses six Korean Treasures. Of special note is the Yaksa-jeon Hall, which dates back to the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Stone Seated Buddha at Yongseondae Cliff that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668 A.D. to 935 A.D.), as well as the large mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the back side of the Daeung-jeon Hall’s main altar.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion from 1933.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall in 1933.

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Inside the Daeung-jeon main hall at Gwanryongsa Temple.

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Another look around the interior of the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look towards the large canopy that hangs over the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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A look at the historic Yaksa-jeon Hall, which also just so happens to be Gwanryongsa Temple’s oldest building.

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Another look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 1933.

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The Woneum-ru Pavilion in 2012.

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A scenic mountainside look at the Daeung-jeon Hall in 2012.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the main altar’s colourful canopy.

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The backside of the main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Approaching the Yaksa-jeon Hall.

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A better look at the Yaksa-jeon Hall in 2012.

Colonial Korea: Ssanggyesa Temple – 쌍계사 (Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Ssanggyesa Temple, which means “Twin Streams Temple,” in English, was first founded in 722 A.D. The temple was first established by the monks Daebi and Sambeop, who were the disciples of the famed Uisang-daesa. After being instructed by the Jirisan Sanshin, in the form of a tiger, to create a temple in a valley where the arrowroot blossomed even during winter, the two set out to establish Ssanggyesa Temple just north of modern day Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the heart of Jirisan National Park.

So after returning from China, where they furthered their Buddhist training, they returned with the skull and portrait of Huineng (the Sixth Patriarch of Seon [Zen] Buddhism). They enshrined both under the main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple. It was only later that the skull was retrieved and enshrined in a stone pagoda behind the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple.

Originally called Okcheonsa Temple, the monk Jingam-seonsa (774-850 A.D.) renamed the temple in 840 A.D. to Ssanggyesa Temple. A stele, which is dedicated to Jingam-seonsa, and written by Choi Chi-won (857- ?), stands in the temple courtyard. It’s designated National Treasure #47.

During the Imjin War, all the temple buildings were completely destroyed by fire. Now, most of the temple buildings date back to the 17th century.

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A wooden totem outside Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate at the temple in 1933.

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Which is joined by the Cheonwangmun Gate in 1933.

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As well as the Geumgangmun Gate in 1933.

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The Cheonghak-ru Pavilion at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The special Palsang-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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A closer look at the Palsang-jeon Hall.

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The Daeung-jeon main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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Another look at the Stele for Master Jingam. This picture was taken in 1916.

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And a closer look at the dragon swirling capstone to the stele.

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A closer look at the Daeung-jeon main hall.

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A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The expansive main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

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The Guksa-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 1933.

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The Chilseong-gak at the temple.

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And one of the stupas at Ssanggyesa Temple.

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The Iljumun Gate in 2012.

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The Cheonwangmun Gate in 2012.

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The Palsang-jeon Hall in 2005.

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The main hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.

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National Treasure #47, The Stele for Master Jingam at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2005.

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The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Ssanggyesa Temple in 2012.