The Story of…Haeunjeongsa Temple

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 The beautiful wooden pagoda at Haeunjeongsa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

For as close as Haeunjeongsa Temple is to the famed Haeundae beach in Busan, hardly anyone visits the temple. This is unfortunate, because the temple has a lot to offer the temple adventurer. In total, I think I’ve been a handful of times with the earliest visit dating back to 2004. However, the most interesting adventure, for me personally, came just a couple months back in the winter of 2013.

Originally, I had been attempting to visit the neighbouring Pokposa Temple in Haeundae-gu, but this fell through after learning there was no neighbouring parking for my car. So instead of allowing the entire trip to be a bust, I decided to head over to Haeunjeongsa Temple. It had been about 5 years since I had last visited it, and if my memory was serving me correctly, I knew I was in for a treat.

When I finally did arrive at the temple, and because of its location, it was freezing cold with the wind; probably -10 with the windchill. In the course of five years, the temple had changed a fair bit. Unlike the last time I had visited, there was now a nice shrine for Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) just outside the main hall. Also, there was a brand new shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Large in size, the row of beautiful granite statues was/is a nice little addition to the temple grounds. This, in combination with the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the large three story wooden pagoda, froze me to the bone.

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Inside the main hall where a group of ajummas decided to warm me up on a freezing day with mats.

The coldness, in combination with having no gloves, froze my fingers. With the main hall being the only hall at the temple I had yet to visit, I decided to warm my fingers in there. Only then would I continue to capture a few more pictures. So grabbing a mat, I sat down with a couple dozen ajummas (older Korean women). With the heat not being on in the main hall, I was still shivering quite a bit. I guess one of the neighbouring ajummas realized this, so she grabbed a mat off the stack and placed it over my lap. It definitely helped, but I was still cold. So yet another ajumma grabbed yet another mat and placed it on my side. It seemed to be working, but I was still shivering. So a third ajumma grabbed yet another mat and placed it on my other side. After each mat they placed on me they would smile and bow in a motherly fashion. Finally, the third mat seem to do the trick, as I was no longer cold.

It’s these little acts of kindness that I really enjoy when visiting Korean temples. It’s not the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last during my stay in Korea.

For more on this temple, please follow this link.

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Out in front of the main hall is this granite row of Nahan statues.

Updated: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple – 해동 용궁사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

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Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan

Hello Again Everyone!

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which means “Korean Dragon Palace Temple,” in English, was first founded in 1376 by the Venerable monk Naong who was an advisor to King Gongmin. One day in a dream, the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealed itself to Naong. He was told to construct a temple at the top of Mount Bongrae and the nation would become larger and more stable. So after checking around the nation for a place to build a temple, he found the land where the temple now rests. In the process, he named the temple Bomunsa Temple. However, in 1592, during the Imjin War with Japan, the temple was burned to the ground. It wasn’t until the 1930’s, over 300 years after its destruction, that the Venerable monk Ungang, from Tongdosa Temple, rebuilt the temple. He renamed it Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

You first approach the temple grounds, which are located along the coastal waters of the shoreline, down a narrow corridor filled with vendors selling their wares. It’s only after emerging on the other side that you’re confronted by twelve three metre tall statues of the zodiac generals. Have a look for yours, as you make your way towards the tire pagoda, because it’ll most certainly be there. Next, you’ll see the towering seven-story stone pagoda that is intricately detailed in its design. At its base is a tire shrine for people to pray to to avoid car accidents (seriously!).

It’s through the gate, which sports two golden dragons on either pillar, and down the flight of stairs that you’ll draw closer to the main temple grounds. Waiting for you along the way with a tarnished nosed and a scuffed belly is a Podae-hwasang statue that grants woman that rub its belly or nose a future son.

After finally passing through an artificial cave passageway, the East Sea will finally come into view. Dozens of stone lanterns lead the way as you make your descent down the 108 stairs that are symbolic of the 108 delusions of the mind in Buddhism. But before you reach the base of the stairs, about halfway down the flight of stairs, is an outcropping to your left. It’s along this pathway that you’ll see Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). If you go a little bit further, you’ll notice a golden statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). It’s also from this shoreline outcropping that you get an amazing view of the temple grounds.

Crossing over the bridge that separates one shoreline from the next, you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard. Along the way, you can toss a couple coins to a dongja or a turtle for good luck. Just past the temple entry gate, and just to your left, is the three-tier stone pagoda with four lions at its base. These lions represent the four basic human emotions of love, sorrow, anger, and joy.

With the main hall to your right and around a bend that sports a ferocious metal dragon, you’ll finally have an commanding view of the neighbouring sea and the large sized Daeung-jeon main hall behind you. The main hall is filled with beautiful paintings including the Palsang-do murals and a painting to the Divine Sea god of the East Sea revealing itself to the monk Naong. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the right of this triad is a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), while to the left hangs a Yeongsan Hoesang-do mural.

To the left of the main hall is a large, jovial, golden statue of the Podae-hwasang. Also in the main courtyard are two large, round, golden pigs that grant good fortune. There are a flight of stairs that lead underground which houses a statue of Yaksayore-bul, as well as water that purportedly cures ill health. The only other shrine hall in this area is the Yongwang-gak. Looking outwards on the ocean is a wooden statue of the Dragon King.

It’s next to this shrine hall, and up an uneven set of stairs, that you’ll climb towards a serenely smiling figure of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The towering statue is known as the Haesu Gwaneeum Daebo, which means “Sea Water Bodhisattva of Compassion Statue.” She is surrounded on all sides by shrubbery and thin monk statues. From these heights, you get a breath-taking view of the East Sea and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple down below.

Admission to the temple is free.

For more on Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE:  From the Haeundae subway stop (line 2, stop #203), and out exit #7, you can catch Bus #181 that will bring you all the way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Just make sure you get off at the temple’s stop. You can take a bus or you can simply take a taxi from the Jangsan subway stop (line 2, stop #201). The price should be about 10,000 won.

OVERALL RATING:  9/10.  What isn’t to love about this seaside temple? The temple is a bit of a rarity in Korea in that it’s located next to the sea and not up in the mountains. This only adds to the temple’s natural beauty. This, in combination with its elegant statue of Gwanseeum-bosal, the view from the Jijang-bosal statue, and the main hall itself, make for a beautiful combination of Buddhist artistry. I’ve been visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple since 2003, and it’s only gotten busier and busier each time I go, which really speaks to its popularity; and ultimately, its beauty.

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The row of 12 zodiac generals that greet you at the temple.

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An up close of the rat with coin in eye.

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The seven-tier stone pagoda.

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The entry gate that leads down to the sea and the temple courtyard.

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The baby-making Podae-hwasang.

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The first view of the sea from the stone lanterns that guide the way.

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A look towards the buildings at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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The beautiful neighbouring seaside.

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The golden Jijang-bosal statue.

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A couple enjoying a moment.

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The view as you cross the bridge towards the temple.

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The three-tier pagoda with a lion base.

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The expressive metal dragon with the main hall in the background.

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The Naong dream painting.

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Inside the main hall with a look toward the main altar.

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The large golden Podae-hwasang statue.

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The statue and painting dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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The crowning Gwanseeum-bosal statue.

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The view that Gwanseeum-bosal gets to enjoy.

Haeunjeongsa Temple – 해운정사 (Haeundae-gu, Busan)

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The gorgeous Gwanseeum-bosal altar piece in the main hall at Haeunjeongsa Temple.

Hello Everyone,

This post is for anyone and everyone living in the Haeundae area in Busan.  This temple, Haeunjeongsa Temple (해운정사), is pretty easy to get to, and it is rarely visited.

Whenever the wife and I visit Haeundae, we always like to visit this temple before we go to the beach.  Usually, we take a taxi to the temple.  It usually only costs about 3,000 Won, but you can get to the temple by walking.  It probably takes about 20 minutes, but it is hard to find in all the house clutter of Haeundae.  You can tell that you’ve arrived at the temple because there is a large granite staircase waiting for you.  Once you walk up these stairs, there is a new looking pagoda and modern visitor centre.  To the right of these two structures are the main hall and the beautifully designed three-tiered wooden pagoda.  And to the far right is the dorm for the monks.  Even though this temple is newer looking, and probably lacking a long history, the artwork, both inside and outside of the temple structures, are beautifully crafted.  Also, the gorgeously designed green wooden pagoda is nearly worth the time alone it takes to get to Haeunjeongsa Temple.  The outside temple buildings are beautifully decorated with paintings from the life of Buddha.

After you’ve visited the temple, it’s a nice walk south (and view along the way) to the beach.  You’ll pass by many stores and markets along the way.  It’s a nice way to see the little known side of Haeundae.

To learn the back story behind this temple adventure, please follow this link.

HOW TO GET THERE:  You can take the subway, second line, to Haeundae subway station (#203).  Take one of the exits on the north side towards Haeundae train station.  Once you get outside, you can easily find yourself a taxi that will take you to Haeunjeongsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING:  6.5/10.  It’s a nice little round-about-way of getting to the beach.  This small city temple is a nice diversion from those of you living in the hustle-and-bustle of Haeundae.  Again, the wooden pagoda alone is well worth the 5 minute taxi ride to Haeunjeongsa Temple.  But couple the pagoda with the grandness of the main hall and the beautiful paintings on the side of the temple buildings, and this temple is well worth the effort to discover its beauty.  The only thing that makes it a little less impressive than others is its relatively new look and small size.  However, for a nice day in Haeundae, don’t forget to include Haeunjeongsa Temple along the way.

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The newly built entrance gate at Haeunjeongsa Temple.
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The grand staircase with two children playing on it.
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A long look up all those stairs.  But trust me, the ascent up is worth it.
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One, of two, mythological Haetae.  The Haetae are masters of fire and guardians against it.  And if you know just how poorly fire and wood mix, then you can understand why they’re there.
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When you climb up the stairs, the first thing to greet you on the temple grounds is the bell tower (which is immediately to your left when you walk in).
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A closer look at the intricate wood work on the bell tower, as the sun pours over it.
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Once you’ve taken in all that you can of the bell tower, and just in front of the modern looking visitor centre, is the simplistic stone pagoda.
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A closer look at the delicate beauty of this pagoda.
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 To the immediate right of the pagoda and bell tower are the major buildings at Haeunjeongsa Temple. DSC03098
First is the main hall.
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Again, another example of the intricate wood work at Haeunjeongsa Temple.
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Inside the main hall, and adorning the gorgeous wood work, is a fresh coat of vibrant paint.
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Equally impressive, if not more so, is the main altar pieces at Haeunjeongsa Temple.
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A closer look, as well, at the right sided piece of the main altar.
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 A guardian painting inside the main hall.
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Tucked in between these two buildings, the main hall and the dorm, is the wooden pagoda.
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 Nestled in close to the main hall is the wooden pagoda.
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Here is a better look at the gorgeous splendour that is the wooden pagoda at Haeunjeongsa Temple.
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A little guardian painting inside the wooden pagoda.
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A little drink from the stone water fountain, before the wife and I headed south towards Haeundae beach.