The Story of…Jeongchwiam Hermitage

DSC_0038

A foggy summer day at Jeongchwiam Hermitage.

Hello Again Everyone!!

The entire purpose of visiting Jeongchwiam Hermitage in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do in the summer of 2012 was to see the beautiful Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) painting and enjoy the views of the valley down below. However, the adventure to get there, and what awaited us, quickly overshadowed expectations.

CSC_0655

The winding road, and wrong turn, that leads up to the hermitage.

Jeongchwiam Hermitage is a bit difficult to find, as it’s a bit off the beaten path. So I took the turn that I thought led into Jeongchwiam Hermitage. Boy was I wrong. Like most mountain roads, there’s only one way in and one way out, so it’s next to impossible to turn around. Most of the time, you just have to keep heading straight and hope that your destination lies somewhere further up the road. Unfortunately for this turn off, there was no ultimate destination; instead, the gravel road quickly turned into a mud bogging road. With the aid of my wife, I was finally able to turn the car around, but not before almost flipping it in the process.

DSC_0022

The welcoming committee at Jeongchwiam Hermitage.

Finally, with a few frayed nerves, we arrived at Jeongchwiam Hermitage. When we arrived, it was really foggy from a previous night’s rainfall. When we finally did start to explore the hermitage grounds, we were greeted by a Jindo pup. A Jindo dog originated on the island of Jindo in South Korea. It’s white in colour and it’s known for being both loyal and brave in nature. This puppy was extremely playful in nature. It seemed happy to see us.

As we continued to explore, the Jindo pup followed us around nipping at our heels (literally), as we explored the hermitage grounds. And when we attempted to visit the main hall, the Jindo attempted to follow us in. Perhaps this puppy does this on a regular basis with the monks at the hermitage, but it was strange for me, so I physically had to bar it from the main hall.

And then when we went on to explore the rest of the grounds, and as we carefully made our way up to the cliffside halls, the sure-footed Jindo nearly tripped me up on the rain soaked stairs. It was just so excited to see a visitor.

Finally, when it was time to go, this free-roaming puppy sat patiently in the parking lot to see us off as we left. But before we drove away, we said our good-byes. Strangely, it felt as though this puppy had been our tour guide, and was now sadly saying good-bye to us.

For more information on Jeongchwiam Hermitage, please follow this link.

DSC_0078

And a good-bye. Until next time…

Jeongchwiam Hermitage – 정취암 (Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do)

DSC_0070

A view of the Nahan-jeon through the twisted red pines at Jeongchwiam Hermitage in Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Recently I checked out a few temples online that I would like to explore, and one of those temples near the top of the list was Jeongchwiam Hermitage on the outskirts of Sancheong, Gyeongsangnam-do. So with a full tank of gas, and a really early morning wake-up call, I headed out to the western part of Gyeongnam Province.

Shrouded in a veil of fog, and twisting and turning up a winding road, I finally arrived along the outskirts of the diminutive Jeongchwiam Hermitage (정취암). Jeongchwiam Hermitage was first established in 686 A.D. by the great master Uisang-daesa, which was during the reign of King Shinmun. And it rests on the slopes of Mt. Daeseongsan just north of Jirisan National Park.

Clouded in a haze of fog, I was first greeted at the temple by a white puppy. He was extremely playful and followed me all around the hermitage grounds. Occasionally, he would nibble at my feet and he even followed me into the main hall. He was a nice little companion to have throughout the temple grounds on a rainy and foggy day.

Approaching the temple grounds, besides the white dog that might greet you at the entrance to Jeongchwiam Hermitage, you’ll first see the kitchen and visitors centre to your left as you approach the main hall. Next to the kitchen and the visitors’ centre is the smaller sized main hall. Wrapped around the main hall are the Palsang-do set of murals that are simple, yet, beautiful in their composition. As you enter the main hall, you’ll first be greeted by a fairly modest guardian mural. Sitting in the centre of the main altar is a single statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The smaller sized main altar statue sits on a red satin pillow and it’s made of wood. And while there is no clear sign of when it was created, it is Gyeongnam Province Material Treasure #314. To the left of this smaller sized golden statue is a mural of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This beautiful mural is fronted by a statue of the same Bodhisattva, Jijang-bosal. Of note, the ceiling of the main hall is beautifully decorated with pink and golden paper lotus lanterns.

To the right of the main hall is nothing more than the monks quarters; however, out in front of the main hall, on a fog-clear day, are some beautiful views of the mountainside. Between the hermitage’s kitchen and the main hall, as the dog led, are a set of stairs that lead to a set of upper courtyard shrines and shrine halls.

The first shrine to greet you, after you’ve ascended the set of stairs, is a stone sculpture dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal as well as a collection of Buddhist themed figurines left behind by hermitage visitors. To the left of this shrine is a hall dedicated to the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha). Around the exterior of this hall are various landscape murals and murals dedicated to the Nahan. As for the interior of the Nahan-jeon, there’s a elegant statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) sitting alone on the main altar. He’s surrounded by equally elegant statues of the various Nahan. And the Nahan statues are backed by two separate murals dedicated to the various Nahan.

To the right of the Gwanseeum-bosal stone statue shrine, and up a set of natural rock stairs, is the crown jewel, in my humble opinion, of Jeongchwiam Hermitage. Through the opening, and next to a beautifully twisted pair of red pines, is the San shin-gak/Samseong-gak. I know, it’s a bit of a strange name for the shaman shrine hall, but they are the names of the two name plates that hang above the entrance to the single hall. If you decide to enter this hall, you’ll be greeted by the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural to the left and the Dokseong (The Recluse) mural hanging on the far right wall. Slightly askew, and to the right, is a window that looks out onto a shrine dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). On top of the mountain rests a striking statue dedicated to San shin; however, it’s the painting below it that makes this hermitage truly stand out. The painting, which is also dedicated to San shin, dates back to 1833; and while I know there are a handful of older paintings dedicated to San shin, this is the oldest mural of this shaman deity that I’ve seen in person. It truly is something to behold.

The other thing that you can enjoy from this shaman shrine hall are the scenic views of the valley below and the winding road that you drove up on to get to the hermitage.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

For more on Jeongchwiam Hermitage, follow this link.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Habdong Bus Terminal in Sancheong. From this bus terminal, you’ll have to take a taxi to Jeongchwiam Hermitage. The ride should cost about 10,000 won and take around 25 minutes (or 12 kilometres in distance). Just make sure your taxi driver hangs around after dropping you off; otherwise, it might be a pretty long walk back to the terminal.

View Larger Map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The highlights to this temple is the golden wooden statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the main hall, and for me personally, the San shin mural that dates back to 1833. However, the sheer location of the hermitage during a foggy day, the views, and the elegance of the Nahan-jeon make this hermitage a must if you’re in the western part of Gyeongnam Province.

DSC_0004
The temple courtyard as you approach it. In the centre is the diminutive main hall.
DSC_0022
The playful white dog that may follow you around the hermitage grounds.
DSC_0012
A look inside the main hall.
DSC_0007
The historic, yet small, Gwanseeum-bosal that sits on the main altar.
DSC_0008
The Jijang-bosal statue and mural to the left of the main altar inside the main hall.
DSC_0009
The simplistic guardian mural to the right of the main altar.
DSC_0025
The Gwanseeum-bosal shrine as you ascend the stone stairs to the upper courtyard at the hermitage.
DSC_0038
A look over at the Nahan-jeon through a cluster of trees.
DSC_0029
A look inside the Nahan-jeon and the statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) that sits on the main altar.
DSC_0036
A look up at the San shin-gak and past the Gwanseeum-bosal shrine.
DSC_0071
Through the twisted red pines, you’ll be able to see the lower courtyard from the San shin-gak.
DSC_0049
Finally, a look at the San shin (The Mountain Spirit) shrine at Jeongchwiam Hermitage.
CSC_0364
And a look at the mural of San shin that dates back to 1833.
20120814_093623
The darkened view from the San shin-gak.
CSC_0655
And a look over at the twisting road that leads you home.