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.

Gigiam Hermitage – 기기암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do is another one of those hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan. Of the three roads that lead out towards the hermitages at Eunhaesa Temple, Gigiam Hermitage is located on the southern road just up from Seounam Hermitage.

You approach Gigiam Hermitage along a river valley and then up a twisting and turning mountainside road. When you do eventually arrive at the hermitage parking lot, you’ll find the sprawling hermitage grounds. Straight ahead of you, and past some beautifully manicured grounds, are the monks’ dorms. These dorms are fenced off by a high wall, and the dorms are off-limits to visitors.

It’s to the left that you’ll find the buildings that visitors can explore. Unfortunately, when I visited, the main hall was being completely torn down and restored. So instead of being able to visit the beautiful, old main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, they had relocated the main altar paintings and statue to an auxiliary building at the hermitage. This building is the plain-white building to the right of the main hall construction site.

Housed inside this temporary main hall is a crowned seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And this statue is then backed by a beautiful black mural. Hanging on the right wall is a newer looking guardian mural.

Past the main hall construction zone, and to the right of the kitchen at Gigiam Hermitage, is a sign that directs you towards the hermitage’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is just big enough for an adult to sit in. Housed inside this shrine hall are three paintings dedicated to various shaman deities. The first of the three, and straight ahead, is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left of the Chilseong mural is a retro-looking Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural. But it’s the mural to the right, the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, that will draw most of your attention. Sanshin is joined in the painting by a leper-looking tiger.

Entrance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the south, towards Gigiam Hermitage. The walk takes about 2.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. I think if it wasn’t for the re-construction of the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, this hermitage would rate higher. However, since half of the buildings that visitors can explore are under construction, Gigiam Hermitage rates as low as it does. However, if you do decide to visit Gigiam Hermitage, keep an eye out for the hidden Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall behind the main hall and the distinctive Sanshin mural housed inside it.

Some of the grounds around Gigiam Hermitage.

One of the stone reliefs at the hermitage with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre.

The temporary main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Inside is housed this beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion is backed by this black Buddhist mural.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

A look around the temporary main hall.

Yep, the main hall is definitely under construction.

The stairs that lead up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The diminutive Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

The Chilseong mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

As well as this image of Dokseong.

The unique Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

And the view from the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Baekheungam Hermitage – 백흥암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The entry to Baekheungam Hermitage near Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Like Unbuam Hermitage, Baekheungam Hermitage is a hermitage directly associated with the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. And like almost all hermitages associated with Eunhaesa Temple, Baekheungam Hermitage is situated to the west of the main temple.

Baekheungam Hermitage was first established in the mid Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Originally, the hermitage directly belonged to Eunhaesa Temple. The shrine, which was to become Baekheungam Hermitage, was first constructed in 1546 to commemorate the spirit of King Injong (r. 1544-45). It was later in 1643 that the main hall, the Geukrak-jeon Hall, was constructed.

You first approach the temple up a long road. To the right, you’ll finally arrive at the hermitage and be greeted by a large Boje-ru Pavilion (much like the one at Unbuam Hermitage). Unlike Unbuam Hermitage, you can’t walk up the stairs at the centre of the pavilion to gain entrance to the hermitage courtyard. Instead, you’ll need to walk to the right through an entry that opens between the nuns’ living quarters and the right exterior wall of the Boje-ru Pavilion. Baekheungam Hermitage is very similar in its architectural layout as Unbuam Hermitage. Book-ending the main hall are a pair of living quarters for the nuns. And to the far left and right, outside the hermitage main courtyard, are the facilities for the nuns like the gardens and the kitchen.

Straight ahead is the main highlight to Baekheungam Hermitage: the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Unfortunately, this hall is off-limits to both visitors and photography except on Buddha’s birthday. I was, however, lucky enough to run into a nun that allowed me entry to this historic building. The Geukrak-jeon Hall is designated Korean Treasure #790. The exterior walls of the building are unpainted. However, once you step inside the main hall, you’ll instantly notice the amazing altar that stands in the middle of the historic hall. Sitting in the centre of the altar is a seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is then joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This altar is one of the best examples of Joseon artistry that you’ll find in Korea. The Buddhist altar also just so happens to be Korean Treasure #486. Have a close look at the intricate wood engravings on the five tiers of the altar.

Filling out the rest of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a haunting Gamno-do (The Sweet Dew Painting) on the far left wall. And this painting is joined on the far right wall by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), a guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to one of the Ten Kings of the Afterlife.

Depending on when you visit Baekheungam Hermitage, especially during the spring and summer months, the grounds are naturally graced with an assortment of beautiful flowers.

Admittance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and along the central road, towards Baekheungam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Baekheungam Hermitage is one of the most difficult hermitages to rate, because it’s so rare that you’ll find a main hall at a temple or hermitage off-limits to the public. With that said, if you’re lucky enough to enter the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage, the overall rating easily climbs to a six or seven out of ten with its amazing artistry all around the main hall like the main altar and the Gamno-do painting.

Some of the beautiful flowers in and around Baekheungam Hermitage.

A better look at the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The side entry to the hermitage courtyard.

An inside look at the Boje-ru Pavilion that first greeted you at the entry of the hermitage.

The entry to one of the nuns’ quarters at Baekheungam Hermitage.

The exterior of the amazing Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage.

And the view out towards the hermitage courtyard from the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

Unbuam Hermitage – 운부암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Unbuam Hermitage is one of several hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple. Both Eunhaesa Temple and Unbuam Hermitage are located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan (1,192m) in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

After arriving at Eunhaesa Temple, make your way past the temple grounds and head northwest. You’ll need to head in this direction for about 3.5 km. The hike is pretty flat the entire way. When you do finally arrive at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll notice two large artificial ponds out in front of the main hermitage grounds. While the one to the right is rather non-descript, the pond to the left has a towering stone statue of the Bodhidharma standing in the centre of the muddy water.

Between both of the ponds, you’ll find an unpainted Bulimun Gate (The Gate of Non-Duality). Up a set of uneven stone stairs, you’ll see the large Boje-ru Pavilion straight in front of you. This gate shields people from seeing directly into the hermitage courtyard. You’ll need to pass under the Boje-ru Pavilion, and up the set of stairs at its centre to finally gain entry to the main hermitage courtyard.

As you step into Unbuam Hermitage’s courtyard, you’ll find that the main hall is book-ended by two long buildings. The building to the left is the visitors’ centre and kitchen, while the long unpainted building to your right is the monks’ quarters. And standing all alone in the middle of the hermitage courtyard is a diminutive three story stone pagoda.

Past the smaller sized pagoda, you’ll see the rather stout Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with fading murals. If you look closely up at the eaves, you’ll notice some of the fading floral patterns that were once a bit more vibrant. As for the main hall itself, and seated all alone on the main altar in a glass enclosure, is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This highly ornate statue is Korean Treasure #514. If you look closely at this early Joseon Period (1392-1910) masterpiece, you’ll notice the flames, flowers and birds of paradise decorating the crown. This gilt bronze statue stands one metre in height. As for the rest of the main hall, you’ll find a guardian mural and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural hanging on the far right wall.

To the left rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall, you’ll find a brand new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This hall, which will become apparent soon, is highly original in a few ways. First, there are three rooms housed inside the Samseong-gak. But instead of being divided into rooms dedicated to various shaman deities like at Beomeosa Temple, this shaman shrine hall has rooms to the left and right dedicated to those that want to pray alone.

As for the central room inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll find three paintings housed inside it. Typically, the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting hangs in the centre of the triad of shaman paintings. But inside this hall, the Chilseong painting hangs on the left wall, while the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) painting hangs on the right wall. And taking centre stage inside the Samseong-gak is one of the most original Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) murals I have seen in all of Korea. Sitting front and centre is a seated image of Sanshin. And he’s joined by his companion, a tiger, to the left. But what sets this painting apart are the five painted images of monks in the mural. In the back row appear the images of Uisang-daesa (625-702) to the left and Wonhyo-daesa (617-686) to the right. As for the front row, and in the centre, appears Gyeongheo-seonsa (1849-1912). And he’s joined on either side by Seongcheol-seonsa (1912-1993) and Jinje-seonsa. The only guess that I have as to why they all appear in the Sanshin mural is that all five might have appeared alongside Sanshin to the head monk at Unbuam Hermitage in a dream.

And the reason why I think this might be true is that to the rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall and past the vegetable garden at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll find what looks to be an abandoned building over a bit of a ridge. Without any sign board indicating what might be housed inside, you’ll have to take a look for yourself. And when you do, you’ll find a beautiful modern painting of yet another Sanshin.

Entrance fee to Eunhaesa Temple, where Unbuam Hermitage is located, is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the north, towards Unbuam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. While not as large as the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple, Unbuam Hermitage is packed with originality. There’s both the Bodhidharma statue, the slender Bulimun Gate, and the Boje-ru Pavilion that first welcome you to the hermitage. But that’s just for starters, because housed inside the main hall is an amazing gilt bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that just so happens to be Korean Treasure #514. And last, but certainly not least, is the highly original Sanshin and monk mural housed inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach Unbuam Hermitage.

The entry to Unbuam Hermitage with the Bodhidharma off in the distance.

The pond with the Bodhidharma statue in the centre.

The Bulimun Gate that welcomes you to the main hermitage grounds.

A look through the Bulimun Gate towards the Boje-ru Pavilion.

A better look at the all-natural Boje-ru Pavilion.

The view as you first step inside the hermitage courtyard.

A look inside the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The compact entrance to one of the monks’ quarters.

The Bodhidharma guiding you towards the hermitage kitchen.

A look up at the Wontong-jeon Hall at Unbuam Hermitage.

A look through the front door of the Wontong-jeon Hall.

Korean Treasure #514, Gwanseeum-bosal.

The newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the hermitage.

One of the prayer rooms inside the Samseong-gak.

The amazing, and highly original, Sanshin mural at Unbuam Hermitage.

Who is joined by Dokseong to the right.

The tile work and fading floral patterns that adorn the Wontong-jeon main hall.

The seemingly abandoned Sanshin-gak to the rear of the hermitage grounds.

Housed inside is this beautiful second Sanshin mural at the hermitage.

One final look from the hermitage courtyard.

My New Fiction Book!!

Hello Again Everyone!!

I’m extremely to announce, once more, the publication of an all new book. This time, it’s my first attempt at fiction with The Lonely Saint.

In The Lonely Saint, and unbeknownst to Sean, his life has mirrored an ancient set of Zen Buddhist murals. Since graduating from university with an English degree and a suffocating amount of debt, Sean Masters decides that he wants to teach and travel abroad; however, his life seems to be anything but ordinary as he negotiates the culture and seamier sides of living and teaching in South Korea. It’s only through his loss of everything, including his wife to a horrible accident, that Sean is able to find peace in the most unlikely of places. In the end, it’s with the Zen Ox-Herding murals as a guide that Sean Masters is finally able to go from a life of ignorance to that of enlightenment.

You can order The Lonely Saint through Amazon.com either in hard copy or as an e-book.

You can order the hard copy here.

And you can order the e-book here.

If you’d like a signed copy for $20 dollars (plus shipping and handling) of my book, please contact me at: dostoevsky_21_81@yahoo.com   We can discuss the details.

Please support this free website by ordering your copy today!

-Dale

Daesansa Temple – 대산사 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The beautiful artwork dedicated to Yongwang at Daesansa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located in south-western Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, on the northern ridgeline of Mt. Cheonwangsan, sits Daesansa Temple. The temple is scenically located past the Daesan-ji lake and up a zigzagging mountain road that looks down on the valley below.

As you first enter the grassy temple courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ dorms and the visitors’ centre bookending the main hall at Daesansa Temple: the Wontong-jeon Hall. Out in front of the Wontong-jeon Hall is a one tier pagoda that’s seen better days. Lining the tiers and base of the pagoda are figurines that have been left behind by devotees. Painted around the exterior walls to this newly constructed main hall are beautiful, large Palsang-do murals depicting the eight stages from the Buddha’s life. Up near the eaves of the roof are smaller Shimu-do, Ox-herding murals, that are just as intricate and masterful as the Palsang-do set.

Stepping inside the Wontong-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a unique set of main altar statues. The largest one in the middle is dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And the golden capped statue to the left is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), while the one to the right is a statue dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Rounding out the artwork inside the Wontong-jeon Hall is an older mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal to the left of the main altar.

To the right rear of the main hall are a set of three shaman shrine halls. The first to the far left is the Sanshin-gak. The all-natural wooden exterior houses a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). Sanshin is joined in the painting by a dour looking tiger. To the right of the Sanshin-gak is the Chilseong/Dokseong-gak. Inside this shaman shrine hall, which has an all-natural wooden exterior, as well, are a pair of shaman murals. The first to the left is an older mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and to the right hangs a beautifully vibrant mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

The final shaman shrine housed at Daesansa Temple is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The Yongwang-dang lies down a set of stone stairs. The white screened shrine houses one of the most amazing paintings dedicated to Yongwang that I’ve ever seen in Korea. This masterful painting is a new addition to the temple, and the former red wooden tablet that used to be housed inside the Yongwang-dang now rests out in front of it.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus #1 and get off at the bus stop named “Nokmyeong 2 ri” after seven stops (or 17 minutes). And from this stop, then take the town bus named “Punggak Sunhwan” (풍락 순환 버스). And after six stops, or 19 minutes, get off at the “Oksan 2 ri” bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk for about 30 minutes, or 2.1 km, to get to the temple. Follow the signs as you make the climb towards Daesansa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The main highlights to this temple are the amazing shaman artwork at Daesansa Temple. While there, have an especially close look at all four major pieces of artwork. Also of note are the statues resting on the main altar inside the Wontong-jeon Hall and the one tier pagoda out in front of the main hall.

The view from Daesansa Temple.

The Wontong-jeon main hall at Daesansa Temple.

The one tier pagoda out in front of the Wontong-jeon Hall.

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

As well as this intricate Palsang-do mural.

Inside the Wontong-jeon Hall during morning prayer.

The view towards the shaman shrine halls behind the main hall at Daesansa Temple.

The Sanshin-gak at Daesansa Temple.

The dour looking tiger and Sanshin together.

The Chilseong/Dokseong-gak at the temple.

The older mural dedicated to Chilseong.

And the vibrant Dokseong mural housed inside the Chilseong/Dokseong-gak.

The Yongwang shrine.

The amazing Yongwang mural housed inside the Yongwang-dang.

And one final look up at the Wontong-jeon main hall at Daesansa Temple.

Daejeoksa Temple – 대적사 (Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Looking through the main gate at the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Daejeoksa Temple in Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Daejeoksa Temple is located in northern Cheongdo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, nearly halfway towards the neighbouring city of Gyeongsan. Daejeoksa Temple was first constructed in 876 A.D. by the monk Bojo (804-880), and I’m guessing this isn’t to be confused with the more famous Bojo-guksa (1158-1210). But this temple was later abandoned only to be reconstructed by the monk Boyang during the early part of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). But even after reconstruction, the temple was reconstructed once more in 1689 by the monk Seonghae. And throughout the years, Daejeoksa Temple has gone through several renovations and repairs like in 1690, 1754, 1939, and more recently in the 1970s to the present.

You first approach Daejeoksa Temple to the left of the famed Cheongo Wine Tunnel. On the very road that leads up to the temple, there is an outlying stupa for the monk Pungam, which was erected in 1752.

To the left of this stupa, and up a sidewinding side street, is Daejeoksa Temple. Up a set of wide stone stairs, you’ll come to the temple entry gate with a pair of intimidating guardians on both of the entry doors. Stepping through the gate, you’ll enter into the temple courtyard with the monks’ dorms to your right and the historic Geukrak-jeon Hall straight ahead. This shrine hall, which also acts as the temple’s main hall, is Korean Treasure #836. The Geukrak-jeon Hall dates back to the repairs made at the temple in 1754.

Approaching the Geukrak-jeon Hall, you’ll first notice the foundation stones that the hall rests on. Some of these stones are carved with lotus blossoms, turtles, and crabs. As for the stairs that lead up to the shrine hall, they are similar to the ones at the Daeung-jeon Hall at Beomeosa Temple in Busan. These stairs are even older than the shrine hall itself; the stone stairs date back to 1676.

Stepping inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues on the main altar. Sitting in the centre inside the smaller sized shrine hall rests Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). A painting of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) hangs to the right of the main altar. And all around the interior of the Geukrak-jeon Hall are paintings of Taoist Immortals (Shinseon), Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha), and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). A look up towards the ancient ceiling is worth a gander with its dragons and floral murals.

To the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is the temple’s Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior to the hall’s walls are largely unpainted all except for the traditional dancheong colours. Stepping inside this hall, you’ll notice a green-haired statue of Jijang-bosal. And this statue is backed by a Jijang-bosal motif relief of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife. Out in front of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are three memorial tablets for deceased monks that once called Daejeoksa Temple their home.

The final shrine hall visitors can explore at Daejeoksa Temple is the Sanshin-gak shaman shrine hall to the rear of both the Geukrak-jeon Hall and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The Sanshin-gak Hall was built in the mid-1990s. The exterior to this hall is unadorned, and when you step inside, the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural is rather non-descript. However, of interest inside this hall is the six-pack of soju to the bottom right of the mural, as well as the Pororo mat that you stand on while praying to the Mountain Spirit.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take Bus #7 and get off at the fifth stop, which is the “Songgeumri” bus stop. This bus ride should last about 25 minutes. From this bus stop, you’ll need to walk about ten minutes, or 700 metres to get to the temple. The temple lies to the left of the Cheongdo Wine Tunnel.

You can take a bus or simply take a taxi from the Cheongdo Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take 16 minutes and cost about 14,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. By far, the main highlight to Daejeoksa Temple is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. It’s a rather obvious choice when a temple has a Treasure associated with it; and for Daejeoksa Temple, it’s the main hall. With its beautiful masonry that makes up the foundational stones, as well as the beautiful paintings housed inside the main hall, you can take the better part of a day just exploring the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

The road that leads up to Daejeoksa Temple.

The stupa dedicated to Pungam from 1752.

The entrance and main gate at Daejeoksa Temple.

One of the guardians that adorns the main gate’s doors.

The historic Geukrak-jeon Hall at Daejeoksa Temple.

The beautiful stairs that lead up to the Geukrak-jeon Hall and date back to 1676.

One of the stone carvings at the base of the Geukrak-jeon Hall. This one is a turtle design.

As well as one of the highly unique dragon heads that’s placed near the entrance of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

The triad of statues that rest on the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall with a mural of Chilseong to the right.

A look up at the ceiling inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

One of the Biseon (Flying Angels) that’s painted on one of the interior walls to the historic main hall.

As well as this Bodhidharma-like motif of the Shinseon.

The Myeongbu-jeon Hall to the left of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

Out in front of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

Inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

A beautiful blue sky to the rear of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

The Sanshin-gak to the rear of the Geukrak-jeon Hall and Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

The Pororo mat that you step onto inside the Sanshin-gak.

And the Sanshin mural inside the Sanshin-gak. Notice the six-pack of soju to the bottom right.

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.