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Mandeoksa-ji Temple Site is the most famous historic temple in the area. The temple grounds still house a smaller size temple, but it pales in comparison to the former temple that once took up residence on the same grounds. It is not clear when the temple was first constructed, however, there have been numerous excavations done on the site including in 1971, 1990, 1996, and 2001. It’s believed from the artifacts found at the temple site that the temple used to be called Gibisa Temple. Additionally, there were twelve pieces of grayish-blue earthen ware found at the site, too, that dates back to the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C – 935 A.D.). Also, the foundation stones to the main hall that were found at the temple site are four times larger than those at Beomeosa Temple. Adding to the importance of this temple, there were large Chiwei (roof tiles) similar in size and design to those found at Hwangnyongsa-ji Temple Site and Girimsa-ji Temple Site in Gyeongju. Based on this, it’s believed that the temple was a national Buddhist temple. Lastly, it’s believed that the temple was burned down to the ground sometime during the Imjin War (1592-98).
Mandeoksa-ji Temple Site, in Busan, is located on the southern slopes of Mt. Geumjeongsan (801m) and just south of the famed, and remote, Seokbulsa Temple. You approach Mandeoksa-ji Temple Site up a narrow road just north of the entry to Mandeok Tunnel. The temple also lies just west of the Sagi River and a collection of urban farms. There are some nice trails in and around the temple grounds.
The first thing to greet you, rather surprisingly, is a long, yellow building with a Korean flag stretched around one of its walls. Climbing the uneven set of stairs, you’ll pass through the Iljumun Gate at Mandeoksa-ji Temple Site. To your left, you’ll see a field of grass with a pair of tiny three tier pagodas in its centre. This field is then backed by a rectangular pond with a smaller sized statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal in its midst.
To your right is an entry to the yellow building that you first saw from outside the temple grounds. This is a contemporary, and almost appears to be, temporary main hall at Mandeoksa-ji temple Site. As you enter the main hall, you’ll first notice a black haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Next to this statue and painting on the far left wall is a painting and mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). On the main altar sit a triad of statues. In the centre rests Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). And joining this statue on either side are Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And on the far right side of the main hall is multi-armed and headed statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
Past the main hall and the cul-de-sac that houses the temple’s kitchen and visitor’s centre, and past a tree and a few cairns that house a collection of smaller sized Buddhist statues, you’ll find a much larger statue dedicated to Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). This statue is book-ended on both sides by two stone lanterns. And behind this statue sit thirty-three smaller statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways to get to Mandeoksa-ji Temple Site. In both cases, you’ll first need to get to Mandeok Subway Station, line 3, subway stop #310. From there, go out exit #2. Head towards the east just north of Mandeok tunnel. There are numerous signs along the way that guide you towards the temple site. In total, it’ll take about 15 minutes to walk. You can either walk or simply take a taxi. The taxi ride should last about three minutes and cost you 3,300 won.
OVERALL RATING: 3/10. While historically significant, there’s very little that still remains from this temple’s glorious past. With that said, the grounds are well taken care of and the artwork in and around the temple is beautiful, too.