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.

Seongheungsa Temple – 성흥사 (Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The beautiful bell tower at Seongheungsa Temple in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongheungsa Temple is located in southeastern Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. It’s scenically located in a valley with a stream that flows the length of it. And beautifully framing Seongheungsa Temple to the north is the towering Mt. Gulamsan, which stands 663.1 metres in height.

You first approach the temple down the long valley with the tranquil stream to your left. Eventually you arrive on the grounds at the terraced temple parking lot. A little further up the paved pathway that leads towards the main temple grounds, you’ll notice a large seven tier stone pagoda to your right. Lined with pink flowers around its base, and fronted by two stone lanterns, the pagoda is well protected on all four corners by stone guardians.

Just a little further up the path, you’ll see that the temple grounds are beautifully backed by the towering mountains to the north. To gain access to the temple grounds, you’ll pass through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this temple gate are four statues dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Each appears to be older in age.

Finally standing in the lower temple courtyard, you’ll notice the visitors’ centre to your left and the monks’ dorms to your right. These two buildings are the only buildings at the temple that are unadorned at Seongheungsa Temple.

Up a small flight of stairs, you’ll see the main hall straight ahead of you. Populating the well-manicured main courtyard is an older tree to your left with colourful paper lanterns hanging from its limbs, as well as the two storied bell pavilion to your right. On the first floor of the bell pavilion is a large bronze bell, while the second floor houses a large drum.

Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon main hall, you’ll notice a large guardian mural on the far left wall. And on the far right wall is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). As for the main altar, you’ll see a triad of seated statues. In the centre rests Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Strength and Wisdom for Amita-bul). The exterior walls to the main hall are only adorned with the traditional dancheong colours, and the Daeung-jeon Hall dates back to the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Stepping inside the Nahan-jeon Hall, you’ll notice a triad of statues seated on the main altar. In the centre of the three sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). The triad is then joined by two levels of Nahan statues. Seated on the ground, and much larger in size, are the sixteen disciples of the Buddha, while in the upper levels are smaller statues of additional Nahan statues.

And to the right of the main hall rest`s the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The exterior walls to this hall are beautifully adorned with the most popular shaman deities, as well as a realistic depiction of a tiger on the left rear exterior wall. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll first be greeted by a painting and statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). The next pair of a painting and a statue are dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), while in the centre of the main altar hangs an elaborate mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stairs). The final pairing is dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). While the painting is rather bland, the realistic features of the statue are something to keep an eye out for.

HOW TO GET THERE: The only real viable option to get to Seongheungsa Temple is by car. So a taxi from the Changwon Intercity Bus Terminal to Seongheungsa Temple takes around 40 minutes, and it’ll cost 28,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. While not a huge temple, Seongheungsa Temple has a lot of features to draw a visitor in like the large seven story stone pagoda at the entrance of the temple, as well as the dozens of Nahan statues and the paintings adorning the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach the temple grounds with Mt. Gulamsan in the background.

The large seven tier stone pagoda at Seongheungsa Temple.

A closer look at the beautiful pagoda.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at the temple.

A look through the Cheonwangmun Gate towards the main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

One of the four Heavenly Kings inside the gate.

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Seongheungsa Temple.

Some decorative paper lanterns hanging from a temple tree.

A monk performing the morning ritual inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon Hall.

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

The view from behind the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) seated in the centre.

The rows of Nahan statues inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the right of the main hall.

The Sanshin mural that adorns one of the exterior walls to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The statue of Yongwang that fronts the painting of the Dragon King.

The statue and painting of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

And the view from the Samseong-gak shrine hall out towards the temple’s bell pavilion.

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.

Bongseosa Temple – 봉서사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The view from next to the main hall at Bongseosa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Like so many temples in the Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do area, Bongseosa Temple is located in and around the Mt. Muhaksan area. Specifically, Bongseosa Temple is located to the east of Seohaksa Temple and on the eastern slopes of the mountain near a cluster of older apartments.

On the last road before the mountain begins, you’ll find a long set of stairs that leads up to the Bongseosa Temple grounds. Passing through the beautiful Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate combination, you’ll notice four paintings of the Four Heavenly Kings next to each of the gate’s pillars. To the left where the trail takes you, you’ll find a stone statue of a child-like Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom).

Just beyond the Munsu-bosal statue is the main temple courtyard. To the right are the monks’ facilities like the kitchen and to the left are the monks’ dorms. Between both of these sets of buildings is Bongseosa Temple’s main hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set and the Palsang-do mural set, as well.

Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll notice a glassed off interior that houses the triad of statues on the main altar. In the centre sits 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). All three are beautiful in their complex designs. To the right of the main altar is a newly painted guardian mural and to the left are judgment murals for the afterlife.

To the right of the main hall, and almost fully encompassed by the temple’s facilities, is the temple’s large bronze bell. And out in front of the main hall is a stately five tier stone pagoda with ornate stone lanterns on either side.

To the rear of the main hall, rather strangely housed in a sheet metal looking shed, is the slender Yongwang-dang. Housed inside this peculiar shaman shrine hall is an older looking mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the left of this painting is an Indian wooden relief of the various stages from the Buddha’s life.

The final shrine hall that visitors can explore at Bongseosa Temple is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three wooden reliefs dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korea: Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Bongseosa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk north for about a kilometre and then head towards the mountain to your left. There will be signs along the way to guide you.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. The main highlights to Bongseosa Temple are the main hall altar pieces, as well as the older Yongwang painting to the rear of the main hall. Other highlights are the temple’s bronze bell as well as the temple’s stone pagoda.

The Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate at Bongseosa Temple.

One of the Four Heavenly Kings housed inside the Iljumun/Cheonwangmun Gate.

The child-like statue of Munsu-bosal.

The main hall at Bongseosa Temple.

One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the main hall.

As well as the last painting of the Palsang-do murals.

A look inside the main hall at Bongseosa Temple.

This Judgment mural is painted on the wall to the left of the main altar.

The view from the main hall out towards the temple’s stone pagoda and row upon row of apartments in Masan.

The large bronze bell at Bongseosa Temple.

The older Yongwang mural to the rear of the main hall.

It’s joined by this panel from the wooden relief of the Buddha’s life.

As well as this one.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The wooden relief of Dokseong housed inside the Samseong-gak.

As well as this Sanshin relief.

And the view from the Samseong-gak.

Seohaksa Temple – 서학사 (Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The view from Seohaksa Temple in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seohaksa Temple is located on the eastern side of Mt. Muhaksan (761.4 m) in Masan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And the view out towards the Masan harbor, especially in the early morning, is stunning.

Up a steep incline, and a paved road, you’ll find Seohaksa Temple on a 250 metre plateau on the mountain range. The first thing to greet you to the right of the temple grounds are the monks’ dorms and temple facilities. It’s past this cluster of buildings that you’ll finally enter the main temple courtyard at Seohaksa Temple.

Standing in the middle of the temple courtyard are a pair of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statues. The one to the left is a taller more refined image of the Bodhisattva, while the one to the right is a little less polished. And both statues are backed by a wall of mountain rocks.

To the right of the main hall is an all brick shrine hall. I haven’t seen too many of these around Korea. Housed inside this hall is a contemplative statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

To the left of the courtyard statues is the temple’s main hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall that looks out towards Masan harbor are a pair of mural sets. On the bottom are the ten Ox-Herding murals. And on top of these murals are eight standard paintings of the Palsang-do set. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll see a triad of statues resting on the main hall. In the centre sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). And he’s joined to the right by Gwanseeum-bosal and to the left by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues have a fiery golden nimbus surrounding their heads. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural and a rather plain Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. And to the left are two older murals. The first is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King); but it’s the older, more curmudgeonly image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that you’ll need to keep an eye out for.

To the rear of the main hall, and up a very steep set of stairs, you’ll find the extremely compact Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this hall is a rather plain looking image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). But it’s from this shaman shrine hall that you get the best views of the valley and harbor down below.

Rather strangely, and to the left of the actual temple grounds, is another Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. You’ll need to exit the temple grounds and climb your way up a set of uneven stairs that run alongside the main temple grounds, to get to this shaman shrine hall. It’s strange because this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is on the other side of the walls for Seohaksa Temple. I’m not sure if this is a Samseong-gak for Mt. Muhaksan or whether a monk is making a statement at Seohaksa Temple; but either way, it’s a first for me. Housed inside the Samseong-gak is a plain image of Dokseong. There’s  also an older image of Chilseong, but it’s the Sanshin mural reminiscent of Water Moon Gwaneum Painting that should captor your eye with its deep implicit meaning.

And it’s just above this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, and up another set of uneven stairs, that you’ll find one last shrine hall at Seohaksa Temple. This time, it’s a compact Yongwang-dang dedicated to the Dragon King. This time, there’s a stone image and a painting dedicated to Yongwang.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Masan Intercity Bus Terminal, there are several buses that go to where Seohaksa Temple is located. One of these buses is Bus #707. After eight stops, or sixteen minutes, you’ll need to get off at the “Seowongok Ipgu” stop. From the stop, walk about twenty to twenty-five minutes to Seohaksa Temple. There are several signs that lead you in the direction of the temple so just follow them along the way. But be prepared for a bit of a hike at the end.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. It’s the views at Seohaksa Temple that gives it such a high rating. The views are pretty special. Adding to the temple’s natural beauty is all the shaman iconography spread throughout the temple grounds, as well as the main hall’s statues that rest on the altar. While a bit of a climb to get to, this temple is worth the effort.

The sign out in front of the temple bathroom leading you towards the temple grounds at Seohaksa Temple.

The monks’ dorms and temple facilities.

The shrine hall that houses Mireuk-bul.

A look inside at the Future Buddha.

The pair of statues of Gwanseeum-bosal in the temple courtyard with the Sanshin-gak perched above them.

A look at the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.

One of the Palsang-do murals.

As well as one of the Ox-Herding murals.

The guardian mural housed inside the main hall.

Joined by this Chilseong mural to the right of the main altar.

The beautiful view even from inside the main hall at Seohaksa Temple.

The main altar statues with their decorative fiery nimbus’ surrounding each of their heads.

The Yongwang mural to the left of the main altar.

Joined by this angry looking Dokseong mural.

The Sanshin-gak to the rear of the main hall.

The plastic covered painting dedicated to Sanshin.

The amazing view from the Sanshin-gak at Seohaksa Temple.

The sun peaking in under the roof of the main hall.

The temple’s slender pagoda and the wall that separates the temple grounds from the outlying Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The aforementioned Samseong-gak.

Which houses this older image of Chilseong.

The Sanshin mural that’s reminiscent of the Water Moon Gwaneum Painting.

To the rear of the Samseong-gak is a Yongwang-dang that houses both images of the Dragon King.