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.

The Story of…Cheontaesa Temple

Picture 235

The view from the mouth of the waterfall at Cheontaesa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

So often, you’ll go to a temple and it’s packed with people like at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju or Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. For some people, like me, this takes a little bit away from the zen-like feeling I kind of expect at a Korean Buddhist temple. However, expectations aren’t always met by reality.

Fortunately, there are temples and hermitages outside the sphere of touristy trappings in Korea. There are more of these less frequented temples than I can even count with numerous halls and unique features to both enjoy and experience.

Picture 219

The beautiful grounds at Cheontaesa Temple

For me, the closest zen-like feeling, or seon-like feeling if you’re Korean, that I’ve experienced at a Korean temple was at Cheontaesa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. Bored one day, I decided to visit an out of the way temple that’s at a bend in the road. Seldom visited, least of all by expats, I was able to enjoy the temple primarily to myself.

There are numerous halls, paintings, and shrines to be enjoyed at Cheontaesa Temple like the large sized Dokseong-gak Hall, the well populated Cheonbul-jeon Hall, and the unique shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Also, there is a massive relief dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) that must stand well over ten metres in height. This relief is joined by a neighbouring stream that runs up against a Buddhist cemetery.

But the real highlight, and where I had my “moment,” is at Yongnyeon Falls. The falls flow about a fifteen to twenty minute hike up a valley. This hike is a bit treacherous at times; in fact, you’ll need to repel up a few boulders using a thick rope to get there. But when you do finally get to the falls, and climb all the way up the brown staircase, you’ll be standing right next to the mouth of the falls.

Picture 241

The boulders you’ll have to climb to get to the falls.

Amazingly, you can climb down a precarious set of rocks to stand right next to where the water goes over the falls and takes the twenty metre plunge. There’s a rock bed at the top of the falls, where you can take a bit of a breather. It’s also from these heights that you get an amazing view of the valley down below, where Cheontaesa Temple rests, as well as the jagged surrounding cliffs from Mt. Cheontaesan. Everything is simply perfect from this vantage point. And it’s from here, while simply enjoying the view, that I had my zen-like moment. It’s really hard to even describe, and I think words would cheapen the experience. It was really something amazing and indescribable to feel.

Picture 243

The somewhat dehydrated Yongnyeon Falls, where I had my zen-like moment.

Suffice it to say, it was a pretty unique moment I had at the mouth of the waterfall, looking down from its heights, as the water poured out into the valley below. I’ve had a few other moments like these, but certainly nothing quite as strong as my experience at Cheontaesa Temple.

For more on Cheontaesa Temple.