Mahasa Temple – 마하사 (Yeonje-gu, Busan)


 The rain falls at Mahasa Temple in Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Mahasa Temple, which is located near Dongnae Subway Station, is virtually unknown in the expat community even though it’s in the heart of Busan. It’s tucked away on the valley folds of Mt. Hwangnyeongsan.

You first approach Mahasa Temple up a twisting and turning road that runs through a gauntlet of old houses until it suddenly opens up and you’re within close proximity to Mt. Hwangnyeongsan. The road suddenly ends in a dead-end, and you’ll be greeted by a sometimes waterless waterfall. The temple sign, which reads “마하사,” will point you right and up a set of wooden stairs towards Mahasa Temple.

Finally, having mounted the stairs, you can look back through the lush forest and enjoy views of both Mt. Hwangnyeongsan and Busan. To your right is a dual purpose Cheonwangmun Gate and bell pavilion. A statue of a childlike dharma keeps the first floor Cheonwangmun Gate company. The gate is beautifully painted with guardians around its exterior, and there are four blue paintings of the Heavenly Kings inside the gate.

Having passed through the gate, you’ll be welcomed by a rather ugly row of buildings. The only saving grace are the beautiful paintings of the Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha), as well as a painting of the main hall. It isn’t until you pass through the entrance, and under one of the temple buildings, that you emerge on the other side and in the beautiful temple courtyard.

The courtyard is lined with office buildings that frame the temple courtyard. Slightly to the left is the Daeung-jeon (main hall) and the Nahan-jeon. The exterior walls of the main hall are adorned with some nice Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. Also, on each of the buildings corners, and up near the eaves, are uniquely carved wooden elephants. The building walls of the main hall run up against the rock walls of Mt. Hwangnyeongsan. It makes for some great pictures. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, are a triad of statues. Sitting in the centre is 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 Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This triad is backed by a beautiful golden relief and two pillars that are wrapped in dragons. Also, it’s fronted by three statues of the same Buddha and Bodhisattvas, but just a little older in age than the larger ones. Additionally, the triad is joined by a countless amount of smaller sized statues of the Buddha. To the left is a golden guardian relief, and to the right is an equally beautiful golden relief of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

To the left of the main hall is the Nahan-jeon. The exterior walls have paintings of the Nahan all around them. As for the interior, and sitting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on the main altar by sixteen white statues of the Nahan, as well as a set of paintings illustrating the Disciples of the Historical Buddha.

The only other building at Mahasa Temple that you can explore, and up a large incline of stairs, is the Samseong-gak; however, before climbing the stairs to the Samseong-gak, you can have a look at the five-tier stone pagoda that rests upon a slotted wooden base. As for the Samseong-gak itself, you can enjoy a great view of both the temple grounds and the surrounding mountains from its heights. As for the building, the exterior is adorned with Shinseon. Sitting inside the Samseong-gak are three paintings. They are all beautifully executed, while the Dokseong (The Recluse) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) paintings looking strikingly similar to the ones found at Botaam Hermitage, near Tongdosa Temple.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Mahasa Temple, you’ll need to first get to Mulmangol (물만골) Subway Station, stop # 304, on the third line. From there, you can take a taxi for about 3,000 won over a 1.6 kilometre distance. You can take a taxi or you can simply walk the distance with a map.

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OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Mahasa Temple is beautifully situated, which is in sharp contrast to hustle and bustle of nearby Busan. The interior to the main hall, as well as the crowning Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, are two definite highlights to this temple. So if you’re in the area, have a look at the little traveled Mahasa Temple near Dongnae.


 The sign that leads you towards Mahasa Temple.


 The foliage you’ll have to look through to see Mt. Hwangnyeongsan


 A very unique statue to the left of the Cheonwangmun Gate.


 A look at the Cheonwangmun Gate/ bell pavilion at Mahasa Temple.


 Two of the Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


 As you pass through the gate and enter the temple grounds.


 To get to the inner temple courtyard, you’ll have to first pass through this painted entrance way.


 But first, a look back at the beautiful surroundings.


 The first look you get as you enter the temple courtyard. To the left is the main hall and to the right is the elevated Samseong-gak.


 Surrounding the main hall are ten of the Shimu-do murals.


 Almost as close to the main hall is the mountain that surrounds it.


 A look inside the main hall as the monk conducts the morning service.


 A better look at the triad of statues, times two, on the main altar.


 A look from the main hall up towards the Samseong-gak.


 A look at both the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall and the five-tier stone pagoda below it.


 A better look at the pagoda and the slotted wooden base beneath it.


 The long stairs up to the shaman shrine hall.


 Inside is this painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).


 The view from the Samseong-gak out onto the stone lantern and the surrounding mountains.


 It was raining when we visited, so the fog rolling off the mountains was really quite something.


 A look across the front of the main hall towards the Nahan-jeon.


 A good look at the Nahan-jeon.


A look inside the Nahan-jeon as a monk from Mahasa Temple conducts the morning service.


 The beautiful tiles that rest on top of one of the administrative buildings at Mahasa Temple.