Jeongtosa Temple – 정토사 (Nam-gu, Ulsan)

The Daeung-jeon Hall and temple pagoda at Jeongtosa Temple in Ulsan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located south of the Taehwa River that bisects the city of Ulsan, and just south of a very large cemetery called Ulsan Gongwon Myowon, is the beautiful Jeongtosa Temple. This temple is undergoing pretty extensive construction and renovation.

As you first approach Jeongtosa Temple, you’ll notice an upright stone marker that says the temple name on it: 정토사. Making your way towards the temple buildings, and up a slight incline, you’ll notice stone statues dedicated to a dongja (assistant) and Podae-hwasang with a well-worn belly that’s been rubbed for good luck. Book-ending buildings guide your way up towards the main hall on the upper terrace. These buildings are the monks’ dorms, the visitor centre, and the temple’s kitchen.

A little to the left and then back to the right up another concrete incline, you’ll be standing squarely in the temple’s main temple courtyard. Straight ahead is the Daeung-jeon Hall. This large main hall is adorned by various Buddhist motif paintings around the exterior walls like an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) riding a white elephant. As for inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad of statues seated on the main altar. Seated in the centre is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined to the left by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and to the right is Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). On the far left wall is a painting of the Dragon Ship of Wisdom ferrying people across samsara, as well as the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). And to the right of the triad of statues resting on the main altar is a multi-armed mural and statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

Out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and reminiscent of the famed pagoda at Hwaeomsa Temple, is a four lion based, three tier, stone pagoda. Housed inside are the purported sari of the Buddha. And to the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Housed inside this shrine hall is a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) seated on the main altar. And this statue is joined on both sides by the Ten Kings of the Underworld.

To the left of both the main hall and the beautiful stone pagoda is a large stone statue and shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the right of this statue is the highly unique concrete pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. On the top level there are such Buddhas as Seokgamoni-bul and Amita-bul, while the five statues on the bottom represent such figures as Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy), Yaksayore-bul, and Gwanseeum-bosal. I have never personally seen a shrine like this before in Korea.

To the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and up another embankment, is the newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. In fact, the shrine hall is so new that it has yet to be painted with the traditional dancheong colours. As for the murals housed inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll find rather traditional paintings of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) in the centre of the three paintings, while Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) hang to both the right and left of the central mural.

To the far, far right, and housed on an overlooking terrace, is a stone semi-circular shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul. This large stone statue is surrounded on all sides by his sixteen disciples, as well as the Cheonwang (Heavenly Kings). And to the rear of this shrine will be the Geukrak-jeon Hall; however, it’s currently being built. And it’s also from this height that you can look down on the temple grounds and see the large temple murals that adorn the temple buildings like the three piece, twelve mural set, dedicated to the history of Buddhism and Buddhism in Korea.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Ulsan Intercity Bus Terminal in Nam-gu, you can take a taxi. The ride should last about 20 minutes and cost 8,000 won. You can do that or take a bus from just north of the terminal around the KEB bank. You’ll need to head north for about 500 metres. You can then take bus # 401, 307, 124, 417, 482, 712, 134, 432, or 733. The bus ride should take about 20 to 25 minutes. The name of the final bus stop, in Korean, is “공원묘지입구.” And from this bus stop, you’ll need to head north for about 5 minutes (just follow the signs).

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. I was very pleasantly surprised while visiting Jeongtosa Temple. There are a lot of halls, shrines, a beautiful pagoda, and murals to enjoy in and around the temple grounds. The highlights at this temple are the pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the semi-circular shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul, and the lion-based pagoda out in front of the main hall. But there is definitely a lot to see and enjoy at this lesser known temple near downtown Ulsan.

The entry to Jeongtosa Temple.

The entry as you make your way to the main hall.

The beautiful four lion based, three tier, pagoda reminiscent of the one at Hwaeomsa Temple.

The large Daeung-jeon main hall at Jeongtosa Temple.

One of the murals that adorns its exterior walls. This one is dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

The entry between the Myeongbu-jeon Hall and the Daeung-jeon Hall.

One of the three panels that describes the history of Buddhism, as well as its place in Korean culture.

The second panel

And the third.

The stone statue dedicated to Gwaneeum-bosal.

The pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to the left of the main hall.

A closer look at the statues housed inside the shrine.

The newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A look inside at the unpainted interior. The two paintings here are dedicated to Chilseong to the left and Sanshin to the right.

A stone statue of Sanshin out in front of the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

The beautiful stone shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul and the Nahan.

A closer look at the disciples of the Buddha.

The amazing view from where the Geukrak-jeon Hall will be housed.

And the temple’s bell pavilion at Jeongtosa Temple.

Seongamsa Temple – 성암사 (Nam-gu, Busan)

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The fall colours at Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On the southern slopes of Mt. Hwangryeongsan in Nam-gu, Busan lies Seongamsa Temple. Through some twists and turns in the road and down some back alleys, you’ll come to this well-hidden temple.

You’ll know you’re close when you come to the end of the narrow road and there’s a parking lot. Up a slight bend in an adjoining road, it’ll lead you towards Seongamsa Temple. As you enter the temple courtyard, you’ll notice that it’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful, mature trees that are especially colourful during the autumn months.

The first building, rather uniquely, to greet you at the temple as you approach from the side is the Daeung-jeon main hall. The rather boxy main hall disguises the elaborate interior. As you first enter the main hall, you’re greeted by a set of Gwaneeum-bosal murals. The main hall, while narrow, runs rather deep with a wide main altar. Sitting in the centre of a triad of statues is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). And all three are surrounded by miniature statues of the Buddha. To the far right sits Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha); while to the far left sits a golden capped Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) who is surrounded by tiny, white statues of himself. And on the far right wall hangs one of the larger guardian murals I have yet to see at a Korean temple.

Past the temple’s bell pavilion, and just beyond the narrow seven-tier stone pagoda, sits the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are a set of beautiful shaman murals. While the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) murals are rather typical in their design, it’s the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural that really stands out. Dressed in a yellow robe with a brown headdress, the Seongamsa Temple Sanshin really makes an impression.

A little hidden, but not impossible to find to the right of the Samseong-gak, you’ll see a brick wall with an opening in the centre of it. This is the Yongwang-dang. With wall-to-wall lights, ornamental stone flooring, and a radiant Yongwang mural, this Yongwang-dang is different from most others that I’ve seen in Korea. Of course, it’s the intricate mural dedicated to the Dragon King that truly stands out with three swirling dragons and a majestically seated Yongwang in the centre of it all. Have a look and get your fill, because this Yongwang mural is one of the best of its kind.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Munjeon Subway stop, line #2, stop #217 , you can board a taxi after exiting out exit #2 or #4. The ride should last about ten minutes, and it should cost you about 4,000 won. Either that, or you can simply walk the distance towards the temple. Head east towards Munhyeon Elementary School and the Munhyeon Girls High School. To head in this direction, go out exit #2. When you arrive at the schools, you should continue towards Hyeondae apartment. It’s just behind these apartments that you’ll find Seongamsa Temple. The walk should take you just under 30 minutes to cover the two kilometre stretch.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. It’s the shaman murals of Yongwang and Sanshin that really stand out about this temple; however, with that said, the autumnal hues and the elaborate main hall are something to have a look at, as well, when you visit Seongamsa Temple in Nam-gu, Busan. While little visited by foreigners, it’s well worth the effort to go and see, especially if you’re in the area.

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The view from the temple.

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A look up towards Mt. Hwangryeongsan.

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As you first enter the temple grounds.

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The temple’s main hall.

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Inside the main hall with a look at the main altar.

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A look to the right reveals Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

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Keeping Yaksayore-bul company is this massive guardian mural.

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While to the left is this golden Jijang-bosal statue.

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Lining the interior of the main hall are several murals dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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A look towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Inside reveals this amazing Sanshin mural.

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The Yongwang-dang entrance.

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Inside is this beautiful mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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Finally, it was time to go.