Geumwangsa Temple – 금왕사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The view that this Vajra Warrior gets to enjoy at Geumwangsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumwangsa Temple, which is located south of the city centre of Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do, is ten to fifteen years old and definitely has that new feel to it. While largely overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, Boriam Hermitage, Geumwangsa Temple has some pretty spectacular views of its own.

Part of the Geumsan mountain range, Geumwangsa Temple is precariously perched on the edge of one of the mountain’s ridges. The ascent up towards the temple grounds is rather steep at times; but when you finally do arrive, you’ll be welcomed by the fan like folds of the mountain where Geumwangsa Temple is located.

After climbing a steep set of stairs, you’ll finally be looking at the temple’s main hall, which also acts as the visitors’ centre and temple kitchen. The main hall at the temple is a Geukrak-jeon. Sitting all alone on the main altar is a granite statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To his left, and resting on the wall, is a large black guardian mural.

Just before you start to climb another set of stairs, which Geumwangsa Temple has a lot of, you’ll notice an artificial cave to your right. Inside this dwelling rests a solitary statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the cave’s right is the diminutive temple bell pavilion.

Up the set of stairs to the right of the Gwaneum-jeon cave, you’ll climb to another plateau where a triad of statues rest overlooking the harbor down below. This triad is comprised of Amita-bul in the centre. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the right of these statues is a natural cave that acts as the temple’s Yongwang-dang. Just outside the low-lying cave entry is a fierce statue dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) above. As for inside this cave, and resting in a glass display case, while resting in a pool of mountain water, is yet another statue dedicated to Yongwang.

As you climb yet another flight of stairs, you’ll pass by numerous Nahan (The Buddha’s Historical Disciples) that rest in and among the mountain shelves and crevices. Like you, they’re enjoying the view of the mountains and the harbor down below. The Nahan are joined by a playful collection of Dongja (attendants), as well.

Once you’ve finally summited the stairs, you’ll be welcomed by a solitary statue standing in the clearing. This statue is dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). All around you, you’ll now notice all the irregular rock formations that make up the mountain peak at Geumwangsa Temple.

If you’re lucky, and to the left of the Mireuk-bul statue, the gate for the Sanshin-gak, which is perched at the highest point on the temple grounds, will be open. However, the Sanshin-gak also acts as the head monk’s meditative retreat, so it might not always be open (like when I visited). But if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the Sanshin-gak, make sure you bring a good pair of hiking shoes, because the zig-zagging path that leads up to it looks a bit treacherous.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Geumwangsa Temple is to take a taxi from the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride from Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal to Geumwangsa Temple should take about 35 minutes and cost you 25,000 to 30,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Geumwangsa Temple is one of the most beautifully located temples in Korea. With its beautiful scenic ocean views, as well as the beautiful rocks that crown the mountain peaks, and you’ll have more than enough reason to visit this little known temple. Add into the mix the beautiful statues spread throughout Geumwangsa Temple, and you’ll have to visit this temple the next time you’re visiting the neighbouring Boriam Hermitage.

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The cute puppy that followed us all around the temple grounds.

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The Geukrak-jeon at Geumwangsa Temple.

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A look inside the Geukrak-jeon at the main altar with Amita-bul front and centre.

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The amazing view from the Geukrak-jeon.

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The temple’s bell pavilion that’s surrounded by mountains.

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The cave-like structure that houses Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The triad of statues of Amita-bul, Gwanseeum-bosal, and Jijang-bosal under one of the mountain’s peaks.

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The spectacular view that they get to enjoy.

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The statue of the Dragon King out in front of the Yongwang-dang cave entry.

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Inside the compact Yongwang-dang.

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The watery main altar inside the Yongwang-dang.

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One of the playful dongja at Geumwangsa Temple.

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Mt. Geumsan off in the distance with a collection of Nahan down below.

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Another of the amazing views from Geumwangsa Temple.

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One of the unique rock formations near the peak of the mountain.

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Yet another look at the peak.

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The statue of Mireuk-bul in the foreground with the towering mountains in the background.

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The Sanshin-gak at Geumwangsa Temple.

Mangunsa Temple – 망운사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The beautiful view from the heights of Mangunsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

As the third, and final, temple in our journey, I decided to head up to the remote Mangunsa Temple. While it wasn’t our first choice, it was definitely a great choice to go and see.

At the top of Mt. Mangunsan, which the temple gets its name from, is Mangunsa Temple (망운사). Standing at a height of 786 metres tall, you can get some great views of the ocean below.

You’ll make your way up a very winding, mountainous, and long road that leads up to Mangunsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is a colourful Iljumun Gate. A little further along the road, and you’ll come to the temple’s parking lot, as well as a small stone gate just before you enter the temple grounds. This looks to be a gate for welcoming the dead. It’s from this area that you get your first good look at the ocean below. While not as popular of a temple as its neighbour, Boriam Hermitage, the views from Mangunsa Temple are just as spectacular.

As you first enter into the temple courtyard, you’ll first notice that there has been a lot of new construction at Mangunsa Temple. To your immediate right is a newly built budo that is pretty ornate. Backing this budo is the Yaksa-jeon. This Yaksa-jeon is built completely of stone, so all but for the front of the hall, there are no murals adorning this hall. As for the interior, a solitary Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) sits on the altar. He is backed by a beautiful red mural that has various Buddhas and deities in it. To the right of the main altar is a guardian mural, and to the left is an equally beautiful painting of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

Behind the Yaksa-jeon is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The interior of this hall houses three newly painted murals to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), San shin (The Mountain Spirit), and Dokseong (The Recluse). All three of these murals are still very vibrant. To the left of the Samseong-gak shrine hall is Yongwang-dang. This hall, like the Yaksa-jeon, is completely built out of large gray stones. As for the interior, a nice single dragon mural, with Yongwang (The Dragon King) in the centre, adorns the altar of this shrine hall. This mural is fronted by an intense, and eye-popping, statue of Yongwang.

In front of both the Samseong-gak and the Yongwang-dang is the large main hall at Mangunsa Temple. Surrounding the exterior of this hall are numerous white-clad murals of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). As for the interior, and sitting on the altar, is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To his left is Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), and to his right is Gwanseeum-bosal. The interior of this hall is decorated with a handful of beautiful red murals like the one that backs the triad on the main altar. To the right is a guardian painting. And to the immediate right of the main altar is a red hued Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural. And to the left is another red mural of Jijang-bosal.

As for the remainder of the temple, there are the monks’ quarters as well as a very colourful bell pavilion. This bell pavilion looks like it has just recently seen the edge of a paint brush. There is also a platform in the temple courtyard that allows you to look out onto the beautiful ocean down below.

HOW TO GET THERE: Once again, to get to a remote temple in Namhae, you’ll first have to get to the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. From this bus terminal, you can take a taxi to Mangunsa Temple. The distance is 7.2 kilometres. The reason that I give the distance, and not a time, is that once you’re up in the mountain and climbing the road in a car, the time can fluctuate. But as a ballpark figure, the time to get to Mangunsa Temple can be anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes and the price of the trip can cost you anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Much like Boriam Hermitage, the temple buildings won’t blow you away. However, there is enough to occupy you with like the red murals inside the main hall, the beautiful shaman deity murals inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the intense statue of Yongwang inside his own shrine hall. And the views from Mangunsa Temple are pretty damn impressive, too.

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The view from Mt. Mangunsan as you steadily climb it towards Mangunsa Temple.
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The stone gateway that greets you at the temple.
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A view of the temple courtyard.
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The Yaksa-jeon, which is the first building that greets you as you step into the temple courtyard.
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And in front of the Yaksa-jeon is this ornately designed budo.
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The main altar inside of the Yaksa-jeon hall.
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And to the right of the main altar is this gorgeous guardian painting.
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Behind the Yaksa-jeon is this Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
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Sitting in the centre of the Samseog-gak altar is this vibrant Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural.
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Chilseong is joined by this equally vibrant painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit). If you look closely, you’ll notice that the tiger is copping quite an attitude with its arms crossed.
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To the left of the Samseong-gak is this Yongwang-dang.
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Inside the Yongwang-dang is this intense statue and mural of Yongwang (The Dragon King).
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A look inside the main hall at Mangunsa Temple.
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The main altar and the triad of statues that sit upon it.
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A look at the amazing guardian painting that hangs on the right wall.
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To the immediate right of the main altar is this highly original Dragon Ship of Wisdom mural.
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A look inside the beautifully decorated bell pavilion.
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And one last look down at the ocean below from the heights of Mangunsa Temple.

Video: Mangunsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone,

The final video from my Namhae road trip was taken at the extremely remote Mangunsa Temple. While extremely difficult to get to, this temple, with its gorgeous views, was definitely worth the trek. Amazingly, the views of the ocean down below from Mangunsa Temple nearly rival that of Boriam Hermitage. And yet, Mangunsa Temple is almost completely unknown to the general public. Perhaps not for that much longer.

Yongmunsa Temple – 용문사 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazingly decorative main hall at Yongmunsa Temple in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Another temple I had long wanted to visit in the Namhae area was Yongmunsa Temple. And the wait was well worth it to this ancient temple.

Yongmunsa Temple (용문사), which means Dragon Gate Temple in English, was first built by Wonhyo-daesa in a round-about-way. While the exact date of the temple’s creation is unknown, there is a lot about it that we do know. First, it’s believed that Wonhyo-daesa built Bogwangsa Temple on Mt. Geumsan during the Silla Period. This temple was later moved to its present location on Mt. Hogusan and renamed Yongmunsa Temple. Yongmunsa Temple was burnt to the ground, like a lot of famous temples of its time, during the Imjin War from 1592 to 1598. Monks from this temple served to defend Korea from the invading Japanese, and as a result, it’s been designated a temple of national defence and preserved by the present Korean government.

Down a long road that roams through houses and fields, you’ll come to the first sign of the temple: two guardian spirit poles. While these two guardian spirit poles are new in design, they are excellently executed with playful and devilish looks. Further up the road, you’ll finally arrive at the temple. To the far right is the temple parking lot, which also houses a large, and newly built, shrine to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).

If you continue to walk straight, you’ll cross a beautiful bridge, and then enter one of the older Cheonwang-muns in all of Korea. And while the Four Heavenly Kings inside the hall have seen better days, as made evident by one of the kings dropping their lute and another dropping their staff, these subtleties point to the impertinence of time that is so central to the Buddhist faith.

Around the corner of the large conference hall, you’ll enter the temple courtyard. The temple grounds are well maintained. When you first enter, and to your immediate right, are the monks’ dorms. And across the courtyard, and straight ahead, are the monks’ facilities like the temple kitchen and dining area. To the right of that building, and in a row, is another off-limit building. And to the left, and in a bit of a secluded courtyard, is the temple’s bell pavilion. Interestingly, the rawhide drum has been struck so many times that the leather surface has a hole in it.

The crowning achievement to Yongmunsa Temple, by far, is the main hall. The exterior paintings that surround the hall are simplistic Shimu-do murals. And up in the eaves are some of the best examples of wooden dragon heads in all of Korea. They are large, colourful, and masterfully executed. As for the interior of the main hall, the ceiling decorations are reminiscent of the main hall at Eunhaesa in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. There are various creatures like dragons suspended from the ceiling. As for the main altar itself, it’s occupied by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre. He’s flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva that is the Power and Wisdom of Amita). To the far right is a beautiful mural that dates back to 1897, and it depicts the Vulture Peak Assembly. To the far left is a guardian mural that also dates back to 1897. These are two of the oldest murals of these types that I’ve seen inside a temple hall and not inside a museum. Amazing stuff!

To the right of the main hall is a Myeongbu-jeon that dates back to 1662. Sitting on the main altar is a green haired Jijang-bosal, who is perched on a red silk pillow adorned with numerous dragon heads. Jijang-bosal is surrounded by ten large statues, both seated and standing, of the Ten Kings of the Underworld. Interestingly, and a bit hidden away around the corner of the Myeongbu-jeon, is a courtyard and tiny shrine hall that houses the Stone Buddha of Yongmunsa statue. This white crowned statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) dates back to Goryeo Period (918-1392) and was buried in the ground to protect it from destruction at the hands of the Japanese during the invading Imjin War from 1592 to 1598.

To the far left of the main hall, and up the embankment, are two buildings. The first is the Nahan-jeon which houses the 16 disciples of the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul, as well as the past, present, and future Buddha that sit as a triad on the main altar. Another interesting aspect to this temple is the second hall in the upper courtyard: The Chilseong-gak. Inside of this hall are not just one, but three Chilseong (The Seven Stars) paintings. All three are old in age, and masterful in design. To the left of these three paintings is the San shin (The Mountain Spirit) painting, and to the far right is the Dokseong (The Recluse) painting. All five paintings have seen better days, but are still as beautiful as ever.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you’re traveling from anywhere outside of Namhae, you will first have to travel to the Namhae Intercity Bus Terminal. From this large sized terminal, you can then catch a taxi to Yongmunsa Temple. The distance is 13.8 km and it takes about 25 minutes. The total cost of the taxi ride should be between 10,000 to 15,000 won.

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OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. The rarity of a lot of what this temple houses allows it to rate as highly as it does. Some of the highlights, at least in hall form, are the Cheonwangmun, the Myeongbu-jeon, and especially the main hall. Added to it are the rare murals inside of the main hall and the Chilseong-gak, as well as the ancient statue of Mireuk-bul, and this temple is a must see if you’re in the Namhae area of Gyeongsangnam-do.

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The pair of guardian spirit poles that greet you at Yongmunsa Temple.
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A better look at one of the comical, yet devilish, faces of the spirit guardian poles.
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A look across the bridge at the Cheonwangmun Gate.
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One of the Four Heavenly Kings that seems to have lost a grip on his lute.
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One more bridge and a look up at the large conference hall at the temple.
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A gorgeous view around the temple courtyard and the amazingly designed main hall in the centre of it all.
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Just the first of many amazing dragon heads in the eaves around the exterior of the main hall.
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Returning to earthly life, the final mural in the set of ten, from the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals.
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A look at the triad of statues and the mural that adorn the altar inside the main hall.
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Just one of the four-legged dragons that resides around the ceiling inside the main hall.
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Just one, in a set of two, older murals inside of the main hall. This one depicts the Assembly at Vulture Peak.
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The view of the courtyard from the main hall.
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To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall that is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and his ten accompanying Kings of the Underworld.
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Just one of the seated Ten Kings of the Underworld.
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Around the corner, in an equally diminutive courtyard, is this shrine hall. It houses…
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This white statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Period.
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A unique look at some of the monks’ quarters.
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And a look at some of the beautiful blue flowers that were in bloom as you enter into the upper courtyard at Yongmunsa Temple.
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The altar pieces inside the Nahan-jeon.
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And a look up at the crowning Chilseong-gak. It houses five of the more unique shaman paintings in Korea.
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A look at just three of the five murals inside the Chilseong-gak.

Video: Yongmunsa Temple

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another one of the temples I visited during my Namhae adventure was Yongmunsa Temple. While not as well known as the neighbouring Boriam Hermitage, Yongmunsa Temple has a lot for the Korean temple adventurer to explore. In fact, Yongmunsa Temple is a bit like a museum in the form of a Korean Buddhist temple with it various Buddhist paintings and artwork. Take a look at the video and see what I mean.

Boriam Hermitage – 보리암 (Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The breath-taking view of the ocean from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall at Boriam Hermitage in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Boriam Hermitage had been a hermitage I had long wanted to visit in Gyeongsangnam-do. But since it’s on the western border with Jeollanam-do, and far from my home, I have never been. However, I corrected this oversight this past weekend.

Boriam Hermitage (보리암) dates back to 683, when it was created by the famous monk Wonhyo-daesa. The most interesting part of this hermitage’s history is related to the three storied pagoda that sits on a landing that overlooks the ocean. According to legend, the pagoda was built from the stones that Queen Heo, the Indian princess that would go onto marry King Suro who was the founding king of the Gaya Kingdom, to enshrine the Buddha’s remains that she had brought with her. However, because the stones are made of granite and the pagoda appears to have been built during the Goryeo Period (918-1392), it seems highly unlikely that this story is true. Another interesting aspect to this hermitage is that the future Joseon Period king, Yi Song-gye (better known as King Taejo), who also turned out to be the first Joseon king, stayed at Boriam Hermitage praying for 100 days before he became the Korean ruler.

Arriving at the base of Mt. Geumsan, which alone acts as a provincial park, you’ll have to pay 2,000 Won (if my memory serves me correctly) as an entrance fee. There are three ways you can get to the top of Mt. Geumsan, and in the vicinity of Boriam Hermitage. First, you can walk the nearly four kilometers up the mountain (which I don’t recommend); second, you can take the shuttle bus to the top which leaves frequently; or third, if you drive your own car, you can wait in line until a parking spot opens up in the limited parking lot for Boriam Hermitage. If you choose this option, make sure you get there early because the line fills in fast.

After getting to the summit of the mountain, you’ll pass through the entrance gate to Boriam Hermitage, which will cost you a reasonable 1,000 won. The hike from this gate to the hermitage grounds is another kilometer. This hermitage is very popular with Koreans, so just follow them and you won’t get lost. Along the way, you’ll catch glimpses of the ocean front views that makes Boriam Hermitage so famous and popular.

Finally, you’ll come to a second parking lot that also houses a smaller sized convenience store. It’s from this vantage point that you’ll get your first clear view of the ocean and the tiny islands that dot the breath-taking landscape.

A little further up the trail, and at a fork, you’ll turn left towards the hermitage. To the right lies a less popular hermitage and the peak of Mt. Geumsan. Descending down a large set of stairs, you’ll finally come to the compact hermitage courtyard. You’ll first pass by the hermitage’s office. To your immediate left is the first building at Boriam Hermitage. This hall is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall. Inside of this hall, as the name kind of hints at, are 10,000 Buddhas that line all of the walls of the interior to this hall. Sitting on the main altar is a triad centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). It is from the front of this hall that you gain some of the most impressive views of the ocean and Namhae down below.

Stepping up into the centre of the temple courtyard, you’ll be flanked by the main hall to the right and an observation hall to the left. Both are fairly long in length. Surrounding the main hall are paintings of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And sitting inside the smaller sized main hall is a diminutive statue of Gwanseeum-bosal on a red silk pillow. There are numerous statues of this Bodhisattva as it’s one of the thirty-three most venerated temples to Gwanseeum-bosal in all of Korea.

Behind the main hall, and up a steep set of stairs, is the San shin-gak. Inside of this rather plain looking shrine hall is a beautiful painting dedicated to San shin (The Mountain Spirit). The highlight of the painting is the uniquely painted tiger. To the left of the main hall is the hermitage’s bell pavilion. It houses a beautiful bronze bell that is adorned with some masterfully crafted Buddhas.

The final area to the hermitage grounds is down a set of stairs next to the bell pavilion. Down the set of stairs, and up a smaller set, is a plateau area that houses another large sized statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This granite statue looks out upon the ocean. And to her right is an ancient pagoda that dates back to the Goryeo Period. Again, there are some amazing views of the ocean side landscape from here.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you live in Busan, or near it, the easiest way to get to Boriam Hermitage is from the Busan Train Station. There’s a bus that leaves from there, I would assume in the morning. The ride from Busan to Namhae should take about three ours in length.


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OVERALL RATING: 8/10 While the hermitage buildings aren’t the most amazing that you’ll ever see at a hermitage or a temple, this probably isn’t the reason you’ve come to Boriam Hermitage. By far, the views of the ocean and the neighbouring landscape are second-to-none at a hermitage or temple in all of  Korea. And while crowded, there’s enough room for you to enjoy Boriam Hermitage and its spectacular vista.

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There is limited parking at Boriam Hermitage, so make sure you get there early.
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The beautiful trail that leads up to the hermitage.
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The first, of many, amazing views from Boriam Hermitage.
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The first view of Boriam Hermitage just beneath Mt. Geumsan.
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A look over at the observation hall and down at the ocean below.
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The hermitage courtyard.
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A few people taking in the amazing view of the ocean and islands below near the observation hall.
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Just one of the halls at Boriam Hermitage. This is the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
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The main altar inside the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
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And the gorgeous view from the 10,000 Buddhas Hall.
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A better look around the hermitage courtyard with the main hall to the right, the observation hall to the left, and the bell pavilion centre right.
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A look inside the main hall at the altar. Inside is a seated Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on a red silk cushion.
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A look up at the San shin-gak that’s located just behind the main hall.
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The beautiful painting of San shin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the San shin-gak.
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Yet another spectacular view of the ocean and islands below from the San shin-gak with the main hall in the foreground.
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A look above the colourful bell pavilion at the peak of Mt. Geumsan.
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The large sized observation hall that frames the main courtyard at Boriam Hermitage.
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In the lower courtyard is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal and the ancient four tiered pagoda.
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A better look at The Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal.
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And a better look at the ancient pagoda.
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And one last look down at the ocean and Sangju Beach.

Video: Boriam Hermitage

Hello Again Everyone!!

With spectacular views of the neighbouring ocean, and the tiny islands that dot its horizon, Boriam Hermitage couldn’t remain unattended by me for very long. And recently, I was able to visit this oceanside hermitage. So without further ado, here’s Boriam Hermitage in Namhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.