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.