Bokcheonjeongsa Temple – 복천정사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

As you first approach the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

So this is a first for me: an abandoned temple. Located in southwestern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, just below the towering peak of Mt. Togoksan (855m), is Bokcheonjeongsa Temple. The abandoned temple formerly belonged to the Cheontae-jong Buddhist Order.

You first approach the temple up an equally abandoned road that brings you to within 800 metres of Bokcheonjeongsa Temple. The rest of the way is up an overgrown trail. In parts, the trail is completely covered for several metres in leaves that make the climb a bit slippery and treacherous. In total, from where the road ends and the mountain trail begins, the climb will take about thirty minutes (and it’s quite the climb).

Finally having arrived at the base of Bokcheonjeongsa Temple, it almost seems like a ghost town with several buildings with their windows smashed out. It’s actually quite haunting. When first approaching the temple grounds, you’ll notice the kitchen and temple facilities to the right of you in a white building. And to the left is large yellow building that looks to have been the former monks’ dorms.

It’s straight ahead, that you’ll find the two story main hall at the abandoned temple. You can gain access to both shrine halls. On the first floor, it almost looks to have been a shrine hall for Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise); but without any shrine hall statues or paintings around, this is just a guess. This shrine hall has been stripped clean of its former self.

Climbing up the stairs to the right, you’ll be able, like the first, to gain admittance to what was formerly the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. Upon first entering, you’ll notice a flowery altar to your left. A little further along, and on the main altar, hangs a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This is the only painting that still remains at the temple.

To the left of the main hall, and on the elevated upper courtyard, is an overgrown pathway that leads towards what looks like the former head monk’s dorm. It’s between the upper and lower courtyard at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple that you see a set of stone cairns.

To the rear of the main hall is a shrine hall that looks as though it was formerly dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). The reason I say this is that there is a slow flowing waterfall that collects at the base in a beautiful clear pool of water.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Mulgeum train station in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, you should catch a taxi from there. The taxi ride up to the temple, or at least as far as the road will allow, will take about 36 minutes (17,000 won). And depending on where the taxi lets you off, it will take an additional 30 minutes to hike the remaining 800 metres up the hiking trail. Not easy, but doable.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10. The views from Bokcheonjeongsa Temple down from the heights of Mt Togoksan are breath-taking. This temple was much larger than I thought, and it must have once been a very beautiful temple. But without people and the spirituality associated with a Korean Buddhist temple, the abandoned buildings and the winter landscape make Bokcheonjeongsa Temple appear hauntingly eerie. If abandoned places are your thing, then this temple is a must see.

The climb up Mt. Togoksan where Bokcheonjeongsa Temple is located.

The abandoned temple first coming into view.

The windowless residence for former monks at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

The kitchen and temple facilities that have held up a bit better than the monks’ dorms.

A bridge that leads to a garden like island at the temple.

The two story main hall at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

The abandoned main altar inside the first floor shrine hall.

And the view to the right.

And the view to the far right wall and the altar without altar pieces.

The view from the second story hall.

The flowery altar as you first step inside the second story shrine hall.

The second story shrine hall painting of Jijang-bosal.

The amazing view from the second story shrine hall.

And a different angle to the right of the second story shrine hall.

A pathway that leads up towards another abandoned building at Bokcheonjeongsa Temple.

And the abandoned building that the pathway leads up towards.

Another overgrown, and haunting image, of the abandoned temple.

Some of the cairns between the storage shed and the monks’ dorms.

A look up towards the main hall.

The former shrine behind the main hall.

A ray of sunlight through the face of the mountain.

Some ice building up at the edge of a pool of water.

From a rather dry waterfall that falls freely to the back of the temple grounds.

And the pool where the water collects.

Watch your step as you make your way down the mountain.

Daeinsa Temple – 대인사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The amazing painting of Ha outside the main hall doors at Daeinsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Daeinsa Temple is located in the northern part of Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do not too far away from the famed Tongdosa Temple. You first approach Daeinsa Temple down a country road and by a couple of farmers’ fields. When you finally arrive at the end of the road, you’ll have arrived at the modern looking Daeinsa Temple.

The first thing to greet you is a large stone with the name of the temple inscribed on it. Approaching the temple from the gravel parking lot, there is a two-storied building that acts as both the main hall and the kitchen/conference halls to the temple. Surrounding the upper level, which acts as the main hall, are gorgeous paintings of the Ox-Herding, Shimu-do, murals, as well as the Palsang-do paintings that depict the life of the Historical Buddha. Added to these gorgeous paintings are various paintings of Boddhisattvas and a unique painting of the Bodhidharma. Finally, the entrance way to the main hall is adorned with descriptive depictions of the guardians Heng and Ha. I was unable to go inside this main hall, as there was a funeral ceremony going on when I visited; however, the people that worked in the kitchen were kind enough to allow me to photograph the stunning pictures that adorn the exterior of the main hall.

The views from the main hall of Mt. Cheonseongsan and Mt. Chiseosan off in the distance are amazing. This vantage point also allows you to see the rest of the tiny temple. Besides the main hall, there is a beautiful and well-manicured lawn to the rear of the main hall. And to the far rear of the temple, and up on a terraced landing, is a newer looking stone pagoda. This pagoda is fronted by a water fountain with a stone image of Yongwang (The Dragon King) on it. And finally, to the left side of the pagoda is a meditative hall for monks that call Daeinsa Temple their home. As for the pagoda itself, it is a simple design with a Silla influence. There are beautiful sculptures of various guardians around the base of the pagoda, and images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the upper-tier

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan subway station (stop #243) there is a bus stop, take Bus #13. After 26 stops, or 40 minutes, get off at Jinheung Mokhwa Apartment stop. From this stop, walk for twelve minutes or 800 metres towards Daeinsa Temple.

Or you can simply take a taxi from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last 23 minutes and cost 15,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 2.5/10. While not the most impressive of temples you’ll visit in Korea, there are a couple things that are well worth seeing. The most attractive things about this temple are the murals that surround the main hall. These newly painted murals of the Ox-Herding murals and the Palsang-do paintings are highlighted by the Heng and Ha renderings near the entrance of the main hall. The Silla influenced pagoda and the Yongwang water fountain to the rear of Daeinsa Temple are other highlights to this temple.

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The metal signboard that welcomes you to Daeinsa Temple.

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A look at the two-storied main hall at Daeinsa Temple.

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A look towards Mt. Chiseosan off in the distance.

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The colourful entrance to the main hall. Murals of Heng and Ha greet you on either side of the glass doors.

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One of the murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall. This one is an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.

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Next the mural of Gwanseeum-bosal is this mural of the Bodhidharma.

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Just one of the murals from the Palsang-do mural set.

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This is the tenth painting from the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, mural set.

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The view to the rear of the main hall with Mt. Cheonseongsan framing the temple.

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A longer look at the two-storied main hall at Daeinsa Temple.

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The five tier pagoda to the rear of the temple grounds.

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One of the guardians that adorns the base of the pagoda.

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The view from the pagoda towards the shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).

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A closer look at the Dragon King.

Geumsuam Hermitage – 금수암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The entry to Geumsuam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geumsuam Hermitage, which is located on the north-western portion of the Tongdosa Temple grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, means “Golden Water Hermitage,” in English.  Geumsuam Hermitage is a hermitage meant for the daily worship practices of the Buddhist monks. With that in mind, Geumsuam Hermitage is a place to be on your best behavior.

When you first approach Geumsuam Hermitage up a winding road that twists and turns through the Korean countryside, you’ll finally arrive at a car bridge at the base of the hermitage. There is a newer looking white building as you approach. The road will lead to the right, which circumnavigates around the large garden that supports the monk population at the hermitage.  At the entrance is a cute looking younger dog that can be a bit rabid at times, so try not to pet it (just in case you were thinking of petting it).

As you approach the hermitage, you’ll see a beautiful gate that is usually closed to the public for the purpose of maintaining peace and quiet for the monks. Fortunately, it was open when we visited.  As you pass through the hermitage gate, you’ll see a beautiful metal dragon crest holding the ringed door knob. Decoratively, the gate is adorned with paintings of monster masks. The Korean name for these masks are “nathwi”. “Nat” means face, while “hwi”, in Chinese characters, means multi-coloured. These monster masks are placed on Korean Buddhist structures as guardian spirits. And depending on their gaze, that is the direction they are protecting.

After passing through the gate, you’ll enter into the simple and compact courtyard at the hermitage. There are only two hermitage structures in the courtyard at Geumsuam Hermitage. To the right, is the main hall, and to the left is a meditation pavilion. The highlight of the hermitage is a tranquil Koi pond in front of the meditation pavilion. There are two smaller sized pagodas on either side of the meditation pavilion. There are also numerous atypical statues of Bodhisattvas in the courtyard.

HOW TO GET THERE: First, you’ll have to get to Yangsan; and more specifically, Tongdosa Temple. To get to Tongdosa Temple, you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Specifically from Busan, you can take a bus or subway to Nopo-dong intercity bus terminal. There, you can get a ticket for Tongdosa Temple. It leaves every 20 minutes. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds.  Admission for adults is 3,000 won. From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll have to continue up the main road for another 700 metres until you come to a fork in the road.  Instead of heading straight, turn right and continue heading in that direction for one kilometre.  There are a cluster of hermitages. Follow the signs the rest of the way to Geumsuam Hermitage.

OVERALL RATING:  2.5/10. Because Geumsuam Hermitage really isn’t meant for the public to visit, like Jajangam Hermitage or Biroam Hermitage, there is very little to actually see and enjoy at Geumsuam Hermitage. While there are a couple highlights, like the compact Koi pond, the meditative pavilion, and the atypical Buddhist statues, this hermitage should be saved for all but the greatest of Korean temple adventurers.

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As you first approach the hermitage grounds.

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The fields at Geumsuam Hermitage used by the monks for sustenance.

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As you approach the hermitage entry gate.

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The guard dog that welcomes you to the hermitage.

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The view through the hermitage gate.

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The ornamental door knocker at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A decorative Nathwi painting that adorns the entry gate at the hermitage.

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The main hall at Geumsuam Hermitage.

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A statue of Yaksayore-bul outside the main hall.

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And the tiger riding Munsu-bosal in statue form.

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A fish designed wind chime that hangs from the main hall.

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The hermitage’s beautiful meditative pavilion.

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Colourful Koi swim in the pond.

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Protective guardians at the entry of the pavilion.

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One of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

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A slender statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

Baekryeonam Hermitage – 백련암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The monks’ dorms at Baekryeonam Hermitage near Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, and in a cluster of hermitages directly associated with the famed temple, is Baekryeonam Hermitage. Alongside Samyeongam Hermitage, Okryeonam Hermitage, and Seounam Hermitage, these hermitages make for a really nice day around the picturesque grounds of Tongdosa Temple.

Down a forested road, you’ll eventually come to the outskirts of the hermitage grounds when you arrive at the hermitage parking lot. Past a stone marker that reads “Namu Amita-bul” in deference to the Buddha of the Western Paradise, as well as along a tall traditional stone wall, this wall helps guide you towards Baekryeonam Hermitage’s main courtyard.

With your feet firmly planted in the hermitage courtyard, you’ll have an unadorned visitors centre to your back with the monks’ dorms to both your right and left. It’s the long main hall in front of you that will most definitely grab your attention first. Stepping over the stepping stones that stand like mini islands in the centre of a gravel courtyard, you’ll be welcomed to the main hall by a long wooden corridor. Decorating the doorknobs to the main hall are brown wooden turtles. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be greeted by a lone Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) on the main altar. To the far left of the spacious interior is a highly skilled guardian mural.

Between the main hall and the turtle-spouted water fountain at Baekryeonam Hermitage is a set of stairs that lead up to the second shrine hall at the hermitage. This elevated shrine hall is called the “Bright Light Hall” in English, or the Gwangmyeong-jeon in Korean. Adorning the exterior walls of this hall are various murals like Wonhyo-daesa’s enlightenment, as well as a mural dedicated to the monk Ichadon who helped bring Buddhism to the Silla Kingdom. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Completing the artwork in this hall are four more paintings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Lonely Saint), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and the guardian mural. All are done by the same artist and all are beautiful.

It’s from the heights of this hall that you get an amazing view of the valley down below. Also, the walk down the stairs are accompanied by well-manicured grounds and a towering cedar tree.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Baekryeonam Hermitage, you’ll first have to get to Tongdosa Temple. And to get to Tongdosa Temple you can take an intercity bus from Busan, Eonyang or Ulsan. Once you arrive in Yangsan, and facing the very small bus terminal, you should walk left and then turn right at the first corner. The temple entrance is past the numerous restaurants and shops. Walk up a 1.5 km path, sprinkled with ancient graffiti, and you will eventually arrive at the outskirts of the temple grounds. Once you get to the parking lot for Tongdosa Temple, keep walking up the road for cars to the left.  Follow this road for about a kilometre. The road will fork to the right or go straight. Follow the road that leads straight. Continue up this road for another two kilometres and follow the signs as you go because there is more than one hermitage back there.

Admission to Baekryeonam Hermitage is free; however, to get into the grounds, you’ll have to pay 3,000 won at the Tongdosa Temple entrance gate.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10. Baekryeonam Hermitage is placed amongst some beautiful gardens and mature trees. Also, the artwork inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall are some beautiful examples of some masterful Buddhist artwork.

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The traditional Korean wall that guides your way towards the main hermitage courtyard.

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A stone prayer to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) with the hermitage grounds behind it.

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The main hall at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The visitors’ centre that the main hall looks out towards.

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The watering hole at the hermitage with a turtle spout.

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The corridor out in front of the main hall’s entrance.

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A turtle door knob that adorns one of the main hall’s doors.

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A look inside the main hall at Amita-bul that sits all alone on the altar.

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On the far left wall is this stunning guardian mural.

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The main hall view of the beautifully kept grounds at Baekryeonam Hermitage.

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The view as you make your way towards the hermitage’s Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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A beautiful pink flower along the way.

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The Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall coming into focus.

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The Wonhyo-daesa enlightenment painting that adorns an exterior wall to the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall.

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The Ichadon mural that adorns the Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall, as well.

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The main altar inside the Gwangmyeong-jeon with Seokgamoni-bul in the centre. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Jijang-bosal.

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The mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit)

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As well as this up-close with Dokseong (The Lonely Saint).

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The view from where Gwangmyeong-jeon Hall is housed.

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A look out towards the neighbouring mountains and the rest of the hermitage.

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The entry and exit to Baekryeonam Hermitage.

Daeilam Hermitage – 대일암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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Dongjin-bosal from the guardian mural at Daeilam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located on the northern side of the rather diminutive Mt. Jeungsan (133m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is Daeilam Hermitage (a hermitage after my own heart). While small in size, the hermitage more than makes up for this with its beautiful Buddhist artwork.

You make your way towards Daeilam Hermitage down a country road and up the hermitage’s twisting driveway. When you do finally arrive on the outskirts of the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by a modern home that also acts as the monks’ dorms. It’s beyond this that you’ll see a pair of shrine halls. Out in front of the monks’ dorms is a slender five-tier stone pagoda. It’s next to this pagoda, and through the shrubs, that you’ll find one of the scariest embodiments of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) in Korea.

The first of the two hermitage shrine halls is the Wontong-jeon main hall at Daeilam Hermitage. Adorning the exterior walls to this hall are ten exquisite renderings of the Ox-Herding murals. Stepping inside the main hall, and sitting all alone on the main altar, is Gwanseeum-bosal. She sits comfortably on a plush red pillow. On the far left wall, and painted directly on the wall, is a masterful Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) mural. This mural is then joined on the left side by an intricate guardian mural. To the right of the main altar is an equally elaborate mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This mural is then joined by a mural painted on the main hall’s wall of an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal.

To the right of the Wontong-jeon main hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. And the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage has a bit of a twist. Joining the beautiful murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are a pair of murals on the far left wall dedicated to King Suro and his wife, Queen Heo.

HOW TO GET THERE: After exiting Jeungsan Subway Station (stop #240) through exit #1, head straight down the main road. Head in this direction for about 500 to 600 metres until you meet the first road to your left. Head down this road for about 400 metres until you see the sign for Daeilam Hermitage to your right. Follow the signs the rest of the way up to the hillside hermitage.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. While this hermitage has seen better days, there are numerous paintings at Daeilam Hermitage to keep a temple adventurer interested. Such paintings as the main hall guardian mural and the murals of King Suro and Queen Heo in the Samseong-gak are something to keep an eye out for when visiting this little known hermitage. Besides the paintings, what’s not to love about the name of this hermitage?!?

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The slender five-tier pagoda that greets you at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The not so medicinal looking hermitage water with a mural of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) backing the spring.

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One of the Ox-Herding murals that adorns the exterior walls to the Wontong-jeon Hall.

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The main altar inside the Wontong-jeon hall with Gwanseeum-bosal front and centre.

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A mural of Munsu-bosal that adorns the far left interior wall.

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Directly to the left of the main altar is this amazing guardian mural.

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The Jijang-bosal mural to the right of the main altar.

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And the all-white Gwanseeum-bosal that adorns the far right interior wall to the main hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Daeilam Hermitage.

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The mural of Sanshin that hangs inside the Samseong-gak.

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The mural of King Suro that hangs on the far left wall.

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King Suro is joined by his wife, Queen Heo.

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One of the scariest Gwanseeum-bosal statues I’ve seen in Korea.

Seongbulsa Temple – 성불사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located in northern Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Seongbulsa Temple is located at the base of Mt. Hyangrosan, and next to the flowing Lake Miryang. It’s beautifully situated in the very scenic Baenaegol Valley. Seongbulsa Temple is on the very outskirts of the Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do city limits. Just to the north and west lie the cities of Ulsan and Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do.

In an elbow of the lake, and past a few pensions, you’ll make your way towards Seongbulsa Temple up a country road. The first thing to greet you is an elevated golden statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). In front of this elevated statue are three smaller stone statues of the Buddha enacting the hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil motif, as well as a stone statue of Podae-hwasang.

To the left of this elevated statue is the Gwaneum-jeon. Housed inside a cave, the Gwaneum-jeon Hall houses a maroon clothed statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. She’s joined to the left by a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King). Painted on the rock face to the right is a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal and Yongwang. And to the left of the main altar are rows of jade-like statues of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

To the right of the golden statue of Mireuk-bul, and under the temple’s Iljumun Gate, is a set of cement stairs. These stairs lead up towards the Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple. The entrance to the left reveals rows of bronzed coloured Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the exterior walls. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll be welcomed by a rather spacious interior for devotees. Resting on the main altar is a uniquely clothed statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) sitting in the centre of a triad of statues. He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the left of this main altar is a darkened mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

Stepping outside the Geukrakbo-jeon and past the graffiti written on the walls of the main temple courtyard (yes, a first), you’ll notice a tall stone statue dedicated once more to Gwanseeum-bosal. Somewhat camouflaged by the neighbouring folds of the mountain, Gwanseeum-bosal is cradling a baby in her hands.

It’s to the left of this statue that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this hall are three rather plain murals dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

And it’s to the left of this shaman shrine hall, and up an overgrown forested pathway, that you’ll find a mountainside shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). If not for the blue sign pointing me in this direction, I would have missed the emaciated statue of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi out to Seongbulsa Temple because there is no public transportation out to this remote area. The taxi ride should last 40 minutes and cost 22,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. Seongbulsa Temple is a bit of a tough one to rate. While it’s beautifully situated next to Lake Miryang in Baenaegol Valley, the temple itself almost seems abandoned. In fact, I thought it might have been abandoned all but for the monk that greeted me as I was leaving. As for the temple itself, the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall, as well as the beautiful granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal to the rear of the temple grounds are a couple highlights at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The entry to Seongbulsa Temple.

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A stone statue of Podae-hwasang in the foreground with Mireuk-bul in the background.

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A closer look at Podae-hwasang.

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And a closer look at the golden Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

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The view that Mireuk-bul gets to enjoy.

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The Geukrakbo-jeon main hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A painting of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the side of the main hall.

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The main altar inside the Geukrakbo-jeon

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The view of the valley from the temple’s main hall.

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The granite statue of Gwanseeum-bosal with the Geukrakbo-jeon Hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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The painting of Dokseong that adorns the exterior wall to the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside at Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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Who is joined by this close-up of Dokseong.

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A shrine to the left rear of the Samseong-gak.

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The shrine dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul that’s up an overgrown pathway.

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The Gwaneum-jeon cave hall at Seongbulsa Temple.

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A look inside reveals a haunting atmosphere.

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The main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon cave hall.

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One more amazing view of the Baenaegol Valley where Seongbulsa Temple is located.

Chukseoam Hermitage – 축서암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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A look at the hermitage courtyard at Chukseoam Hermitage with the Chiseosan Mountains towering above.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Chukseoam Hermitage is one of nineteen hermitages directly associated with the famed Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

You first approach Chukseoam Hermitage down some country back roads. Finally, the road will start climbing, when you finally arrive at the outskirts of the hermitage. The hermitage is spread out over two courtyards. The lower courtyard wasn’t all that well maintained. The lower courtyard houses the monks’ dorms.

Walking through the staircase that divides the lower courtyard residences, you’ll arrive in the upper courtyard, where all of the significant buildings at the hermitage reside. To the left is an older looking building that acts as the residence for the monks. And to the right is the hermitage kitchen and visitors’ centre. Straight ahead is a rather non-descript main hall. The exterior is unadorned. All that adorns this bare exterior are the earthen dancheong colour tones that adorn all temples and hermitages in Korea. Inside, you’ll see a rather sparsely decorated main hall. On the main altar sits a unique triad of statues with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre. The reason I say unique is that the statues seem to be rather squat in appearance and cube-like in the face. On the far left wall is the smaller sized guardian mural.

To the left rear of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The shaman shrine hall is unadorned on the exterior, but it’s backed by a beautiful pine tree forest and the heights of Mt. Chiseosan. Inside the shrine hall, as you walk upon the rickety floor boards, you’ll see a set of gorgeous shaman deities. Unfortunately, the paintings are covered by glass, which takes away from getting a good picture of them; however, Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars) are beautifully rendered.

HOW TO GET THERE: Chukseoam Hermitage is tricky to find. With your back to the main gate at Tongdosa Temple, head straight for about 200 metres. Turn left at the first major road. This road will head straight, beside the Tongdosa Temple parking lot, for about 300 metres. As the road forks, head left around a curved road for about 200 metres. You’ll then see a handful of taller apartments. Head straight once more for about 400 metres with Tondo-Fantasia (an amusement park) to your right. Again, you’ll come to a fork in the road at a farmer’s field. Take the road that heads left. Follow this road for about a kilometer. During this one kilometer hike, you’ll be able to see signs that guide your way. Follow these signs until you arrive at the hermitage behind a few larger sized houses.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Chukseoam Hermitage certainly won’t blow you away. Much like Sudoam Hermitage, also associated with Tongdosa Temple, there is very little to see at the hermitage; however, with that being said, there are a couple of things that are unique to Chukseoam Hermitage. One is the gorgeous vista of the Mt. Chiseosan range behind the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, as well as the intertwining pine tree forest. Also, the gorgeous paintings of the shaman deities inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall certainly are the handful of highlights at the hermitage. But unless you have an easy way to get to Chukseoam Hermitage, the trip may not be worth it.

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The entrance that leads up to the hermitage courtyard.

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A look at a couple of the halls at Chukseoam Hermitage and the surrounding beauty.

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The compact main hall at Chukseoam Hermitage.

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A look inside the compact main hall.

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Both the main hall and Samseong-gak together.

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A better look at the beautifully located Samseong-gak.

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The beautifully manicured grounds that surround the shaman shrine hall.

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The modern Sanshin mural inside the Samseong-gak.

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A look up at the peak of Mt. Chiseosan.

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The view from the Samseong-gak.

Wongaksa Temple – 원각사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The central altar statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) inside the main hall at Wongaksa Temple in Yangsan Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!!

Wongaksa Temple is situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do down a nearly deserted country road. When you first approach the temple, the first thing to greet you is a yellow sign with the Korean word “원각사” and an arrow pointing towards the temple grounds. Up the temple driveway is the visitors’ centre with the dorms and kitchen to the right.

To the left of this initial cluster of buildings are the temple halls. Next to the visitors’ centre is a stone statue and alcove that houses a standing statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha). This statue is backed by a bit of a fading picture of lotus flowers. Around this outdoor altar are smaller statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Further left, and next to the outdoor altar centred by Yaksayore-bul, is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall dedicated to three shaman deities. This temple hall appears to the right rear of the main hall. Inside the shrine hall are three beautiful renderings of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars).

Next to the Samseong-gak shrine hall is the main hall at Wongaksa Temple. In front of this hall is a three-tier pagoda that is Silla inspired. Inside the hall, and sitting on the main altar, is the triad of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre flanked by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) to the left. The hall has two walls of miniature statues dedicated to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Next to these bronze coloured statues, on the far right wall, is an elaborate guardian painting. The exterior walls are adorned with simplistic Ox-Herding murals. These murals are said to have been painted by the head monk at Wongaksa Temple. Strangely, and this is a first for me, there was a punching bag to the right rear of the main hall. I guess when you need to get your stress out, no matter your calling, you have to get it out!

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest way to get to Wongaksa Temple is to take a taxi from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should take about 20 minutes and cost 11,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. On its own, this temple really doesn’t have that much to offer. It does have a quaint outdoor altar dedicated to Yaksayore-bul, as well as the beautiful murals inside the Samseong-gak shrine hall and the head monk’s Ox-Herding murals around the main hall. And don’t forget the punching bag behind the main hall. However, if you include this temple with a couple other temples and hermitages in the area, it can make Wongaksa Temple worth the trek.

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The view as you make your way towards Wongaksa Temple.

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The welcoming yellow sign that greets you at the temple.

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A look around the temple courtyard.

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A standing statue of Yaksayore-bul at the temple.

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A closer look at the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Wongaksa Temple.

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Inside hangs this impressive incarnation of Chilseong.

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As well as this equally impressive Dokseong mural.

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The visitors’ centre and monks’ dorms at the temple.

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The Silla inspired three-tier stone pagoda out in front of the main hall.

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

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The guardian mural that hangs inside the main hall.

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Another look around the main hall’s interior.

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One of the murals that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

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The rather odd punching bag that’s placed behind the main hall. Perhaps one of the monks fancies himself a boxer in his spare time.

Bulgwangsa Temple – 불광사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam)

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One of the monks at Bulgwangsa Temple out for a morning walk with the temple’s duck.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Bulgwangsa Temple is located in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. And Bulgwangsa Temple is really nothing more than a visitors’ centre, the monks’ facilities, and the main hall. When you first enter the gravel courtyard, you’ll be greeted by the visitors’ centre to your immediate left. Straight ahead are the monks’ facilities, which includes the monks’ dorms and kitchen

The only real place that a Korean temple adventurer would be interested in is the rather long main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple. To the left of the temple’s main watering hole is a display case with a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside. He is stoically sitting on a throne with a flaming pearl in his right hand and a root in his left. Backing this watering hole is a larger stone statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). He is joined by a square stone engraving of a triad of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The triad seems to be centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

Surrounding the exterior of the main hall are some beautiful murals. There are a variety of them like Wonhyo-daesa’s awakening, the Dragon Ship of Wisdom, as well as various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. At the rear of the main hall is a bricked pagoda that is used for ceremonies for the dead as is made evident by the neighbouring Judgment painting along the exterior of the main hall.

I was surprised when I visited the left side of the main hall to see a red beaked duck that all the workers at the temple, as well as the monks, greeted the duck with a revered “hello.” I’m not sure what this means, but since the monks walk and pet the duck, and the workers feed it, it must have some unexplained meaning.

Inside the elongated main hall, which can obviously accommodate a few hundred worshippers, is an equally long main altar. In the centre is a statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light), and he’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the left and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Buddha Body) to the right. There is a gorgeously designed statue of the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the left. In front of this statue is a picture of a white tortoise. This picture ties into both Gwanseeum-bosal and the aquarium next to the monk lectern in front of the main hall. According to Buddhist scripture, Gwanseeum-bosal will return as a white tortoise. And on the far right is a statue of a glass encased Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). He is fronted by a beautiful brass statue of the contemplative Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha).

Finally, the left side wall has a rather large guardian painting that must have over one hundred guardians. Surrounding this mural, much like the right side, are dozens of smaller sized statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas like Jijang-bosal.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can get to Bulgwangsa Temple in one of two ways. First, you can catch a bus to Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal and catch city bus #2000. The bus ride will take you about 40 minutes, and you’ll have to get off at Jujin Village in Soju-dong. Either that, or you can catch city buses # 247 or #301 from the Busan City Bus Terminal in Nopo-dong. You’ll then have to get off at Jangheung. Before ascending the mountain, you’ll see a Buddhist temple to your left. This is Bulgwangsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10. This is a temple that should be seen with a more prominent temple. And fortunately for you, Bulgwangsa Temple is perfectly situated at the base of Mt. Cheonseongsan just before you make your way towards either Mitaam Hermitage or Hwaeomsa Temple. Besides filling up on water and taking a rest before the hardy climb, Bulgwangsa Temple has a few highlights like the temple duck, the main altar aquarium, and the multi-armed and faced Gwanseeum-bosal statue.

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The main hall at Bulgwangsa Temple with Mt. Cheonseongsan looming in the background.

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A collection of statues at the temple.

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A statue of Yongwang near the temple’s watering hole.

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The beautiful Wonhyo and Uisang painting that adorns the exterior wall to the main hall.

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The brick pagoda to the rear of the main hall.

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The well-loved duck at the temple.

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The temple’s abbot feeding the red-beaked duck.

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A look inside the main hall at the main altar.

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Surprisingly, there’s an aquarium inside the main hall with this albino turtle inside it.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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The triad of statues that rest on the main altar with Birojana-bul in the centre.

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To the left of the main altar is this elaborate statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal.

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And to the right of the main hall is this statue of Mireuk-bul and Jijang-bosal.

Seongraksa Temple – 성락사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The replica Dabotap pagoda in the foreground with the large main hall in the background at Seongraksa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Originally, I had been attempting to visit a neighbouring temple, when I stumbled upon Seongraksa Temple. At first, I thought it would be a small and non-descript temple, but I was happily mistaken.

When you first approach Seongraksa Temple, which is located in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, it’s in one of the city’s better hidden back alleys. The first things to greet you at this temple are two large and colourful guardian statues. Up the winding entrance road, on either side of the curbs, are two rows of granite Buddha statues. These statues either hold really unique items in their hands, or their hands are striking a specific mudra (a symbolic ritual gesture). Some of the better ones are the ones where the Buddha holds a tablet or a tiny temple in his hands. Another really good one is the twisted hand that points to a tiny pinched speck of air. There are duplicates, and sometimes triplicates, of these statues as you make your way up to the temple courtyard, but they certainly don’t disappoint.

Finally, when you make it to the crest of the hill, and the corresponding courtyard, you’ll be greeted by a near exact replica of the Dabotap Pagoda from the famous Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. Unlike the original version of the pagoda in Gyeongju, this pagoda has all four of the fierce guardian lions on each corner. Also, it has the amazingly intricate finial at the top of the pagoda. The only difference between the two is that instead of housing a stele inside the centre of the body, like at Gyeongju, the new version of this brilliant masonry houses a stone statue of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Light).

Behind the pagoda is a very large main hall. Finally, standing in front of the two story main hall, you’ll be greeted by a row of lotus holding seated stone statues of the Buddha. Behind these statues, and engraved along the stone base, are four uniquely sculpted Cheonwang (Heavenly Kings).

Housed inside the first floor of the main hall are the monks’ dorms, the kitchen, and a conference room. The meditation hall, and the true main hall of the temple, sits on the second floor of the building. The corners of each roof panel are adorned with large horned dragons. And the artwork that surrounds the second floor are rather simple Shim-u-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

As you step into the meditation hall, you’ll be greeted by a rather large interior. Sitting on the main altar, in the centre, is Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). He’s flanked by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) to the right and Nosana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha) to the left. To the left of this main altar is a standing statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Interestingly, there didn’t seem to appear to be a guardian painting, but there are hundreds of tiny golden and jade statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In the right front corner is a unique triad of statues. In the centre of this triad is Jeseok-bul. To the right of Jeseok-bul is a statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with a fierce looking tiger in front of him. And to the left is Okhwang-sangje (The Daoist Jade Emperor of Heaven). While this triad isn’t the most expensive looking set of statues, it’s pretty amazing that they’re even housed together as a triad. To the right of this triad, and along the right wall, is an unknown statue. The statue, with clenched fists, almost looks like a Yongwang that has lost his weapons. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s Yongwang (The Dragon King) and there was no one around to ask who he was. Perhaps next time…

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Yangsan Subway Station, Line 2, stop # 243, you’ll need to catch a taxi. The taxi ride should take about 12 minutes and cost you about 5,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. There are really three main highlights to this temple. The first, and most obvious, is the replica of the Dabotop Pagoda from the famous Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. The other two highlights are the originally designed Buddha’s that line the road that leads up to the temple, and the unique triad of Sanshin, Jeseok-bul, and Okhwang-sangje. While a bit out of the way, the temple has a few hidden gems, and not so hidden gems to make your trip worth it.

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The road that winds its way up to Seongraksa Temple.

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Just one of the Buddhas that lines the entrance at the temple.

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And another.

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And this one, through an anatomic miracle, points to a speck of dust.

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As you approach, a near replica of Dabo-tap Pagoda, from  Bulguksa Temple, awaits you.

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A better look at the pagoda that rests in the temple courtyard.

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The one telling difference between the two temples’ pagodas is this image of Birojana-bul at the heart of the pagoda at Seongraksa Temple.

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The massive main hall at Seongraksa Temple.

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The beautiful Buddhas that line the main hall.

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Adorning the main hall is this relief of one of the Heavenly Kings.

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A look across the front of the second story of the main hall.

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One of the realistic Shimu-do murals that adorns the exterior walls to the second floor of the main hall.

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A look inside the second floor hall. In the centre sits Birojana-bul. And he’s joined by Seokgamoni-bul and Nosana-bul.

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A shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal inside the main hall.

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The extremely unique triad of Jeseok-bul in the centre flanked by Sanshin to the right and Okhwang-sangje to the left.

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An unknown statue that has an altar all to himself. This statue is to the right of the extremely rare triad of Jeseok-bul, Sanshin, and Okwang-sangje.

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And the view from the main hall out onto the temple courtyard.