Updated: Gwaneumsa Temple – 관음사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The all-new Samseong-gak at Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I thought I would return to the lowest rated temple on the site after I had recently seen pictures online that showed some new landscaping and repairs. With that in mind, I give to you, once more, Gwaneumsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Gwaneumsa Temple is located behind row upon row of apartments on the north-east side of Mt. Obongsan (533m). Down a mountainside back alley, you’ll see a new stone sign that reads “관음사” that welcomes you to the temple. To the left side is the temple’s monks’ facilities and dorms. Up a steep cemented incline that leads past terraced vegetable gardens and a beautiful stone lantern, you’ll finally come to a newly built stone stairway. At the base of the stone stairs that lead up to the main hall are a pair of stone frog statues.

Climbing the numerous stairs, you’ll finally arrive at the temple’s main hall. The boxy main hall has beautiful large Palsang-do murals dedicated to the life of the Historical Buddha, as well as some twisting blue and yellow dragons near the entrances. Stepping inside the rather plainly adorned interior, you’ll notice a triad of statues resting on the main altar. In the centre of the three is Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar is a blue Shinjung Taenghwa (guardian mural). Look closely for Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) with his trusty tiger on his shoulder.

While one of the big changes to the temple is the landscaping, the other big change is the all new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left rear of the main hall. The exterior walls are made from brick; and regrettably, the old exterior painting of a male and female Sanshin is gone (see below). However, somewhat making up for this loss, as you step inside the Samseong-gak, is a large three-in-one mural dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), Chilseong (Seven Stars), and Sanshin. Take a close look at the beautiful starry background to the Chilseong mural, as well as the mountainous background in the Dokseong and Sanshin parts of the mural. And to the rear of the Samseong-gak is a beautiful mature bamboo forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Gwaneumsa Temple, you can get off at Namyangsan subway station, line two, subway stop #242. After exiting from the subway station, head west for about 30 minutes. You’ll pass by a Dunkin’ Donuts at the 5 minute point, but keep heading west. You’ll then meet a steep hill with a Paris Baguette at its base at the 10 minute mark: keep heading west. Once you’re at the top of the hill, at the 20 minute mark, you’ll notice a Buddhist statue to the left. You have to turn right, where the apartments end, and head up another steep hill. Once you’re at the top of this hill you’ll notice a sign pointing you towards the temple.

NOTE: Not sure why the temple is referred to as Bogguam Hermitage on Google, but it is most definitely Gwaneumsa Temple.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. With the new landscaping and the all new three-in-one shaman mural, Gwaneumsa Temple is lifted out of the basement on the site. Also, have a good look at the Shinjung Taenghwa with a smiling Sanshin and tiger.

The Gwaneumsa Temple sign that first greets you at the temple.

A look at the newly landscaped Gwaneumsa Temple.

The newly constructed stone stairs that lead up towards the temple’s main hall.

The main hall at Gwaneumsa Temple.

Some of the beautiful artwork in and around the main hall.

As well one as one of the beautiful blue dragons that adorns the exterior of the main hall.

The main altar inside the main hall.

A closer look at Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).

As well as a closer look at Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

The Shinjung Taenghwa to the right of the main altar.

A look up towards the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The highly unique three-in-one shaman mural inside the Samseong-gak.

A closer look at the Chilseong mural.

The mature bamboo forest to the rear of the Samseong-gak.

And a look from the main hall towards the row upon row of apartments.

The old Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall taken in 2011.

A closer look at the male and female Sanshin mural that used to adorn the exterior wall of the Samseong-gak. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

Suamsa Temple – 수암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Buleum Falls at Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Suamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do is located on the northern slopes of Mt. Togoksan. It’s located between two towering mountain peaks and next to a beautiful tall waterfall called Buleum Falls (불음폭포).

You first make your way towards Suamsa Temple up a long valley. The valley stretches four kilometres in length and ends at the temple. Along the way, you’ll encounter several smaller rapids cascading over the jagged rocks. A short trek up a set of uneven stairs will bring you to the beautiful Buleum Falls. Amazingly, this waterfall is almost unknown, while the smaller Hongryong Falls at Hongryongsa Temple is much more famous. There are several great angles to enjoy this waterfall, but it’s a bit difficult to get to the base of the falls as there are no stairs that give you immediate access to Buleum Falls.

Walking across the Y-shaped green metal bridge, you’ll need to walk a bit further up the mountain trail to get to Suamsa Temple. But to keep you company along the way is the beautiful falls to your left through the forest.

Finally stepping into the temple grounds, you’ll notice the monks’ dorms, kitchen, and visitors’ centre to your far right. Perched to the left is the temple’s main hall. Uniquely, the exterior walls to the main hall are built from stone. I’ve never seen this before at a temple. I’ve seen other shrine halls, like the Yaksa-jeon Hall at Mangunsa Temple, built from stone; but never the main hall. Stepping inside the main hall, you’ll first step onto a concrete floor. It’s from there, after taking off your shoes, that you can walk around the main hall. Seated on the main altar, in the centre, is a statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right and a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). All three statues are backed by a beautiful white image of Gwanseeum-bosal. To the right of the main altar is a painting dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). While to the left are two additional paintings: one of Jijang-bosal and the other is the temple’s guardian mural.

The other shrine hall visitors can explore is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall, which is slightly elevated to the right rear of the main hall. This shaman shrine hall is built from brick, and when you first step inside this hall you’ll instantly notice that the main altar is slightly different than other temples. Usually, the main altar is comprised of three paintings dedicated to Chilseong (which hangs in the middle). This painting is then joined on either side by Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Instead, at Suamsa Temple, a painting of Dokseong rests in the centre of the main altar. And to the right is Sanshin, while to the left hangs a mural dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Obviously, Suamsa Temple has given prominence to a different set of shaman deities then most other temples.

HOW TO GET THERE: Outside of owning a car, the only way to get to Suamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, line 2, stop #240. The taxi ride should take about 35 minutes and cost you 30,000 won (one way).

OVERALL RATING: 7/10. Suamsa Temple is a little known temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. However, the temple’s natural beauty is nearly unrivaled by a lot of other temples on the Korean peninsula. Buleum Falls majestically flow next to the temple. As for the temple itself, it has a few quirks like the murals in the Samseong-gak, as well as the stony exterior of the main hall.

The first evidence of Buleum Falls.

The cascading water that flows as you make your way up to Suamsa Temple.

A mini-falls along the way as you get nearer and nearer to the temple grounds.

The green Y-shaped metal bridge that stands out in front of the falls.

Paper lanterns are the surest sign that a temple is nearby.

The beautiful Buleum Falls!

 A closer look at its natural beauty.

A pretty amazing view at the entrance of the temple grounds.

The main hall at Suamsa Temple.

The unique concrete entry to the main hall.

The main altar in surround sound.

The view from the main hall with its stony exterior.

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A look across the main altar.

A closer look at the jovial Sanshin.

The view from the Samseong-gak Hall.

Yeongamsa Temple – 영암사 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The main hall and the three tier pagoda at Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Located southwest of the towering Mt. Togoksan (855m) is Yeongamsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. In fact, if you look towards Togoksan, you’ll be able to see the abandoned Bokcheonjeongsa Temple from Yeongamsa Temple.

You’ll first approach Yeongamsa Temple down one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven on while visiting a temple in Korea. After finally traversing the pothole filled country road, you’ll be greeted by the Cheonwangmun Gate. You’ll be greeted by this gate and a very friendly Jindo dog. Painted on the doors are two intimidating guardians. With the doors wide open, the painted Heavenly Kings take up residence behind the large wooden entry doors.

Entering the temple’s lower courtyard, you’ll notice the monks’ residence to the right and the kitchen and visitor’s centre to the left. There is a stream that divides the two sides up the centre. It’s up the embankment that you’ll enter the upper courtyard. It’s the upper courtyard that houses all of the shrine halls at the temple.

Sitting in the centre of the upper courtyard is the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple. Adorning the exterior walls to the main hall are two different types of mural sets. The lower set, which are masterful in composition, are the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding) murals. The upper set is the Palsang-do murals. Housed inside the main hall is a triad of statues that rest on the main altar. These jade-looking statues that are green in hue are centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul) and Gwanseum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This triad is surrounded on the main altar by row upon row of smaller sized green Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statues. To the left of the main altar is an altar dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And this bodhisattva is backed by a dark Gamno-do painting. To the right of the main altar is the guardian mural.

To the left of the main hall is a biseok, while out in front is a three tier stone pagoda. To the right rear of the main hall is a glass shrine hall dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King). Out in front of the Yongwang-dang is a stagnant pond with, miraculously, Koi fish inside. Stepping inside the Yongwang-dang, you’ll be greeted by another green statue; this time, of Yongwang.

Over the ridge, and to the rear of the main hall, in a plum tree orchard, is the Samseong-gak. The plainness of the shaman shrine hall is elevated by the natural beauty of the flowering plum trees during the spring months. The Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural is traditional in composition, while the blood-red eyes of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and the atypical appearance of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) standout. To the far right of the Samseong-gak, and over the bisecting stream, is another stone pagoda. This pagoda is seven tiers in height.

HOW TO GET THERE: The easiest, and perhaps only way, to get to Yeongamsa Temple is by taxi. You can get a taxi from Jeungsan subway station, #240, in Yangsan. The taxi ride should last about 30 minutes and cost 15,000 won one way.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While a bit treacherous to get to, Yeongamsa Temple is surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. As for the temple itself, the main highlights are the interior of the main hall with its jade-like looking ceramic statues, as well as the eerily dark Gamno-do painting.

The Cheonwangmun Gate at Yeongamsa Temple.

The stream that bisects the temple grounds.

The friendly Jindo dog that might just accompany you around the temple grounds.

The main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The biseok to the left of the main hall.

One of the murals from the Palsang-do set that adorns the exterior walls to the main hall.

As well as one of the masterful Shimu-do murals that also adorns the main hall at Yeongamsa Temple.

The unique main altar inside the main hall.

The Jijang-bosal altar inside the main hall with the Gamno-do mural backing the green bodhisattva.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

The view from the Yongwang-dang towards the main hall.

The glassy exterior to the Yongwang-dang.

The hulk-like looking Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the Yongwang-dang.

The plum tree orchard that fronts the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

A closer look at the boxy Samseong-gak.

Some of the beautiful nature that surrounds Yeongamsa Temple.

Unfortunately, the Sanshin mural was placed in a glass frame. But his red eyes are still pretty menacing.

It’s not everyday that you get to see Dokseong with such a unique hairstyle.

And the seven tier pagoda through some of the plum trees.

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.