Gigiam Hermitage – 기기암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Gigiam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do is another one of those hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan. Of the three roads that lead out towards the hermitages at Eunhaesa Temple, Gigiam Hermitage is located on the southern road just up from Seounam Hermitage.

You approach Gigiam Hermitage along a river valley and then up a twisting and turning mountainside road. When you do eventually arrive at the hermitage parking lot, you’ll find the sprawling hermitage grounds. Straight ahead of you, and past some beautifully manicured grounds, are the monks’ dorms. These dorms are fenced off by a high wall, and the dorms are off-limits to visitors.

It’s to the left that you’ll find the buildings that visitors can explore. Unfortunately, when I visited, the main hall was being completely torn down and restored. So instead of being able to visit the beautiful, old main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, they had relocated the main altar paintings and statue to an auxiliary building at the hermitage. This building is the plain-white building to the right of the main hall construction site.

Housed inside this temporary main hall is a crowned seated statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). And this statue is then backed by a beautiful black mural. Hanging on the right wall is a newer looking guardian mural.

Past the main hall construction zone, and to the right of the kitchen at Gigiam Hermitage, is a sign that directs you towards the hermitage’s Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall is just big enough for an adult to sit in. Housed inside this shrine hall are three paintings dedicated to various shaman deities. The first of the three, and straight ahead, is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural. To the left of the Chilseong mural is a retro-looking Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural. But it’s the mural to the right, the Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) mural, that will draw most of your attention. Sanshin is joined in the painting by a leper-looking tiger.

Entrance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the south, towards Gigiam Hermitage. The walk takes about 2.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. I think if it wasn’t for the re-construction of the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage, this hermitage would rate higher. However, since half of the buildings that visitors can explore are under construction, Gigiam Hermitage rates as low as it does. However, if you do decide to visit Gigiam Hermitage, keep an eye out for the hidden Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall behind the main hall and the distinctive Sanshin mural housed inside it.

Some of the grounds around Gigiam Hermitage.

One of the stone reliefs at the hermitage with Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the centre.

The temporary main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Inside is housed this beautiful statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion is backed by this black Buddhist mural.

The guardian mural to the right of the main altar.

A look around the temporary main hall.

Yep, the main hall is definitely under construction.

The stairs that lead up to the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

The diminutive Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

The Chilseong mural housed inside the shaman shrine hall.

As well as this image of Dokseong.

The unique Sanshin mural housed inside the Samseong-gak.

And the view from the main hall at Gigiam Hermitage.

Baekheungam Hermitage – 백흥암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The entry to Baekheungam Hermitage near Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Like Unbuam Hermitage, Baekheungam Hermitage is a hermitage directly associated with the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. And like almost all hermitages associated with Eunhaesa Temple, Baekheungam Hermitage is situated to the west of the main temple.

Baekheungam Hermitage was first established in the mid Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Originally, the hermitage directly belonged to Eunhaesa Temple. The shrine, which was to become Baekheungam Hermitage, was first constructed in 1546 to commemorate the spirit of King Injong (r. 1544-45). It was later in 1643 that the main hall, the Geukrak-jeon Hall, was constructed.

You first approach the temple up a long road. To the right, you’ll finally arrive at the hermitage and be greeted by a large Boje-ru Pavilion (much like the one at Unbuam Hermitage). Unlike Unbuam Hermitage, you can’t walk up the stairs at the centre of the pavilion to gain entrance to the hermitage courtyard. Instead, you’ll need to walk to the right through an entry that opens between the nuns’ living quarters and the right exterior wall of the Boje-ru Pavilion. Baekheungam Hermitage is very similar in its architectural layout as Unbuam Hermitage. Book-ending the main hall are a pair of living quarters for the nuns. And to the far left and right, outside the hermitage main courtyard, are the facilities for the nuns like the gardens and the kitchen.

Straight ahead is the main highlight to Baekheungam Hermitage: the Geukrak-jeon Hall. Unfortunately, this hall is off-limits to both visitors and photography except on Buddha’s birthday. I was, however, lucky enough to run into a nun that allowed me entry to this historic building. The Geukrak-jeon Hall is designated Korean Treasure #790. The exterior walls of the building are unpainted. However, once you step inside the main hall, you’ll instantly notice the amazing altar that stands in the middle of the historic hall. Sitting in the centre of the altar is a seated statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is then joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). This altar is one of the best examples of Joseon artistry that you’ll find in Korea. The Buddhist altar also just so happens to be Korean Treasure #486. Have a close look at the intricate wood engravings on the five tiers of the altar.

Filling out the rest of the Geukrak-jeon Hall is a haunting Gamno-do (The Sweet Dew Painting) on the far left wall. And this painting is joined on the far right wall by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), a guardian mural, as well as a mural dedicated to one of the Ten Kings of the Afterlife.

Depending on when you visit Baekheungam Hermitage, especially during the spring and summer months, the grounds are naturally graced with an assortment of beautiful flowers.

Admittance to Eunhaesa Temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and along the central road, towards Baekheungam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10. Baekheungam Hermitage is one of the most difficult hermitages to rate, because it’s so rare that you’ll find a main hall at a temple or hermitage off-limits to the public. With that said, if you’re lucky enough to enter the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage, the overall rating easily climbs to a six or seven out of ten with its amazing artistry all around the main hall like the main altar and the Gamno-do painting.

Some of the beautiful flowers in and around Baekheungam Hermitage.

A better look at the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The side entry to the hermitage courtyard.

An inside look at the Boje-ru Pavilion that first greeted you at the entry of the hermitage.

The entry to one of the nuns’ quarters at Baekheungam Hermitage.

The exterior of the amazing Geukrak-jeon Hall at Baekheungam Hermitage.

And the view out towards the hermitage courtyard from the Geukrak-jeon Hall.

Unbuam Hermitage – 운부암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

The Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Unbuam Hermitage is one of several hermitages directly associated with the famed Eunhaesa Temple. Both Eunhaesa Temple and Unbuam Hermitage are located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan (1,192m) in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

After arriving at Eunhaesa Temple, make your way past the temple grounds and head northwest. You’ll need to head in this direction for about 3.5 km. The hike is pretty flat the entire way. When you do finally arrive at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll notice two large artificial ponds out in front of the main hermitage grounds. While the one to the right is rather non-descript, the pond to the left has a towering stone statue of the Bodhidharma standing in the centre of the muddy water.

Between both of the ponds, you’ll find an unpainted Bulimun Gate (The Gate of Non-Duality). Up a set of uneven stone stairs, you’ll see the large Boje-ru Pavilion straight in front of you. This gate shields people from seeing directly into the hermitage courtyard. You’ll need to pass under the Boje-ru Pavilion, and up the set of stairs at its centre to finally gain entry to the main hermitage courtyard.

As you step into Unbuam Hermitage’s courtyard, you’ll find that the main hall is book-ended by two long buildings. The building to the left is the visitors’ centre and kitchen, while the long unpainted building to your right is the monks’ quarters. And standing all alone in the middle of the hermitage courtyard is a diminutive three story stone pagoda.

Past the smaller sized pagoda, you’ll see the rather stout Wontong-jeon main hall at Unbuam Hermitage. The exterior walls to the main hall are adorned with fading murals. If you look closely up at the eaves, you’ll notice some of the fading floral patterns that were once a bit more vibrant. As for the main hall itself, and seated all alone on the main altar in a glass enclosure, is a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. This highly ornate statue is Korean Treasure #514. If you look closely at this early Joseon Period (1392-1910) masterpiece, you’ll notice the flames, flowers and birds of paradise decorating the crown. This gilt bronze statue stands one metre in height. As for the rest of the main hall, you’ll find a guardian mural and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) mural hanging on the far right wall.

To the left rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall, you’ll find a brand new Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. This hall, which will become apparent soon, is highly original in a few ways. First, there are three rooms housed inside the Samseong-gak. But instead of being divided into rooms dedicated to various shaman deities like at Beomeosa Temple, this shaman shrine hall has rooms to the left and right dedicated to those that want to pray alone.

As for the central room inside the Samseong-gak, you’ll find three paintings housed inside it. Typically, the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) painting hangs in the centre of the triad of shaman paintings. But inside this hall, the Chilseong painting hangs on the left wall, while the Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) painting hangs on the right wall. And taking centre stage inside the Samseong-gak is one of the most original Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) murals I have seen in all of Korea. Sitting front and centre is a seated image of Sanshin. And he’s joined by his companion, a tiger, to the left. But what sets this painting apart are the five painted images of monks in the mural. In the back row appear the images of Uisang-daesa (625-702) to the left and Wonhyo-daesa (617-686) to the right. As for the front row, and in the centre, appears Gyeongheo-seonsa (1849-1912). And he’s joined on either side by Seongcheol-seonsa (1912-1993) and Jinje-seonsa. The only guess that I have as to why they all appear in the Sanshin mural is that all five might have appeared alongside Sanshin to the head monk at Unbuam Hermitage in a dream.

And the reason why I think this might be true is that to the rear of the Wontong-jeon main hall and past the vegetable garden at Unbuam Hermitage, you’ll find what looks to be an abandoned building over a bit of a ridge. Without any sign board indicating what might be housed inside, you’ll have to take a look for yourself. And when you do, you’ll find a beautiful modern painting of yet another Sanshin.

Entrance fee to Eunhaesa Temple, where Unbuam Hermitage is located, is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 2,000 won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 a.m. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 p.m. And from Eunhaesa Temple, you’ll need to continue to walk west of the temple, and to the north, towards Unbuam Hermitage. The walk takes about 3.5 km.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. While not as large as the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple, Unbuam Hermitage is packed with originality. There’s both the Bodhidharma statue, the slender Bulimun Gate, and the Boje-ru Pavilion that first welcome you to the hermitage. But that’s just for starters, because housed inside the main hall is an amazing gilt bronze statue of Gwanseeum-bosal that just so happens to be Korean Treasure #514. And last, but certainly not least, is the highly original Sanshin and monk mural housed inside the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

As you first approach Unbuam Hermitage.

The entry to Unbuam Hermitage with the Bodhidharma off in the distance.

The pond with the Bodhidharma statue in the centre.

The Bulimun Gate that welcomes you to the main hermitage grounds.

A look through the Bulimun Gate towards the Boje-ru Pavilion.

A better look at the all-natural Boje-ru Pavilion.

The view as you first step inside the hermitage courtyard.

A look inside the Boje-ru Pavilion.

The compact entrance to one of the monks’ quarters.

The Bodhidharma guiding you towards the hermitage kitchen.

A look up at the Wontong-jeon Hall at Unbuam Hermitage.

A look through the front door of the Wontong-jeon Hall.

Korean Treasure #514, Gwanseeum-bosal.

The newly built Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall at the hermitage.

One of the prayer rooms inside the Samseong-gak.

The amazing, and highly original, Sanshin mural at Unbuam Hermitage.

Who is joined by Dokseong to the right.

The tile work and fading floral patterns that adorn the Wontong-jeon main hall.

The seemingly abandoned Sanshin-gak to the rear of the hermitage grounds.

Housed inside is this beautiful second Sanshin mural at the hermitage.

One final look from the hermitage courtyard.

Colonial Korea: Geojoam Hermitage – 거조암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The hermitage grounds at Geojoam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do in 1933.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Geojoam Hermitage, which is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Palgongsan in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, is directly associated with the much larger Eunhaesa Temple. While the exact date of Geojoam Hermitage isn’t exactly known, it’s believed that Geojoam Hermitage predates Eunhaesa Temple, which was first founded in 809 A.D. by the monk Hycheol. Some think that Geojoam Hermitage was first founded in 738 A.D. by the monk Woncham. Others believe that the temple might have first been constructed during the reign of the Silla king, King Gyeongdeok (r. 742-765). Originally, the hermitage was known as Haeansa Temple.

Throughout the years, Geojoam Hermitage has been destroyed numerous times by fire. And in recent years, the hermitage has fallen under the administrative lead of the neighbouring Eunhaesa Temple.

Geojoam Hermitage’s greatest claim to fame, and in fact one of only two temple shrine halls at the hermitage, is the Yeongsan-jeon Hall, or the “Vulture Peak Hall,” in English. According to records found during one of the shrine halls reconstructions, the Yeongsan-jeon Hall dates back to 1375. This makes it one of the oldest wooden structures behind Sudeoksa Temple’s Daeung-jeon Hall, which dates back to 1308; but older than the Muryangsu-jeon main hall at Buseoksa Temple, which dates back to 1376. Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall are 526 stone statues of the Nahan.

The Yeongsan-jeon Hall at Geojoam Hermitage is Korea’s National Treasure #14. With only a handful of mid-Goryeo Dynasty buildings still in existence in Korea, it’s no wonder that the main hall at Geojoam Hermitage is a national treasure.

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The 14th century Yeongsan-jeon main hall at Geojoam Hermitage. The picture dates back to 1933.

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The front facade to one of the oldest wooden structures in Korea: The Yeongsan-jeon Hall.

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A closer look at the 1375 structure.

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As well as the simplistic Goryeo architecture on display at Geojoam Hermitage.

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Inside the amazing main hall at Geojoam Hermitage.

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The main altar and some of the Nahan statues on display inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall. This picture, also, dates back to 1933.

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A more modern look at the Yeongsan-jeon main hall. This picture dates back to 2011.

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The front view towards the 1375 building.

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The Goryeo architecture, which is rarely on display in Korea, is in sharp contrast to the Joseon Dynasty designs.

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A look up at the wooden eaves of the main hall.

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Inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall with a look around its interior at some of the stone Nahan statues.

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One more expansive look from 2011 inside Korean National Treasure #14.

Bulgulsa Temple – 불굴사 (Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The historic Buddha statue at Bulgulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

On Mt. Muhaksan, and just past the local mental institution, lays Bulgulsa Temple in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Bulgulsa Temple dates back to 690 A.D. During its peak, the temple housed over 50 buildings and had 12 associated hermitages.

When first approaching the elevated temple grounds, you’ll notice a collection of buildings that are under construction. It’s to the right of these buildings that you’ll first notice the simple bell pavilion. Up a set of uneven stairs, and past a garish, plastic Heavenly King, you’ll enter the temple’s courtyard.

Straight ahead lays the main hall. Out in front of the main hall stands a three-tier stone pagoda that dates back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935 A.D.). The 7.43 metre tall pagoda is both well preserved and rather common for the pagodas of this era in Korean history.

Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are a nice collection of Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. As for the interior, and similar to the main hall at Tongdosa Temple, there is simply a window where statues should be seated on the main altar. This window looks out onto a stupa. Purportedly, this stupa enshrines some sari (crystallized remains) from the Historical Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul. Other than this, the only other things that the main hall houses is a guardian mural on the far right wall, as well as seated statues of the Buddha with white paper hats on their heads.

To the right of main hall, and excluding the monks’ dorms, there are a couple of halls that visitors can explore at Bulgulsa Temple. The first is a diminutive Dokseong/Sanshin-gak. Housed inside this shrine hall are two rather plain shaman deities. The other hall, the Myeongbu-jeon, is attached to part of the monks’ dorms. This rather long, narrow hall houses a solitary statue dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined by an assortment of Bodhisattva paintings which include Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), Bohyun-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

To the left of the main hall, and the real highlight to the temple, is the ancient stone statue of the Buddha. The exact date and image of the Buddha are unknown; however, the statue has been well preserved. The 233 centimetre tall statue is placed on a natural ridge of rock. The chubby faced Buddha holds a jar in his left hand, while his right hand is pointed down towards the ground below. Uniquely, the shrine hall has been built around the statue.

Perched over top of the temple southwest of Bulgulsa Temple is Hongjuam Hermitage. In and among the natural contours of the mountain’s rocks is a beautiful relief of Seokgamoni-bul. And on another mountain ridge, to the southeast, stands a statue of Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha).

HOW TO GET THERE: Because of its remoteness, the only way that you can get to Bulgulsa Temple from the neighbouring city of Gyeongsan is to take a taxi from the Gyeongsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take about 55 minutes and it should cost about 25,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. Bulgulsa Temple has a few things for visitors to enjoy. One is the purported earthly remains of Seokgamoni-bul housed in a stupa behind the main hall. Another highlight is the ancient Buddha statue, as well as Hongjuam Hermitage that lays up in a neighbouring mountain ridge.

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The elevated bell pavilion at Bulgulsa Temple.

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The temple courtyard.

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A closer look at the three-tier stone pagoda and the main hall.

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A look through the window inside the main hall out towards the stupa that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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One of the white-hatted Buddhas inside the main hall.

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One of the Shimu-do paintings from the set of ten murals.

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A closer look at the stupa that houses the Buddha’s sari.

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A look towards the Dokseong/Sanshin-gak.

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The rather ordinary Sanshin mural.

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The entrance to the Myeongbu-jeon hall to the far left.

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A look inside the Myeongbu-jeon hall.

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The shrine hall that houses the historic Buddha statue.

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A look at the actual Buddha statue.

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A better look at both the Buddha and inside the shrine hall.

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One last look around the temple courtyard.

Jukrimsa Temple – 죽림사 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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One of the beautiful stupas at the entry of Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just below Mt. Yubongsan, and west of the Geumho River, is Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. About a kilometre and a half up a mountainside road lies Jukrimsa Temple. The first thing to greet you at the temple is the Iljumun Gate, which has a pair of chubby pillars at its base.

A little further up the road, but before you arrive at the temple grounds, you’ll notice an ornate stupa to your right. This stupa is a near replica of the one at Seonamsa Temple on Mt. Baekyangsan in Busan. With ornate ornamental dragons, tigers, and Biseon, as well as a decorative Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at the entrance of the stupa, this stupa is probably the most beautiful piece of funeral stone masonry in all of Korea. The pair of large sized stupas are joined by smaller sized stupas.

With the slight incline of the mountain elevation kicking in, you’ll finally near the outskirts of the temple courtyard. Passing under the Boje-ru Pavilion, which is beautifully adorned during Buddha’s birthday, the pavilion is surrounded on all sides by rose bushes, Japanese maples, and shrubs.

Stepping into the temple courtyard, a three-tier stone pagoda welcomes you to Jukrimsa Temple’s courtyard. The monks’ dorms lie to the left, while the main hall stands straight ahead of you. In front of the main hall are a collection of granite statues. To the far right is a triad statue centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). To the far left are two more statues. The first is the “hear no evil, speak no evil, and see no evil,” motif statue; while the other statue is a graceful granite statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

Surrounding the main hall’s exterior walls are a collection of simple Palsang-do murals. Inside the hall, and resting on the main altar, are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal and Gwanseeum-bosal. There are a few accompanying murals housed inside the main hall like the guardian mural that hangs on the left wall, as well as a red mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal that hangs on the right wall. Interestingly, and just to the left of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, there are a collection of pictures of former presidents like Park Chung Hee (and his wife), and Roh Moo Hyun.

To the left of the main hall are two shrine halls that visitors can enjoy while exploring Jukrimsa Temple. The first to the immediate left of the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Of the three shaman murals that include Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), it’s the tiger-riding Sanshin mural that stands above the others for its originality.

The other hall at Jukrimsa Temple is the Nahan-jeon. The white-clothed stone statues of the Nahan are joined on the main altar by Seokgamoni-bul. Also, the stone statues are backed by beautiful murals of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is no direct bus that will take you to Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. So the most direct way to get to Jukrimsa Temple is to take a taxi from Yeongcheon Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride should last about 25 minutes and cost about 7,200 won.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10. The main highlight at Jukrimsa Temple are the two ornate stupas at the entry of the temple. The beautiful grounds are filled with masterful statues of Gwanseeum-bosal and Amita-bul. And to top it off, you can also enjoy all the murals housed inside both the Nahan-jeon and the Samseong-gak at Jukrimsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

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The chubby pillared Iljumun Gate at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look towards a pair of stupas.

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A closer look at one of the ornate stupas.

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Adorning the door on the stupa is this image of Jijang-bosal.

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Some of the tiger reliefs on the stupa.

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As well as a decorative dragon.

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A look up towards the Boje-ru Pavilion at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The temple courtyard in preparation for Buddha’s birthday.

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The main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The statue of Gwanseeum-bosal.

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The chubby “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil” statues.

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

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Inside the main hall at Jukrimsa Temple.

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The view of the grassy temple courtyard at Jukrimsa Temple.

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A look up towards the Samseong-gak.

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A look inside the Samseong-gak; yes, with a ladder in it.

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A better look at the tiger-riding Sanshin mural.

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The Nahan-jeon at Jukrimsa Temple.

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And a look inside the Nahan-jeon.

Geojoam Hermitage – 거조암 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Picture 246The walk under the bell pavilion and up to the ancient main hall at Geojoam Hermitage in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

It was just by chance that we even learned about Geojoam Hermitage. Before arriving at Eunhaesa  Temple, which is the main temple it’s associated with, I didn’t even know about this hermitage, let alone its long history. It was definitely a nice find.

It is believed that Geojoam Hermitage (거조암) dates back to 738 when the monk Woncham founded the temple. There is some dispute about whether it could potentially have been built during the reign of the Silla King Gyeongdeok; but either way, the hermitage is datable to the Silla Dynasty. The hermitage use to be called  Geojosa Temple, but in recent years it changed to Geojoam Hermitage and fell under the control of the neighbouring  Eunhaesa  Temple.

When you first approach the hermitage, which you can only get to by walking, you’ll come to an expansive parking lot. The colourless, yet stately, bell pavilion is the first thing to greet you at the hermitage. You’ll have to go under the bell pavilion, and climb up the stone stairs, to gain access to the hermitage’s courtyard. From this flight of stairs, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the unassuming, yet ancient, Yeongsanjeon main hall at the hermitage. According to calligraphic records found at the time of reconstructing the building, Yeongsan-jeon Hall dates back to 1375, which makes it one of the oldest wooden structures in all of  Korea. The exterior of this hall, much like the main hall at  Buseoksa Temple, is unadorned by any paintings. However, the interior of the hall is extremely unique. It’s so unique that I’ve never seen anything like it at any other main hall throughout Korea. On the main altar sits Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Accompanying the Buddha is a hall filled with 526 stone statues of the Nahan (The Buddha’s disciples). Each stone statue has a different facial expression and posture. And each one of them is painted a unique pastel colour. It really is something to see!

Other than Yeongsan-jeon Hall, there really isn’t all that much to see. There’s a study hall and dorm to the right and left of the main hall, and there’s also an ancient pagoda that was under renovation when we were there. There is a nice little San shin hall to the left of the main hall. The path that leads up to the shrine hall is under a canopy of curved metal rods. The shrine hall itself is compact, and the painting inside is rather unique.

Admission to the hermitage is free.

HOW TO GET THERE: There is no bus connection directly to the hermitage. Instead, you’ll have to watch for the sign that leads up to the hermitage from the bus route that goes to the neighbouring  Eunhaesa  Temple. The hike in from the main road is about 4 km, but that’s better than the 7 kilometres you would have to hike from  Eunhaesa Temple. You can get to Eunhaesa Temple from Hayang about every hour:

06:00, 06:35, 07:40, 07:55, 08:55, 10:15, 11:05, 11:50, 12:45, 14:10, 14:55, 15:50, 16:55, 17:45, 18:30, 19:40, 20:15, 22:00.

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OVERALL RATING: 7/10. The reason this hermitage rates as high as it does is for one reason, and one reason only: Yeongsan-jeon. This main hall is perhaps the oldest wooden structure in Korea, even older than the much famed main hall at  Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. There are only three other buildings at the hermitage, only one of which is accessible to the general public: The San shin Hall. However, it must be noted that the hermitage is extremely difficult to get to, so go at your own discretion.

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A look at the bell pavilion as you first approach the hermitage.
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A look up from the parking lot at the monk’s dorm at Geojoam Hermitage.
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The long and stony walk up to the main courtyard at the hermitage with the ancient Yeongsan-jeon on the horizon.
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A look inside the beautiful bell pavilion that you pass under to gain admission to the courtyard at the hermitage.
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The expansive courtyard at the hermitage. The main hall is to the right and the monk’s dorm is straight ahead.
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The main hall, Yeongsan-jeon, at Geojoam Hermitage. Though unadorned on the exterior, the ancient hall has a unique interior.
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A long look inside Yeongsan-jeon with the 526 individual Nahan stone statues.
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The altar inside the main hall.
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A row of Nahan to the left of the altar inside the main hall.
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A serenely designed Nahan riding a blue tiger.
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Another Nahan that looks a little terrified for some unknown reason.
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One last look inside the main hall.
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As I exited the main hall, I noticed that the ancient pagoda was under renovation.
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The monk’s dorm to the left of the main hall.
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A look down the long main hall at Geojoam Hermitage.
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The San shin Hall at Geojoam Hermitage.
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And a look inside the shrine hall with the uniquely painted mural of San shin (The Mountain Spirit).

Eunhaesa Temple – 은해사 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Picture 198The elaborately decorated altar inside the main hall at Eunhaesa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

 Hello Again Everyone!!

Eunhaesa  Temple had been a temple that I had long heard of, but had never traveled to. And with an extra day of travel set aside, my wife and I decided to head up to the Daegu area and visit  Eunhaesa  Temple.

Eunhaesa Temple (은해사), which means Temple of the Silver Sea, dates back to 809 when it was first built by the Venerable Monk Hyechul, who was a national teacher at the time. The reason that Eunhaesa Temple has this Silver Sea name is that Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Nahan look like a wavy silver sea in all their grandeur at the temple. Also, when it’s foggy at the temple, it looks like a wavy seas is present. Originally, the temple was built in Haeanpeong field along  Mt.  Palsongsan, and it was named  Haeansa  Temple, which means Temple of the  Tranquil  Sea. The temple was moved to its present location in 1546 in the first year of King Myong-Jong, by the Veneral Monk Chongyo. During a commemorative ceremony at the time, King Injong was memorialized with a ceremony that saw a lecture hall and monument built in his memory. Strangely, his umbilical cord was buried under the monument. The temple was further reconstructed in 1589 by the Venerable Monks Bopryong and Kwangshim during King Sunjo’s reign during the Joseon Dynasty. In 1919, the temple was designated as the provincial headquarters for the Gyeongsangbuk-do province for the Jogye Buddhist Order In total, there are 42 temples and 8 hermitages under its control like Geojoam Hermitage and Myobongam Hermitage.

When you approach the temple from the parking lot, you’ll pass under a massive entrance gate. Walking along the trail that leads up the trail, you’ll be greeted by twisted and turned pine trees that eventually bring you to a compound that houses the temple’s stupas. There is an out of place bright green bridge that spans a beautiful stream. Further up the trail, you’ll finally catch your first glimpse of the temple grounds and a neighbouring cascade of water that could do with a bit of cleaning.

You’ll first pass under the large lecture hall that is decorated both inside and outside of the temple grounds with guardian paintings. Strangely, these paintings are neither Heng nor Ha; instead, they seem to appear more like protective Vajra guardians. Stepping into the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by an expansive courtyard. To your immediate left is the two storied bell pavilion. Immediately in front of the bell pavilion is an intricately designed water fountain and study hall. To the far right, as you step into the temple courtyard, are the monk’s grounds that are off limits to the general public. In this area are numerous dorms and study halls.

Straight ahead is the beautifully designed main hall, both inside and out. The exterior of the main hall is decorated with some fading and chipped away Ox-Herding murals, which are still beautiful in composition. Inside the main hall, you won’t see a better looking and more beautifully decorated main hall in all of Korea. On the altar sits Amita-bul (The Buddha of the  Western Paradise) and two standing Bodhisattvas: Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to his right, and what looks to be Daesaeji (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and the Power of Amita-bul). The mural behind the triad dates back to 1750 and is designated a national treasure. There are equally beautiful and older looking murals to the right and left of the main altar. These paintings depict the Yeongsan Assembly and another that depicts the guardians. Up in the rafters of the main hall, there float two birds of paradise. And the main altar canopy is adorned with a uniquely designed dragon.

To the left of the main hall is a shrine hall dedicated to prominent monks that formally resided at the temple. Behind this hall is a compact, but cutely designed, hall dedicated to San shin (The Mountain god). This beautiful shrine hall is equally beautiful inside the hall with a unique bluish gray statue of the Mountain god. To the right of the main hall is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). The exterior of the building is adorned with paintings of a baby being reared to old age. The interior of the hall is adorned with a thousand tiny statues of Jijang-bosal. The main altar of the hall is a stately looking Jijang-bosal statue with a beautiful black mural of the Bodhisattva behind him.

Admission to the temple is 3,000 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can either catch a bus from Hayang or Yeongcheon bus station. The bus ride will cost you about 1,700 Won. It’s probably easier to get to Yeongcheon bus station. The bus to Eunhaesa Temple, from Yeongcheon, leaves 8 times a day and it takes about 45 minutes. The first bus leaves at 6:20 A.M. and the last bus leaves at 8:00 P.M.

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OVERALL RATING: 8/10. The main hall is definitely the highlight of this temple, with its beautiful and ancient mural, the canopy that hovers over top of the triad of Amita-bul and his assisting Bodhisattvas, as well as the numerous murals that are spread throughout the hall. The shrine hall dedicated to San shin is nice, as are the Myeongbu-jeon hall and the hall dedicated to deceased monks. The other aspects of the hall are a little non-descript other than the elaborately designed water fountain next to the bell pavilion.

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The massive entrance gate that welcomes you to the temple.
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The twisted pines that keep you company for most of the walk up to the temple.
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The silver stream that Eunhaesa Temple is named after.
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A look at the stupa compound that houses all the headstones to deceased monks from Eunhaesa Temple.
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The bridge that leads into the temple.
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And the lecture hall that you’ll have to step under to gain access to the temple courtyard.
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The beautiful water fountain with the study hall behind it.
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The tall two storied bell pavilion at the temple.
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A look up at the main hall at the temple with study halls and administrative office on either side of it.
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The newer looking lion-based lantern at Eunhaesa Temple.
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A closer look up at the main hall.
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The shrine hall that is dedicated to prominent monks that resided at Eunhaesa Temple.
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A look inside the shrine hall.
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A look up at the cute and compact San shin hall dedicated to the Mountain god.
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Inside this hall is a bluish gray statue dedicated to San shin.
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One of the beautiful, but fading and chipped, Ox-Herding murals.
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A look inside at the altar inside the main hall with Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) in the centre with Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Amita-bul’s Power). If you look close enough you can see the dragon ahead adorning the canopy directly above Amita-bul’s head.
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The beautifully red guardian painting to the left of the main altar.
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The older looking, and beautifully detailed, Yeongsan Assembly painting.
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One of the floating birds of paradise that resides in the rafters of the main hall.
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To the back of the main hall, and to the right, is the Myeongbu-jeon hall dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife).
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One of the murals that adorns the exterior of the Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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A look inside the elaborately decorated Myeongbu-jeon hall.
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And a look at the one thousand tiny Jijang-bosal statues on the left wall of the hall.

Manbulsa Temple – 만불사 (Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

Picture 018The truly breath-taking lantern tower at Manbulsa Temple in Yeongcheon.

Hello Again Everyone!!

For Children’s Day, the Korean family and I decided to head up to Gyeongsangbuk-do and visit Manbulsa Temple (만불사).  Manbulsa Temple (“Ten Thousand Buddhas Temple”) is a temple the wife, in-laws, and I wanted to visit for some time. So with a day off for all of us, we decided to head up to the neighbouring province and see what Manbulsa Temple had to offer.

So hopping in the trusty KIA Pride, we headed up Highway 1, and were at the temple in just over an hour.  As we approached the temple, the first thing you’ll see is Yongcheon Pond to your right.  In the centre of this rather large pond is a seated Buddha.  Continuing up the road, you’ll see the first row of the 10,000 Buddhas yet to come. At the end of the first row of Buddhas, you’ll come to the temple parking lot.  As you approach, you’ll notice that Manbulsa Temple is a temple still largely under construction.  Having only started constructing the temple in 1995, a lot of the buildings are still being constructed or refined.  So keep that in mind when looking around and walking around the yet to be paved roads.

Just past the parking lot, and across the road, you’ll see an ox-herding statue depicting all the different stages of the journey within the Buddhist faith. There are a couple other statues and a cute looking water fountain in the area. But once you see these, you’ll get your first good glimpse of the bell tower, the lantern tower, and the main hall. So cross the road once more, and you’ll first see the spectacularly beautiful and breath taking lantern tower. I’ve never seen anything like the golden lantern tower at any other Korean temple.  With the triple golden spires reaching up towards the sky, and thousands of miniature Buddhas adorning its exterior, this lantern tower is probably the most spectacular thing at the temple.  At the base of the lantern tower are stone statues of babies with red caps adorning their heads.  These statues are there for babies that died all too young. Directly to the left of the lantern hall, and in the same courtyard, is the Manbul bell tower.  While not spectacular in its painting or refined woodwork, the bell that is housed in it is amazing in its size, as is the height of the bell tower.  Supposedly, the bell tower is the tallest bell tower in all of Korea. Between both the lantern and bell towers is the main hall: Manbul Treasures Hall. This is an extremely unique main hall.  As you approach, there is a small garden with various sculptures, the most impressive being a green Buddha statue in the process of the Buddha gaining enlightenment. Up the stairs, you’ll first notice tiny Buddha statues.  These tiny Buddhas are in both the exterior and interior of the temple.  These Buddhas all have name plates attributable to donors of the temple. Inside the hall, there are large, masculine looking Buddha altar pieces. When I was there, there were two monks conducting a service while dozens prayed.  This is a very popular temple, so I’m pretty sure this is typical of any day you might want to visit the temple. Just to the left, and to the rear of the main hall, is a maze with the Buddhist scriptures on golden rolls that can be spun.  If you touch these golden Buddhist sayings, all your bad karma will disappear.

Further along, you’ll arrive in another courtyard.  This courtyard is for Avaloketeshvara hall.  Avaloketeshvara will save people with great mercy and compassion.  Along with this mercy and passion, there is also a tree in a plastic tent.  This tree is a descendent of the tree that the Buddha sat under to gain enlightenment. There is also a small bell tower, and for a small donation, you can ring the bell and gain good luck from its reverberations.

Continuing up the unpaved road, and along the ceramic Buddhas that will keep you company along the way, you’ll finally arrive at the crest of the hill.  At the top, there is a small zoo for deer.  To the immediate right, you can walk towards the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha (The Buddha from the land of pure bliss).  But before you head towards this 33 metre tall golden Buddha, head left.  There is a hall for the Amita Buddha.  Amongst the headstones for the cemetery, there is a Buddha statue that is lying down.  This Buddha of Nirvana is 15 metres long from head to toe, and if you rub its feet, you’ll also gain good luck.

After rubbing the Buddha’s toes, finally make your way to the Amita Buddha. It won’t be hard to follow, because the 33 metre Amita Buddha stands like a beacon over the rest of the temple. The walk will take you about 5 minutes. The 33 metre tall Buddha is nicely situated on top of a hill, but it’s a bit garish and gaudy, lacking the refinement of stone Buddha at Donghwasa Temple in Daegu. Down the nearby stairs, you’ll get some really good pictures of the entire temple complex from on high. Take your time and capture from great pictures from the side of the mountain. In total, the trek from the parking lot and back again, will take you about 45  minutes, while taking enough time to take some great pictures.  Some enjoy the trek and take your time.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can catch a train to the Dongdaegu station. From Busan, this train ride takes an hour by KTX.  And from Seoul, it’ll take you an hour and thirty-seven minutes.  A bus to Manbulsa temple, from the Dongdaegu station takes about an hour and ten minutes.  For more information about directions or information about the temple check out the Manbulsa Temple website.

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OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. While a bit garish at points, such as the plastic looking Buddhas and the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha, the temple has a lot to offer the average temple goer.  And I would highly recommend visiting this temple at least once while you’re in Korea.  The lantern tower alone, with the golden spires is worth the visit.  But add to it the elaborate main hall, the massive bell tower, and the lying Buddha of Nirvana, and this temple is more than worth the trek to the Gyeongsangbuk-do countryside.

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Yongcheon Pond is the first thing to greet you at Manbulsa Temple.
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The main courtyard at the temple with the bell tower to the left and the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha to the right.
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The ox-herding statue which is symbolic of the journey towards enlightenment in Buddhism.
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The amazingly beautiful lantern tower at Manbulsa Temple.
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The rows of baby statues and the zodiac statues intermingled amongst the red capped children.
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The Manbul Bell Tower with paper lanterns out in preparation for Buddha’s Birthday.
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The main hall which is adorned with hundreds of Buddha statues both inside and outside the hall.
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The uniquely green statue of the Buddha gaining enlightenment with the main hall and altar piece in the background.
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The main hall altar pieces at Manbulsa Temple: Birojana-bul is in the centre of the triad.
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Rows of rolls with Buddhist scripture on them.  If you roll them all your bad karma will be extinguished.
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The courtyard for Avaloketeshvara Hall with dozens of ornamental Buddhas.
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The top of the hill where both the lying Buddha of Nirvana and the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha are located.
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The hall for the Amita Buddha (the Buddha from the land of pure bliss).
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The altar piece from inside the hall.
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A view of the headstones as well as the Amita hall and the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha in the background.
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The lying 15 metre long Buddha of Nirvana.
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A view of the beautifully serene face of the Buddha of Nirvana.
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And another view of the Buddha’s ornamental feet. If you rub them, you’ll receive good luck.
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Finally, the Amita Buddha is within walking distance.
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The 33 metre tall golden Amita Buddha. It lacks the refinement of the stone Buddha at Donghwasa Temple in Daegu, but it’s still a sight to behold.
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Perhaps, this is Gwanseheum Bosal, but either way, this is a unique sculpture at the centre of the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha. It’s strangely reminiscent of Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus. (Or am I the only one that thinks this?).
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An amazing picture of the Amita Buddha with the sun shining on it.
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And the climb down to the parking lot from the 33 metre tall Amita Buddha.
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And one last look over top of the main Manbulsa Temple buildings.