Yonggungsa Temple – 용궁사 (Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do)

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The temple courtyard at Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do

Hello Again Everyone!!

Just south of the more prominent Cheongyeongsa Temple, as well as the Miryang River, is the hillside Yonggungsa Temple, which means Dragon Palace Temple, in English. While certainly not as famous as its namesake in Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the Yonggungsa Temple in Miryang, Gyeongsangnam-do has a unique charm of its own.

When you first approach the temple up a small country backstreet, you’ll be greeted by the temple’s main gate. Adorning the gate doors are a pair of peeling guardian murals. They’ve peeled so much that only their heads now appear. Inside the gate are a pair of statues that appear to be Dongjin-bosal (Bodhisattva that Protects the Buddha’s Teachings). Not only have I never seen Dongjin-bosal housed inside an entry gate, but there are two of him. And both of them have one of their wings broken off from their helmet. It might be that while placing the temple’s lawn chairs inside this gate, which is also used for storage, that they snapped off.

Finally entering the temple grounds, one of the first things you’ll notice, which is unique to most Korean Buddhist temples, is that the temple courtyard has grass. Up on a knoll is where all of the temple shrine halls are located. Straight ahead is the main hall. Wrapped around its exterior walls are the Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals. Uniquely, this set only has seven of the potential ten paintings. As for inside, and sitting 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). Hanging on the left wall is a set of murals. The first is the rather plain guardian mural. It’s joined by a mural dedicated to Jijang-bosal, as well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. Additionally, the ceiling of the main hall is beautifully adorned with large paper lotus lanterns.

To the right of the main hall is a dharma-looking stone statue. However, this isn’t the dharma; instead, it’s Podae-hwasang.

To the left of the main hall is a peculiar shrine hall. Sitting on the main altar, and in the centre, is a stone statue dedicated to a Buddha (presumably Mireuk-bul). To the left of this statue is an older looking painting of Yongwang (The Dragon King). And to the right of the statue stand small statues of the twelve Zodiac Generals.

Between both the peculiar shrine hall and the main hall, and up a flight of granite stairs, is the rather large Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. While all the murals inside this hall are large in size, they are pretty ordinary in composition. However, the tiger painted inside the Sanshin mural does look possessed.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways you can get to Yonggungsa Temple. The first is from the Miryang train station. You can take either Bus #1-2, #7 or the “Gagok” bus. After 3 stops, you’ll need to get off at the KT&G stop. From there, follow the signs that lead you towards Yonggungsa Temple and Cheongyeongsa Temple. The walk should take about 10 minutes over 800 metres.

Or you could simply take a taxi from the Miryang train station. The ride should only take 6 minutes and cost you 2,800 won.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10. While not as spectacular as the neighbouring Cheongyeongsa Temple, Yonggungsa Temple has a charm all its own. From its grassy temple courtyard to both of its spacious main hall and Samseong-gak, the lesser known Miryang Yonggungsa Temple has a fair bit to offer a visitor. In addition, the peculiar shrine hall and the Podae-hwasang stone statue are something to enjoy, as well.

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The view from the hillside next to Yonggungsa Temple.

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The front gate at the temple.

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The guardian mural that is slowly peeling away.

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The lawn chairs and Dongjin-bosal statue together in the entry gate at Yonggungsa Temple.

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The main hall at Yonggungsa Temple.

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The stone statue of Podae-hwasang to the right of the main hall.

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Strangely, only one of seven Ox-Herding murals adorning the main hall.

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The main altar inside the main hall.

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The guardian mural inside the main hall.

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As well as the Dragon Ship of Wisdom.

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The highly elaborate ceiling to the main hall.

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The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.

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Inside is this mural and statue of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

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To the left of the Samseong-gak is this unusual shrine hall.

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Inside is housed this statue of the Buddha (perhaps the Future Buddha, Mireuk-bul).

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The older looking Yongwang mural dedicated to the Dragon King.

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Four little figurines that a devotee left behind.

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As well as this lily pond.

The Story Of…Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

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The beautiful view at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Hello Again Everyone and Merry Christmas!!

Like so many people, I mark the passage of time through the milestones of certain achievements or memorable moments in my life. But unlike the vast majority of people, I tend to mark these memorable moments in the way that Korean temples change. I know that that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, these religious beacons that stand the test of time, but Korean temples do in fact change aesthetically. Perhaps this is indicative of the ten years I’ve been here, and perhaps it points to a greater affluence in the Buddhist community in Korea. Either way, change is in fact all around us.

Perhaps there’s no greater example in the way that temples change than Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan. This once out of the way temple, at least according to 2003, has grown to be arguably the most popular temple in Busan (and for good reason).

The first time I ever attempted to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was in the winter of 2003. And the first taxi driver I attempted to get a ride from in Haeundae hadn’t even heard of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple; and that was with the aid of a Korean written note to assist both him and I. It took a second taxi driver to finally know where I wanted to go. And when I finally did arrive, the temple parking lot was nothing more than a dirt road that they dropped you off at before you hiked your way towards the temple by the sea. Back then, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple didn’t even have a main hall.

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The view of the temple from 2005 with the newly built main hall.

But like so many things, time has a way of changing things, whether it’s a gradual change or quite dramatic in style. Now, when you arrive at the temple, there’s a large paid parking lot with a loud corridor of vendors that are pushing their wares. Also, if you’d rather a bus ride to take you out to the temple, there’s now a direct bus that takes you to the temple with a convenient bus stop just outside the well manicured grounds. Included in all this change are the number of shrines that have popped up all around the temple like the tire shrine to help those Koreans that don’t want to get into a car accident. Additionally, there’s now a golden statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) that is situated on a rock outcropping. Before this, it had been all black; and back in 2003, it simply didn’t exist.

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A look at the black Jijang-bosal, which is now gold.

Even the ocean-side view that formally had no fencing protecting you from the waves that crash upon the shore, has a knee-high fence warning you of any potential dangers from the mighty sea that gives Haedong Yonggungsa Temple so much of it’s amazing beauty. Yet another dramatic change from the winter of 2003 is that Haedong Yonggungsa Temple now has a beautiful, large main hall that is elaborately decorated both inside and out. But perhaps the greatest change comes in the form of just how many visitors frequent the temple each and every day. It used to be that you would be one, among a handful, of visitors. Now, especially if you visit on the weekend, you can be crushed (or at least pushed) by the throngs of people that come to the beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

So much about Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has changed in the ten years I’ve been here; but then again, the temple is really just symbolic of the many changes that have occurred in my life. Not everyone has something tangible to point to to highlight the rapidity of change, but I have Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

For more on Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

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The coastal view where Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located.