Banyaam Hermitage – 반야암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

Banyaam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple Grounds in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hermitage History

Banyaam Hermitage is located on the Tongdosa Temple grounds in the foothills of Mt. Yeongchuksan (1,081 m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. Of the nearly twenty hermitages at Tongdosa Temple, Banyaam Hermitage is the newest. The hermitage was first established in 1999 by the monk Jian.

As for the name of the hermitage, it’s a transliteration of the word “Prajna” in Sanskrit, which means either “wisdom” or “enlightenment” in English. So the hermitage literally means “Wisdom/Enlightenment Hermitage” in English. Additionally, Banyaam Hermitage is in close proximity to Geukrakam Hermitage and Biroam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds.

Banyaam Hermitage in November, 2006.

Hermitage Layout

As you first make your way up to Banyaam Hermitage, you’ll instantly notice the beautiful forest and towering mountains that surround the hermitage. Banyaam Hermitage is tranquil in every sense of the word.

From the hermitage parking lot, and if you look back, you’ll notice a wooden pavilion. It’s from here that you can rest and enjoy the view across the stream and out towards the lush forest. There’s also a suspension bridge that spans the stream. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can go for a hike after crossing this bridge. The entire hermitage grounds are beautifully maintained.

In total, there are three larger buildings on the hermitage grounds. To your left and right are the hermitage’s dorms, administrative offices, and the kitchen at Banyaam Hermitage. But of the three, it’s the central building, the main hall, which will draw most of your attention. Making your way up the uneven stone stairs that lead towards the main hall, you’ll make your way past two seokdeung (stone lanterns). And as you near the main hall, you may notice that the signboard above the central entrance reads Banyabo-jeon Hall in hanja characters. Adorning the exterior walls are two different sets of murals. The upper set are the Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life Murals), while the lower set depicts a mother raising her child from birth to adulthood. Also of interest are the two vibrant dragons on either side of the front signboard.

Stepping inside the Banyabo-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad on the main altar. Rather interestingly, there’s no canopy above this triad. As for the triad, and seated in the centre, is a statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This central image is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the right of main altar, and hanging on the far right wall, is a modern Shinjung Taneghwa (Guardian Mural). If you look around the main hall, and especially up, you’ll notice a beautiful collection of murals that adorn every surface. Painted on the overhead beams are a pair of blue and yellow dragons, as well as white cranes and ornate phoenixes. Up near the eaves, you’ll find paintings dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha), as well as Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.) painting his Haein-do painting.

Behind the main hall, and on the ridge above, is the newer-looking pagoda. The entire hermitage grounds are beautifully framed by the neighbouring peaks of Mt. Yeongchuksan.

How To Get There

From Busan, you’ll first need to get to the Nopo subway stop, which is stop #134. From there, go to the intercity bus terminal. From the intercity bus terminal get a bus bound for Tongdosa Temple. The ride should last about 25 minutes. These buses leave every 20 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. From where the bus drops you off at the Tongdosa Temple bus stop, you’ll need to walk an additional 10 minutes to the temple grounds west of the bus stop.

From Tongdosa Temple, you’ll need 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 this direction for 1.2 km. There are a cluster of hermitages in this area. Find the sign that reads “Banyaam Hermitage – 반야암” and continue heading to the right in this direction until you arrive at the hermitage. The entire walk is 3.5 km, and it could take you up to an hour to walk from Tongdosa Temple to Banyaam Hermitage.

Overall Rating: 4/10

So much about Banyaam Hermitage is the natural beauty that surrounds the hermitage like the tranquil stream to the east and the towering mountain peaks to the north. In addition to all of this natural beauty, the Banyabo-jeon Hall is beautifully adorned, both inside and out, with vibrant murals like the Palsang-do and the Nahan murals. Banyaam Hermitage is the perfect hermitage at Tongdosa Temple to simply relax and unwind. Also, it’s in close proximity to Geukrakam Hermitage and Biroam Hermitage, which are definitely worth a bit of your time, as well.

The view as you first near the hermitage grounds.
The tranquil stream to the east of the main hall.
The suspension bridge that spans the tranquil stream.
One more look at the beautiful stream.
A purple lotus flower at Banyaam Hermitage.
A look towards the Banyabo-jeon Hall with the peaks of Mt. Yeongchuksan in the background.
A closer look at the main hall.
Two of the murals from the exterior wall of the mother rearing her child.
A closer look at the signboard that reads “Banyabo-jeon Hall” in English.
A look inside the atypically named main hall.
The modern Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) inside the main hall.
A beautiful crossbeam adorned with a blue and golden dragon.
The painting depicting Uisang-daesa painting his Haein-do.
And a look up at the eaves will reveal some of the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) including the Bodhidharma.