Cheokpanam Hermitage – 척판암 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

Cheokpanam Hermitage in Gijang-gun, Busan.

Hermitage History

Cheokpanam Hermitage is located to the south of Mt. Bulgwangsan (350.3 m) in northeastern Gijang-gun, Busan. Cheokpanam Hermitage is located on the Jangansa Temple grounds. Cheokpanam Hermitage was first founded in 673 A.D. by the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). Initially, the temple was known as Damunsa Temple.

According to a legend written in the “Songgoseungjeon – 僧傳 宋,” there were 1,000 Chinese monks worshiping at Taehwasa Temple in Tang China (618–690, 705–907 A.D.). They were in danger of being buried at the temple because of torrential rain and the potential for a landslide. Upon realizing this, and as Wonhyo-daesa was putting his hands together during a pre-ceremony, he saw the beams of the main hall at Taehwasa Temple rotting and collapsing. To announce this emergency, Wonhyo-daesa wrote down eight characters “효척판이구중 – 曉擲板而救衆” on a wooden board and threw it up in the air. Mysteriously, this wooden board appeared to the 1,000 monks at Taehwasa Temple in Tang China. As a result, they all ran out of the shrine hall. After they had all exited the temple, a landslide destroyed the shrine hall. However, because of the wooden signboard, which read “Throwing the board, Wonhyo saves the people,” Wonhyo-daesa did in fact save the 1,000 monks at the temple. Because of this, the 1,000 monks sought Wonhyo-daesa. These 1,000 monks would eventually become Wonhyo-daesa’s 1,000 disciples.

As a result of this, the name of the temple changed from Damunsa Temple to that of Cheokpanam Hermitage to commemorate the events surrounding Wonhyo-daesa and his 1,000 disciples; all of which, would gain enlightenment. Afterwards, Jangansa Temple was built in the valley below Cheokpanam Hermitage.

Very little is known about the hermitage until it was rebuilt by the monk Gyeongheo (1849-1912) in 1938. It’s unclear if this is the famous Gyeongheo; but if it is, the date of the hermitage’s rebuilding and the date of Gyeongheo’s death just don’t quite match. Cheokpanam Hermitage was maintained as a hermitage directly associated with Jangansa Temple until it recently became independent. In 1972, the monk Gyeongun built a three-story pagoda and enshrined five of the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) inside it. Purportedly, these sari were first enshrined at Gwaneumsa Temple in Jeju-do. The sari were given to Gyeongun from the abbot of Gwaneumsa Temple.

Cheokpanam Hermitage is home to just one treasure. It’s the “Stone Seated Buddha of Cheokpanam Hermitage,” which is designated as Busan City’s Cultural Hermitage Material #41.

Hermitage Layout

You’ll first approach Cheokpanam Hermitage up a long, winding road that gets quite steep at the end. Along the way, you’ll pass by another of Jangansa Temple’s hermitages: Baekryunam Hermitage. When you do eventually arrive at the outskirts of the hermitage grounds, you’ll be welcomed by a golden statue of Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Bag). Behind this golden statue, and slightly to the left, you’ll find a set of stairs that lead up to a shrine dedicated to both Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Both paintings and statues dedicated to these two shaman deities are enclosed behind a glass enclosure, so you probably won’t get the best pictures in the world.

Back at the hermitage parking lot, and around the monks’ dorms, you’ll find the modern three-story pagoda that houses the Buddha’s five sari, as well as a diminutive Yongwang-dang Hall. The three-story pagoda is conventional in design reminiscent of the simplistic Silla-era pagoda design. As for the Yongwang-dang Hall, it houses a statue of Yongwang (The Dragon King), which is backed by a stunning mural of the shaman deity. Yongwang is joined by a pair of dragons: one yellow and one blue.

A little beyond this, and you’ll find the largest structure at the hermitage. The structure is a three-in-one building. The first section, to the right, is the administrative office at Cheokpanam Hermitage. The section to the left is the shrine hall dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa. There is a painting of Wonhyo-daesa that hangs on the back wall.

As for the centre section, it’s the Geukrak-jeon Hall at Cheokpanam Hermitage. There is a main altar triad inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall centred by the “Stone Seated Buddha of Cheokpanam Hermitage.” The stone Buddha, of what appears to be Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), measures 37.5 cm in height. Additionally, it has a squarish face that’s relatively larger than its body. It also has a serene expression on its face. Both of its hands rest on its knees. Based upon its design, it’s believed to date back to the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Recently, the statue had been refurbished, as it had been burned before. To the left and right of this central image are statues dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). Hanging on the far right wall is a stunning, modern Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). And to the left of the main altar, you’ll find a mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). As for the exterior of this shrine hall, you’ll find a mural dedicated to the events surrounding Wonhyo-daesa and his 1,000 disciples.

To the left of this large building, and down a few stone stairs, you’ll find the entry gate at Cheokpanam Hermitage. If you walked up to the hermitage, you would pass through this entry gate first. The doors to this gate are adorned with a pair of Geumgang-yeoksa (Vajra Warriors).

How To Get There

To get to Cheokpanam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to Jangansa Temple. The least complicated way to get to Jangansa Temple is by bus. This bus is rather difficult to get to by public transit; but if you take City Bus #181 at the Centum City subway station (#206), Haeundae subway station (#203), or the Bexco subway station (#205), you’ll be able to catch a connecting bus to Jangansa Temple. From City Bus #181, get off at the Gijang-sijang station. From here, board Town Bus #9 called a Maeul Bus. From this bus, you’ll be able to arrive at Jangansa Temple. Just to the west of the Jangansa Temple parking lot, you’ll find the entry to the mountain road that leads up to Cheokpanam Hermitage. If you’re walking, it’ll take about 20 minutes, with the last 200 metres being quite steep. But if you have a car, it’ll only take 5 minutes.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Cheokpanam Hermitage is located on a tiny ledge. As a result, there isn’t the most to see. However, there’s more than enough, including the hilltop Sanshin/Dokseog-gak Hall, the three-story pagoda, and the “Stone Seated Buddha of Cheokpanam Hermitage.” And when you include the views and the close proximity to Jangansa Temple, Cheokpanam Hermitage makes for a very nice little visit.

The golden Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Bag) at the entry of the hermitage.
The view.
The monks’ dorms and the three-story pagoda at Cheokpanam Hermitage.
A fuller view of the three-story pagoda that houses five sari (crystallized remains) of the Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul.
The Yongwang-dang Hall.
A look at Yongwang (The Dragon King) inside the shaman shrine hall.
The entry to the Geukrak-jeon Hall.
The “Stone Seated Buddha of Cheokpanam Hermitage.”
Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) from a different angle.
The Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall.
The painting dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.) at Cheokpanam Hermitage.
A large tree in front of the hermitage grounds.
The entry gate at Cheokpanam Hermitage.
One of the Geumgang-yeoksa (Vajra Warriors) that adorns the doors of the entry gates at the hermitage.
And another painting that adorns the entry gate at the hermitage.