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Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site – 황복사지 (Gyeongju)

The Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site in Gyeongju.

Temple Site History

The Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site is located on the northeast side of Mt. Nangsan (99.5 m) in Gyeongju. The exact date and by whom the temple was first constructed is unknown. In fact, there is still some controversy as to whether this is in fact the location of the historic Hwangboksa Temple. However, with that being said, tiles were discovered at the site with the words “Hwangbok” or “Wangbok” written on them. Additionally, the sari reliquary discovered inside Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site, which is National Treasure #37, records how the temple was constructed to wish great fortune on the royal Silla family in the early 8th century.

According to the Samguk Yusa, or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms in English, “Uisang’s father was Han-sin and his family name was Kim. At the age of twenty-nine he [Uisang-daesa] shaved his head and became a monk, residing at Hwangboksa Temple. Soon afterward, he decided to go to China to study Buddhist doctrine, and set out on his journey with Wonhyo.”

And because of this connection to Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.), not only is it presumed that the temple existed before Uisang-daesa becoming a monk, but also because of his instrumental efforts in the spread of Buddhism; and more specifically, Hwaeom Buddhism, throughout the Korean Peninsula, that Hwangboksa Temple grew both in importance and through its royal connections. Hwangboksa Temple must have once been an important Buddhist temple in Silla.

After the death of King Sinmun of Silla (r. 681-692 A.D.), his son, King Hyoso of Silla (r. 692-702 A.D.) had the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site built in 692 A.D. to pray for the soul of his dead father. And after the death of King Hyoso of Silla, his successor, King Seongdeok of Silla (r. 702-737 A.D.) placed sari and a sari reliquaries inside the historic pagoda in 706 A.D. And inside these sari reliquaries were a collection of items that included the Gold Seated Buddha from Guhwang-dong, which is National Treasure #79, and the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong, which is National Treasure #80. All of which was done for the prosperity and peace of Silla (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.). These two golden items were removed from the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site in 1942.

It’s also believed that Hwangboksa Temple was home to a Unified Silla Seongjeon, which was a government office established by the Silla Dynasty for temple management. These Seongjeon were also placed at Sacheonwangsa Temple, Bongseongsa Temple, Gameunsa Temple, and Yeongheungsa Temple, all of which were in the capital of Gyeongju. Because of this Seongjeon administrative office, it’s believed that Hwangboksa Temple served as a royal Buddhist temple which prayed for the repose of the dead. In fact, and according to Lee Hyun-tae, curator at the Gyeongju National Museum, “At the center of the temple that supported the legitimacy and sanctity of the king is the Sacheongwangsa Temple Site, Gyeongju, and the historic site attributed to Hwangboksa Temple.”

Now, and with all that being said, there has been some recent controversy produced through the excavations conducted more recently in 2016 and 2017. Originally, when the “Wangbok” tile was discovered on the temple grounds in 1966, it was assumed by most scholars that this was in fact Hwangboksa Temple. More recently, and from 2016-2017, only roof tiles with the words “Inbaeksa” and “Seonwonsa” were discovered on the temple site. But there is other proof at the site; namely stone artifacts and an abandoned royal tomb, that give a lot of credence to the fact that this was in fact the historic Hwangboksa Temple.

As was previously mentioned, the assumed Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site is home to three National Treasures. They include the aforementioned Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site, the Gold Seated Buddha from Guhwang-dong, and the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong. And the temple site is located on the Archaeological Area of Nangsan Mountain, which is Historic Site #163.

The excavated sites from 2016 (blue) and 2017 (red). (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).
Part of the unfinished royal tomb at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site that’s presumed to be for King Hyoseong of Silla (r. 737-742 A.D.). (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).
An up-close of the re-formed stones that were excavated from the unfinished royal tomb. (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).
The excavated daeseokdan (a large-scale stone platform built of finely processed stones) at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site. (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).
Four stone reliefs of the twelve Eastern zodiac animals known as the Sibiji-shin in Korean from the elevated main hall foundation. (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).
A closer look at the four stone reliefs of the Eastern zodiac animals. From left to right: 9. Sheep, 10. Horse, 11. Snake, 12. Rabbit. (Picture courtesy of the Journal of Korea Archaeology, 2017).

Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site Excavations

In total, there were two recent excavations conducted at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site. The first was in 2016 and the second was conducted in 2017. The first excavation, which was planned by the Gyeongju City Office with the financial support from the Cultural Heritage Ministry, was conducted in 2016. The first excavation of the site revealed a variety of features that included a cluster of stone materials clustered together and related to a royal tomb. The first excavation also revealed building features, fences, corridors, roads, and about 400 artifacts including eave-end tiles, roof tiles, bricks, and oil lamps.

During the second excavation, which took place starting in April, 2017, revealed various types of archaeological features which lend credence to the idea that Hwangboksa Temple was a royal temple from Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.). These features included a building feature with a stone platform carved in relief with the twelve deities of the Eastern Zodiac, which are known as the Sibiji-shin in Korean. Additionally, a building feature laid on a daeseokdan (a large-scale stone platform built of finely processed stones), corridors, fences, drainage channels, roads, a pond, and some 1,000 artifacts were also discovered. These 1,000 artifacts included eave-end tiles, roof tiles, bricks, gilt-bronze statues of the Buddha, and gilt-bronze ornaments.

As for the stone materials of the royal tomb found at the presumed Hwangbosa-ji Temple Site, it was assumed that the area was in fact a royal tomb. The royal tomb was meant to have a diameter of 22 metres and a circumference of 60 metres, which would have made it a similar size to that of the Tomb of King Gyeongdeok, which was built in 765 A.D. Interestingly, some of the materials found were re-used as building material for other buildings at the site, as well as fences and platforms from Unified Silla. What’s interesting about this is the Silla belief in the afterlife. No royal tomb would have been used if in fact it had once belonged to a Silla royal tomb. So what’s believed by experts is that the construction work done on the royal tomb was interrupted for some unknown reason. With this in mind, it is now believed that this former royal tomb location was in fact the unfinished tomb for King Hyoseong of Silla (r. 737-742 A.D.). King Hyoseong of Silla had an unexpectedly short reign. In the Samguk Yusa, it’s recorded that the cremated ashes of King Hyoseong of Silla were cremated at Bupryunsa Temple and then later scattered in the East Sea according to his will. So the unused royal tomb material was used in the construction of various structures at Hwangboksa Temple including the main hall platform, support stones for the pagoda, and various temple structure platforms.

Another interesting feature that was done during the excavations at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site concern the building features laid on a daeseokdan (a large-scale stone platform built of finely processed stones) at the temple site. The daeseokdan was constructed using finely constructed rectangular stones, which measured up to 60 metres in length, and had a stone stairway attached to it extending from the centre of the northern side of the structure. Corridors were then laid on the stone platforms that were discovered. Interestingly, this is the first feature like this found at any temple in Gyeongju to date. With this in mind, it’s believed that this area is the main hall foundation at Hwangboksa Temple. However, and with the pagoda that still exists being elevated higher than the former main hall, the layout to the temple was believed to have a pagoda situated in the west and the main hall situated to the east like other historic temples of Silla like the Nawon-ri and Changrimsa Temple Sites.

As for the building features that appear on the stone platform of the daeseokdan, they include four stone reliefs of the twelve Eastern zodiac animals known as the Sibiji-shin in Korean. It was previously assumed to be the main hall when excavations were conducted on the site in 1968 and 1982. However, these initial excavations failed to reveal the function of this building. With these recent excavations conducted in 2016 and 2017, it’s now assumed that these four stone slabs with the zodiac animals on them were laid vertically on the outer surface of the stone platform of the building feature. These features, then, were possibly an important adornment for a structure that was integral to the performance of rituals. The style of these stone slabs and the twelve zodiac animals that they depict are similar to the ones on the Tomb of King Heondeok (r. 809-826 A.D.), who passed away in 826 A.D. So it’s assumed that the stone features from the incomplete royal tomb on the grounds of the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site were re-used on the main hall of Hwangboksa Temple.

Temple Site Layout

Unfortunately, very little is left of the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site besides the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site and the now overgrown excavation site that houses the foundation for the former Hwangboksa Temple. The three-story pagoda stands to the west of the temple site. It is typical of the stone pagodas produced during Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.). However, it is smaller in size than similar ones found at the Gameunsa-ji Temple Site (N.T. #112) and Goseonsa-ji Temple Site (N.T. #38). The main body and roof stones of the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site are made of a single stone rather than several stones. The four corners of the roof stones are slightly raised upward that help create a lighter overall appearance to the structure. And only the base of the finial still remains. The Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site was dismantled and reconstructed in 1943. It was at this time that inside the second story roof stone artifacts were discovered. They included gilt-bronze reliquaries and two gilt-bronze Buddhist statues. And on the lid of one of the reliquaries, Chinese characters were carved providing important information about the date and purpose of the pagoda.

Other items found inside the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site, and their reliquaries, were the Gold Seated Buddha from Guhwang-dong, which is National Treasure #79; and the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong, Gyeongju, which is National Treasure #80. Both of these artifacts are now housed at National Museum of Korea in Seoul.

According to an inscription engraved on the sari reliquary, a gold Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) statuette was placed inside the reliquary in 706 A.D. This has led some historians to believe that this is the Amita-bul mentioned. However, some have raised doubts as the inscription specifies that the Amita-bul statuette is only 6 inches tall, while the present statuette is shorter than 4 inches (12.2 cm). But whatever the answer may be, the statuette consists of three parts: the mandorla, the Buddha’s body, and the lotus pedestal, which were designed to detach from each other.

As for the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong, the statuette stands 14 cm in height and is made of gold. It was also discovered inside the sari reliquary. This Buddha stands on its own gold pedestal, and it’s surrounded by a golden mandorla, which is placed behind its head. Based on inscriptions found on the sari reliquary, it’s strongly believed that the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong was made before 692 A.D., when the reliquary was enshrined inside the pagoda that was built that year.

How To Get There

From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to cross the road and find the bus stop that has Bus #607. You’ll then need to take this bus for 12 stops, or 15 minutes. From where the bus drops you off, which should be the “Cheont-baeban – 첫배반” stop, you’ll need to head east and cross the street. Follow the signs as you pass by the Neungji Pagoda. You’ll continue walking for 20 minutes, or 1.3 km, until you arrive at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site.

Overall Rating: 3/10

Unfortunately, because so little remains at the temple site, excluding the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site, the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site rates as low as it does. However, with all that being said, the early Unified Silla pagoda at the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site is a wonderful example of the pagodas produced at this time. Also, the artifacts discovered inside the historic pagoda are not only precious Korean treasures, but they also give us insight and information into royal temples at this time. If you’re into Silla temple sites, then the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site should be explored.

The Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site.
A different angle of the pagoda.
The now overgrown temple site.
One more look at the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site.
And a look at the base of the historic Silla pagoda.
A fragment of a green-glazed ridge-end tile from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
Fragments of a monument from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
And some more fragments from a monument from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
A green-glazed ink-stone from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
A concave roof tile with inscription from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
Bronze Nirmana Buddhas from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
A bronze image of the Buddha from the Hwangboksa-ji Temple Site now at the Gyeongju National Museum.
The stone cover for the sari chamber from the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site.
The sari reliquaries from inside the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site.
The Gold Seated Buddha from Guhwang-dong from inside the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site. The image is National Treasure #79.
And the Gold Standing Buddha from Guhwang-dong from inside the Three-Story Stone Pagoda at Hwangboksa Temple Site. The image is National Treasure #80.

Photographing in the Rainy Season in Korea

The rainy season is upon us here in Korea and it is a damp and sticky time of the year. If it is not raining, the humidity will make your armpits and forehead rain with sweat. With that being said, what (as a photographer) do you do?

Just Roll with It

The first piece of advice I would give is to just take it day by day. You never know what the weather will do during this time and often, it will kick out a great sunrise or an absolute burner of a sunset. As I was recording my podcast on this, the day was actually amazing. It was hot but there were blue skies and white puffy clouds.

Basically, there sometimes will be a mixed bag when it comes to the weather and you may get lucky or you may end up heading out a 3am and witness the sun rise into a white milky wasteland of a sky. You just never know.

So my advice here is to just roll with it and not place too much importance on getting the most perfect shots but rather just make the best out of what you got.

Use Your Time Wisely

You don’t have to spend this time actually out taking photos. You can use it to go through your previous shots and find some images that you might have overlooked. Often, you can find some great shots that you took but never edited because you had something else in mind when you edited them. Now, as you have progressed with your creative vision, you might see things differently. Thus, you can use this so-called “downtime” to review and see what you can find.

You can also visit museums or art galleries in your city to find inspiration. I usually take this time to catch up on the backlog of ebooks that have accumulated on my computer. This allows me to gain insight and also inspires me to practice a few new techniques. Again, you can use this time effectively and to your advantage.

Work with the Weather

Often there will be a few nice days mixed in with the rainy season but for the most part, it is a hot muggy mess. So what can you do? Well, my best advice would be to explore some other areas like food photography or still life. This is a time when you can turn of the A/C and make a home studio.

Korea is also one of the most caffeinated places in the world and especially around the larger cities, you can find some truly stunning cafes. This is where you can set up some model shoots or some food photography or anything really. Just make sure that you are not infringing on other people or taking up too much space.

I usually try to go as early as I can and get set up. That way you are not trying to shoot around people or having too many onlookers. Check google or kakao maps and they will show you when the peak times are.

The final point here is that you can shoot the bad weather, that is fine. My Dad would often say “get out there! You’re not made of sugar!” which basically means toughen up! Seaside shots of waves crashing on the rocks or wet city streets lit by neon signs are great places to start from.


The bottomline here is that you can make the most out of this season if you want to. Also you can take this time and chill for a bit and recalibrate. It is always up to you and your creative drive. So take some time and see what happens. It is not all doom and gloom even though it might look like that outside.

The post Photographing in the Rainy Season in Korea appeared first on The Sajin.

Master Politeness Levels with Billy Go | #15: Casual Speech and ‘You’

A commonly used word to say "you" is 너, but this word is frequently misused and overused by many Korean learners. There are several other common ways to refer to people in Casual Speech besides just saying 너, so here are the most common and useful ones that you should know.

This series is a free 24 lesson course all about Korean Politeness Levels. Every week I'll upload a new episode, but if you're a YouTube Member of my channel you can watch the entire course right now!

The post Master Politeness Levels with Billy Go | #15: Casual Speech and ‘You’ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

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Halloween in Korea – How to celebrate this popular event

Have you experienced Halloween in Korea? Derived from the old European celebrations of All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween has grown into a true worldwide phenomenon.

Although trick or treating largely still remains an American way of enjoying Halloween, other countries around the world have introduced their own bits of celebrations into their cultures, including Korea.

A full moon with flying bats around it, three lit candles, and three pumpkins with carved faces

What is Halloween in Korea like, then? How much fun can you get into over the annual Halloween festival? How much might it differ from western traditions? In this article, we will tell you all there is to know about the Korean Halloween celebration!

What is “Halloween” in Korean?

The word for “Halloween” in Korean is 할로윈 (hallowin). It’s similar to how it’s expressed in English, so it’s wonderfully easy to remember!

How to say “Happy Halloween” in Korean

This is incredibly easy as well. Just say 해피 할로윈! (Haepi hallowin!). One of the perks of Halloween being an imported holiday is that you won’t have to learn totally new expressions for it.

When is Halloween celebrated in Korea?

Halloween in Korea is celebrated annually on October 31. This falls on the same date as other countries’ Halloween celebrations.

How to celebrate Halloween in Korea

Sadly, if you are in Korea, you will most likely not be able to go trick or treating as it is not in any way a custom there. You may not get to marvel at Korean houses and buildings all donned up in creepy Halloween decorations.

None of your local friends may be accustomed to the idea of carving pumpkin heads. And unfortunately, people probably won’t put together haunted houses, either.

However, as this event is becoming increasingly popular in recent years, you may also have fun while celebrating this event in Korea in some other ways. It’s not in any kind of way a traditional holiday for Koreans, but it’s something that especially young adults love to enjoy in some fashion, possibly due to the influence of American media.

Every year, the idea of celebrating Halloween also seems to be gaining popularity, even if it has remained significantly different from traditional celebrations of the holiday. And don’t worry – putting on a terrific dress or attire is still most definitely a part of it! Here are some popular ways how this event is celebrated in Korea.

Halloween special events with discounts

For example, you may be able to find Halloween-specific discounts or other types of specials in some stores. Notably, bakeries and cafes may come up with drinks and pastries related to Halloween that you’ll regret not tasting the one time. You might even find a zombie bartender who’ll make you a drink!

Don’t be surprised if you find some masterfully decorated monster cupcakes or ghost donuts or the like, especially at places such as Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. Independent locally-owned cafes likely will also have cakes aligning with the Halloween theme.

And, at the very least, you will be able to drink some pumpkin lattes or similar drinks! For example, Starbucks can be a safe bet for finding some Halloween-related drinks and cakes.

Halloween costume parties

And yes, costume parties are a big part of Halloween in South Korea! Especially in the different neighborhoods of Seoul you can put on a costume and go out for a fun night out without being looked at as weird.

Some costume shops have popped up in the past couple of years, from where you can find costumes unless you want to make one yourself or order it online.

Enjoy a Halloween Party in key cities in South Korea

You can enjoy Halloween in a costume anywhere in the city, but for the flashiest night, head over to either Itaewon or Hongdae. Especially Itaewon, the part of Seoul that’s known to be particularly foreigner-friendly, likes to decorate its storefronts in anticipation of Halloween.

Halloween in Itaewon

Once the big night comes, everyone who’s anyone will put on elaborate costumes of their liking and go roam around the streets of Itaewon. There may not always be an official costume contest held, but just parading around the streets filled with bars operates as a showcase for the dressers and general crowds in Itaewon.

If you have seen the drama Itaewon Class, you may already have an idea of what to expect, as it was shown quite accurately in this drama.

Halloween in Hongdae

In Hongdae, many people will also dress up and spend the night hopping through bars and clubs. Some meetup organizations like Seoul Pub Crawl may also host special events like bar hopping as well, which may be fun to join with friends or alone.

For those who get exhausted over how crowded Itaewon gets, there may also be more much-welcomed breathing space on the streets of Hongdae. Even so, Hongdae is also expected to get full with Halloween party people in costumes.

Halloween in Gangnam

Although Gangnam is not as big of a spot for Halloween brawls and costume parties, you do find one of the best costume shops in Seoul in that neighborhood. It’s called Toy Party Store and it may be quite fun to go have a look around.

You’re guaranteed to find some Halloween-related accessories there, even if you don’t find costumes to your liking. A Haunted Factory Party also takes place in Gangnam, hosted by Global Seoulmates.

Decorating for Halloween

In case you are a teacher at a school or an academy, you may get chances to decorate for Halloween with your students, and maybe even do an event around it. But in general, parents don’t tend to celebrate this event with their children, not in a big manner, anyway.

It is more likely they would take their kid to an amusement park to watch the parade rather than have them all dressed up in costumes. American military bases may, of course, be notable exceptions to this.

While you won’t be able to find any big, orange pumpkins in South Korea – except possibly at military bases – there are other types of pumpkins available at grocery stores. By utilizing them, you can make delicious pumpkin meals and treats, such as a pumpkin pie, in celebration of the holiday at home.

Halloween events in Korea

Here are also some additional events you may want to check out during the Halloween season:

Everland’s Halloween Parade Party

If you’ve got the time to head out of Seoul, a great destination to head over to is Yongin, specifically the largest theme park in Korea, the Everland amusement park.

Besides having fun riding all its excellent rides, Everland always decorates for Halloween quite nicely. Actually, “nicely” would be an understatement, as the theme park looks really awesome during this season, even if it’s a little more cute than scary.

And, since a few years ago, they also began hosting an annual parade party on Halloween, which can be exciting to watch. There can also be other Halloween-specific activities to get swept up in, like the “Everland Blood City” with zombie photo spots. Some years there have also been rides decorated accordingly, as well as a haunted house.

Lotte World’s Halloween Horror Festival

Go enjoy a day at this popular amusement park while marveling at the awesome Halloween-themed places they have managed to set up. They also host a Halloween-themed parade, during which candies will be given away to children.

Many of the attractions will get a Halloween do-over, there’s a prison escape room and more to enjoy when visiting during the Halloween season.

Zombie Run Festival

With the first race having been arranged in 2019, Halloween festivals like the Zombie Run Festival have the potential of becoming a popular activity to get swept up in on Halloween. This is a modern part of Halloween that was also first put into action in the United States, from where Koreans picked it up.

In Zombie Run, participants are divided into two groups. One group consists of survivors, which is where general participants get placed, and their task is to run away from the zombies. The other group, of course, is the zombies.

They are played by professionals, with proper Zombie costumes and makeup on. The run is 3 kilometers long as a whole and is expected to take up to 1 hour, starting from Lotte World Tower.

Dark Side of Seoul Ghost Walk

This event isn’t specific only to Halloween, as you can book the ghost walk any time of the year. However, due to its theme, it makes for an excellent and also unique way to celebrate this holiday when in Korea.

On this tour, you’ll walk around some of Seoul’s spooky streets, learning about urban legends and more.

Yongin’s Korean Folk Village

Here, you can find Korea putting its own spin on Halloween. During the season, in the evening time, the performers will put on makeup and costumes fitting the theme and put on a show while dressed as popular Korean urban legends. This can be another unique way to enjoy this event while also getting familiar with a folk village.

Where to buy Halloween costumes and decorations from?

At least in Seoul, you have a few options from where you can find costumes for Halloween. Finding costumes may be slightly tougher, but finding decorations for Halloween should be quite easy at one of these stores.

Daiso: Any of this chain’s stores is exceptional for Halloween decorations.

Flying Tiger Copenhagen: This chain is also great for Halloween-related decorations.

Joy Party: Great, especially for masks. Found at: 191 Itaewon-ro, Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Party House: Great for face paints and party supplies. Found at: 27, Dosan-daero 25-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Party N Deco: Great for wigs. Found at: 56, Bangbae-ro 13-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul

If you are not American, how does your country celebrate Halloween? How much does it differ from Korea? If you are an American, does this sound like a fun alternative way to spend Halloween while you’re away from home? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Halloween in Korea – How to celebrate this popular event appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

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Jungsaengsa Temple – 중생사 (Gyeongju)

The Rock-Carved Seated Bodhisattva Triad in Nangsan Mountain at Jungsaengsa Temple.

Temple History

Jungsaengsa Temple is located on the northwestern part of Mt. Nangsan (99.5 m) in Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do. Jungsaengsa Temple is a branch temple of Bulguksa Temple. Jungsaengsa Temple was first founded in 679 A.D. Also, and alongside Baengnyulsa Temple and Minjangsa Temple, Jungsaengsa Temple was central to the worship of Gwanseeum-bosal during Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.). After this point in history, however, very little is known about Jungsaengsa Temple and when it eventually fell into disrepair. Jungsaengsa Temple would eventually be reconstructed in the 1940’s on the old temple site. And today, there are a handful of temple structures at Jungsaengsa Temple.

Jungsaengsa Temple is home to the Rock-Carved Seated Bodhisattva Triad in Nangsan Mountain, which is Korean Treasure #665. Also, and where the temple is located, which is on Mt. Nangsan, it’s the Archaeological Area of Nangsan Mountain, which is Historic Site #163.

Temple Myths

In total, there are four different myths directly connected to Jungsaengsa Temple and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) from the Samguk Yusa, or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms in English. The first of these myths is about a Chinese painter from Tang that eventually moves to Silla:

“Once upon a time, the Celestial Emperor of China had a favourite whose beauty was unsurpassed by any other woman in the kingdom, nor was her like to be found in any pictures of girls as fair as May roses or June peonies in all ages and climes. Wishing to look upon her always in bloom in her youth and beauty, the Emperor decided to have her portrait painted.

“The court artist was therefore ordered to paint the portrait. The name of this artist isn’t known with certainty, but he is believed to have been Chang Seng-yao, a renowned painter of the state of Wu. During the time of Liang T’ien-chien he served the kingdom of Wu-ling as court artist, right general and magistrate of Wu-hsing. If this be true, then the emperor in the story must have ruled between Liang [502–557 A.D.] and Chen [557–589 A.D.] periods. The Silla book refers to him as Tang emperor, but this is simply because the people of Silla were unaccustomed to refer to China as Tang.

“Whoever he was, the artist painted a faithful portrait of this peerless beauty. However, while he was adding the finishing touches to the picture, he was so filled with rapture at the beauty of the woman unfolding before him that his hand trembled and let the brush slip, and it made a mark like a mole just below the portrait’s navel. In consternation he tried to paint it out, but could not. ‘It must be one of her birthmarks,’ thought the artist, ‘but even in a picture women are ashamed of moles on the innermost parts of their bodies.’

“When the portrait was presented to the throne the Emperor scrutinized it closely and then spoke angrily to the artist: ‘This picture is too realistic! How could you have known there was a mole under her navel, and how could you dare to put it in your picture?’ The infuriated Emperor had the artist imprisoned and gave orders for his execution the next day, for burning jealousy of the man’s evident intimacy with his beloved knew no bounds.

“The artist was fairly caught. He would have been hanged immediately but for the intervention of the prime minister, who said, ‘He is as straight as bamboo, and has known no woman but his wife.’

“The Emperor nodded and spoke again to the artist. ‘Since you are so wise as to paint the mole on my woman when you have not seen it, paint a lifelike picture of the lovely woman whom I saw in a dream last night and you shall have my special pardon.’

“The artist painted the graceful figure of the eleven-faced Gwanseeum-bosal [The Bodhisattva of Compassion] and presented it to the throne. ‘This is she!’ exclaimed the Emperor. ‘Now you shall have your liberty.’

“After this narrow escape the artist no longer wished to live in his native country. Accompanied by a wise man named Buncheol, he crossed the sea to Silla, and there he made portraits of the Merciful Goddess in three incarnations [Gwanseeum-bosal], which were placed in Jungsaengsa Temple. The people of Gyeongju admired the holy beauty of these pictures and prayed to the Bodhisattva to fulfill their wishes with heavenly bliss.”


Another myth from the Samguk Yusa about Jungsaengsa Temple and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) concerns a father wishing for a son:

“During the closing years of Silla, in the Tien-cheng period (926-929 A.D.), the childless wife of the nobleman Choe Eunseong prayed to the Buddha at Jungsaengsa Temple to give her a son. Her prayer was heard, and she soon conceived and bore a baby boy. But before the child was three months old the tiger general of Later Baekje, Chin Hwon, sacked Gyeongju, and many people lost their wives and children. Carrying the tiny baby in his arms, Eunseong fled to the temple and implored the aid of the merciful Bodhisattva, saying ‘The enemy soldiers run amok in the King’s capital, attacking women and killing babies. If my son was born through your holy blessing, care for him now and nourish him in your bosom till I come again.’ He wrapped the child warmly and laid him beside the lotus pedestal of the seated Bodhisattva, said a tearful farewell and departed.

“Two weeks later, when the enemy had evacuated the city, Choe Eunseong returned to the temple and found the child in robust health. His body was as white as if he had been newly washed, his breath smelled of fresh milk, and his face beamed with a bright smile. Choe picked the child up in his arms and took him home, where he grew up to be a strong and intelligent man.

“This was Choe Seungno, who rose to the highest posts in the government and had many children who also achieved high position at court, generation after generation.”


And here is the third myth from the Samguk Yusa about Jungsaengsa Temple and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that concerns the temple’s abbot:

“In March of the tenth year of Tung-huo (992 A.D.), Seong-dae, the abbot of Jungsaensa Temple, knelt before the image of the Bodhisattva [Gwanseeum-bosal, The Bodhisattva of Compassion] and said, ‘I have lived at this temple for many years and I have kept the incense burning in the censer day and night. But now the income from the temple lands has ceased, so that it is impossible for me to continue this service. I must bid you farewell and move to another place.’

“As he finished speaking, the monk was suddenly attacked by drowsiness and fell into a trance. In this state, he heard the low, sweet voice of the Bodhisattva [Gwanseeum-bosal] whisper in his ear: ‘My good monk, do not leave, but abide with me yet. I will go round and get donations for the temple supplies.’

“The monk awoke joyfully from his trance and remained in the temple. Two weeks later two stout countrymen led into the temple grounds a caravan of horses and oxen fully loaded with supplies. The abbot ran out to meet them. ‘Where have you come from?’ he inquired.

“‘We have come from Geumju [Gimhae],’ they replied. ‘A few days ago a strange monk came to our village and told us that he had lived at Jungsaengsa Temple in the Eastern Capital [Gyeongju] for many years. He said that he had come to ask for donations for the temple, which was a great want, and so we collected six large bags of rice and four large bags of salt as gifts. We placed them on the backs of our strong horses and oxen, and here they are. Please come and help us to unload them.’

“‘No monk from this temple has gone out to ask for alms,’ the abbot said. ‘Perhaps you have come to the wrong place.’

“‘The monk guided us,’ the countrymen replied, ‘as far as a well which he called Singyeon-jeong [God-seeing Well] below the hill, and pointed to this temple, saying, ‘Go carefully up the mountain, and you will find a temple above the clouds. I will join you on the temple grounds.’ So here we are.”

“In wonderment the monk entered the Golden Hall with the two countrymen. He was amazed to see them prostrate themselves before the image of Gwanseeum-bosal, whispering to each other that it looked exactly like the monk who had come asking for donations. From that time gifts of rice and salt never ceased to flow into the temple to nourish the Bodhisattva and her devotees.”


And here is the fourth and final story about Gwanseeum-bosal and Jungsaengsa Temple from the Samguk Yusa:

“One evening the temple gate caught fire. All the people living nearby rushed up the hill to help put out the fire and went into the Golden Hall to rescue the image of Gwanseeum-bosal first. But when they arrived it was not there, and it was found outside in the courtyard. All were astonished at this wonder-working of the almighty Bodhisattva.

“In the thirteenth year of Ta-ting, the year of the snake (1173) a monk named Cheomsung lived at Jungsaengsa Temple. He was illiterate, but his inward eye saw Buddha’s mind, and he kept the incense-burner alight with holy flame from morning till night as he knelt before the image of the merciful Bodhisattva.

“Another monk who wanted the temple for himself appealed to the Angel of Shirts [?], saying, ‘Jungsaengsa Temple was created to invoke the Buddha’s grace and blessings on all the myriad of creatures in this nation, and therefore a learned person should be its proprietor. This poor monk knows only enough to say “Namu-amita-bul” and “Gwanseeum-bosal” waking and sleeping. He should be turned out of the temple.’

“‘Very well,’ the angel replied, ‘I will test him.’ The written appeal was presented upside down to Cheomsung, and he took it and read all the sentences aloud in a musical voice, without making a mistake.

“The angel was astonished at this unusual intelligence and clapped his hands, saying ‘Again!’ But this time Cheomsung remained stubbornly silent. ‘Thy soul is aflame with holy inspiration. Such a monk as thou art Silla’s boast,’ the angel exclaimed. ‘Stay where thou art and be happy, and may Buddha bless thee!’

“This story was told to the village elders near the temple by the hermit Kim In-bu, who had been a friend of the wonderful monk Cheomsung. It has been relayed from mouth to mouth throughout Silla to this day.”

Temple Layout

Just a little past the Neungji-tap Pagoda, and down a narrow dirt road, you’ll eventually come to Jungsaengsa Temple. Straight ahead is the compact Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the main hall are lined with two sets of murals. The first, which is on top, are quickly fading and dedicated to the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals). These bluish tinged murals are joined by scenic paintings in a yellow hue. As for inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall, and resting on the main altar, is a solitary image of Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This central statue is then backed by two beautiful dragon murals. The entire interior of the main hall is lined with older Buddhist-motif murals dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). There is also a painting dedicated to a curmudgeonly-looking Bodhidharma, an agwi (hungry ghost), and other murals. There’s also an older looking Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) that hangs on the far left wall.

To the right of the main hall are a set of temple buildings that include the temple’s kitchen. It’s just past this building, and up a long set of stairs, that you’ll come to the newly built Samseong-gak Hall. There are a pair of fierce-looking tigers just outside the hall’s main doors. These paintings prepare you for some of the most beautiful shaman paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) in Korea. Of note, take a look at the colourful peacock feathered fan that Sanshin holds in his hand.

And just to the left of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall, and past the monks’ dorms, is the Rock-Carved Seated Bodhisattva Triad in Nangsan Mountain. Up a little pathway, and under a newly built wooden pavilion, is the badly eroded and cracked rock carving from Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.). There is a central Bodhisattva image with both a body and a head. And there are two attendants on either side of this central Bodhisattva. Both attendants are armored and keep a distance from the principal Bodhisattva who is clothed in a hempen hood and a robe similar to that of a monk. The attendant to the left has a sword in their right hand, while the attendant to the right holds a weapon in both of its hands. This tends to signify that these attendants are in fact guardian deities. However, outside the central image of the Bodhisattva, it’s hard to discern much else of this carving.

How To Get There

From the Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to board Bus #604 that heads towards the Gyeongju National Museum. The bus ride lasts nine stops, and you’ll be let off at the Cheotbaeban stop – 첫배반. From this stop, you’ll need to walk ten minutes uphill towards Jungsaengsa Temple and the Neungji-tap Pagoda.

Overall Rating: 5/10

Jungsaengsa Temple is a historic temple that is undergoing all-new development. Of note is the beautiful interior of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall and the stunning shaman murals housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall. Adding to this artistry is the ancient carvings of the Rock-Carved Seated Bodhisattva Triad in Nangsan Mountain. While hard to discern the finer points of this Silla-era Buddhist artwork, the overall expression can be felt.

The stone remains from the historic Jungsaengsa Temple.
The Daejeokwang-jeon Hall.
One of the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that adorns the exterior of the main hall.
The main altar inside the Daejeokwang-jeon Hall.
The older Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall.
An agwi (hungry ghost) inside the main hall.
The Rock-Carved Seated Bodhisattva Triad in Nangsan Mountain.
A look at the rock-carving.
And a closer look at the historic rock-carving.
The newly built Samseong-gak Hall.
One of the tiger images that adorns the exterior of the shaman shrine hall.
A look at Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) inside the Samseong-gak Hall.
As well as this masterful painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).
Ilgwang-bosal (The Sunlight Bodhisattva) from the Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural inside the Samseong-gak Hall.
As well as Wolgwang-bosal (The Moonlight Bodhisattva).

Korean Concepts: Nunchi, Jeong, Chaemyeon, Inhwa, and Kibun

Have you heard of Korean Concepts?

Besides the teachings of Confucianism, the aftermath of the Korean War has also been a significant influence on modern-day South Korean culture and behavior. It raised a new sense of nationalism, awakened the need for persistence and adaptability, and expanded education’s importance in society.

These modern ideas then merged with the age-old traditions, creating significant Korean concepts held dearly today, offering types of guidelines for how to behave and think within society.

Five hands raised while holding signages with Korean words written on them

Why should you learn about Korean concepts?

As you understand these concepts, you can better recognize what certain behaviors are derived from, as well as appreciate why a Korean person may act the way they do in some situations. Once you know each of the different concepts, you can also better understand how they all go hand in hand with each other.

Different Korean Concepts

Below we’ll introduce you to some key concepts you should know before interacting with Koreans.

채면 (chaemyeon), Face

This is a key concept in Korean culture that is especially central to guiding a person’s behavior as well as way of thinking. This is actually quite rooted in many Asian cultures, not just in Korea alone. It’s particularly important in Korea to specify what level a person’s reputation, honor, and dignity fall on.

It’s especially the hardships and adversities of the 20th century, during and in the aftermath of the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, where people had to find ways to hold in their frustration and rage, that signified the importance of this concept.

채면 (chaemyeon) in Modern Korea

In Korea’s society today, there is less importance held on acting completely stoic and masking all of one’s true feelings. Thus, 채면 (chaemyeon) may no longer be present in the ways it once was.

However, even today, it is still a driving factor in Koreans shaping up a particular appearance – emotional, physical, mental, social, and so on – they want to present themselves to others, regardless of how well it reflects their true emotions and situations at that moment.

For example, if someone feels ashamed of their financial, work, or social status, they may use 채면 (chaemyeon) as means to keep that hidden from others. It may also show up through material, such as buying the flashiest phone or the fanciest car – just like people may do in other cultures, too.

Means are taken to ensure one’s self-worth remains intact, and others will have a positive perception of them so as not to lose face or in order to save or build it.

기분 (gibun), Feeling; Dignity

Officially, gibun – also referred to as kibun – translates as feeling, emotion, mood, and state of mind. However, in the context of cultural concepts, its meaning expands to cover also face, dignity, and pride. Maintaining a positive 기분 (gibun) among people is regarded as highly significant in the country’s culture, as it helps establish good relationships.

This is why it may be frowned upon to offer negative feedback or criticism or to, in general, express emotions of the negative kind. Many Koreans may go painstakingly far in their efforts to maintain 기분 (gibun) and thus not disrupt harmony, aka 인화 (inhwa), which is further explained below.

인화 (inhwa), Harmony

인화 (inhwa) is another key concept in the Korean culture focused on harmony and is closely tied with the other concepts for appropriate behavior. This is especially present in the business world in Korea. Of all the key concepts on this list, it’s perhaps the one that derives most directly from Confucianism.

To maintain 인화 (inhwa), Korean people often find themselves trying to avoid giving anything but positive answers and dread having to refuse something. By practicing 인화 (inhwa), they also maintain and build 채면 (chaemyeon). 인화 (inhwa) is most strongly present in hierarchical situations in a business, as in interactions between bosses and subordinates.

정 (jeong), Attachment

This is another key concept that may be quite unique to Korean culture. At its simplest, it just means the attachment and warm and cozy feelings two people close to one another may share with each other, be it romantic or platonic, or familial.

Of course, attachment in and of itself is in no way unique to Korea. However, it makes more sense when you realize how deeply rooted this is in Korea’s drive for collectiveness.

It may be a little difficult to explain 정 (jeong); you’d have to experience it for yourself. But often, it presents itself as a desire to do something for someone and then do so. It may be a grandmother smothering her grandchildren with food and treats, or it may be a friend crafting an incredible gift, or it may be something entirely else.

It can also happen simply in the form of taking care of someone, such as ensuring they are dressed warmly enough or have had enough water that day. You catch the drift. It’s simple hospitality in essence, but people in Korea seem to take this hospitality to another level in comparison to other cultures, even its neighboring ones.

눈치 (nunchi), “Art of understanding”

Finally, the hardest concept of the country’s culture to translate is 눈치 (nunchi). It can be explained as a subtle art of situational awareness, the art of understanding and being sensitive, and the ability to listen to the other party deeply.

It’s something that is present in just about any social setting one walks into, and even small kids are familiar with this. Having a high level of 눈치 (nunchi) is not only a great asset for any given social situation, but it can help you become more successful in handling all the other key concepts as well.

Mind you, Koreans themselves don’t grade someone as having good nunchi, and it’s referred to as having quick nunchi instead. Someone who reads the room is quick to sus out the dynamics in the circumstances and adapts their behavior accordingly is someone in possession of quick nunchi.

Just like you’ve noticed from other concepts, collectiveness and harmoniously blending in are matters of importance in Korean society, and being skilled at quick nunchi is one way with which one can successfully find their place in society.

And that’s it for Korean concepts! We hope this article has helped you understand the culture in Korea even more. Let us know in the comments if you also have these concepts in your country!

The post Korean Concepts: Nunchi, Jeong, Chaemyeon, Inhwa, and Kibun appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

Important Hanja: 자 (子) (한자) | Korean FAQ

This week's episode is all about the Hanja 子 meaning "child" or "offspring." But this character also shows up in many unexpected places, such as at the end of nouns that have nothing to do with a child, as well as at the end of many older-sounding Korean names. Find out how to use this character in various ways with today's latest Korean FAQ episode~!

The post Important Hanja: 자 (子) (한자) | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Naewonjeongsa Temple – 내원정사 (Seo-gu, Busan)

The Golden Pagoda Inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall at Naewonjeongsa Temple in Seo-gu, Busan.

Temple History

Naewonjeongsa Temple is located east of Mt. Gudeoksan (560 m) in Seo-gu, Busan. Naewonjeongsa Temple is a modern temple with it first being established in 1973. Then in 1983, the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall was completed. This was subsequently followed with the building of the temple’s Gwaneum-jeon Hall, the Yosachae (monks’ dorms), and the Jong-ru Pavilion. And in 1990, the Manbul-jeon Hall was built.

Naewonjeongsa Temple is home to a pair of Busan Metropolitan City Tangible Cultural Property. They are the “Jineonjib” and the “Josang-gyeong.” They are a collection of sutras from a collection of woodblocks. In addition to these woodblocks, Naewonjeongsa Temple is home to another Busan Metropolitan City Tangible Cultural Property. This time it’s the Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) statue that dates back to 1730.

A copy of the Josang-gyeong. (Picture courtesy of the CHA).

Temple Layout

You’ll first approach Naewonjeongsa Temple through the mid-sized parking lot and past the numerous mountain hikers in the region. The first structure to greet you at the temple is the front facade. In the centre of the front facade is a two-story structure. The first story, with stairs to climb up to the main temple courtyard, is the Cheonwangmun Gate. Both sides of the Cheonwangmun Gate are adorned with two murals of the Four Heavenly Kings. And the front entry doors are adorned with two guardian murals. Additionally, the ceiling of the Cheonwangmun Gate is adorned with dragons and phoenixes. The second story of this entryway structure, and looking back once you’ve climbed the main temple courtyard stairs, is the Jong-ru Pavilion. Housed inside this bell pavilion are the four traditional Buddhist percussion instruments. All are beautiful in design.

To the right and left of the Jong-ru Pavilion, and lining the temple courtyard, are two rows of temple buildings. These buildings are the administrative offices, visitors centre, and monks’ quarters. There is also a nice row of plum trees to accompany these temple buildings to the right.

Straight ahead of you is the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. Surrounding the exterior walls to the main hall are an assortment of paintings. To the rear are a colourful collection of Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that are joined by a beautiful set of Buddha and Bodhisattva paintings. In addition to these murals is the rarely painted Dokseong (Lonely Saint) and Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) murals that appear on either side of the main hall’s exterior walls. And backing the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is a mature bamboo forest.

The interior of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is golden. This is highlighted by the large, golden pagoda that sits in the centre of the main altar. This five-story pagoda is joined by two large sized statues of what appear to be Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the golden pagoda is a golden relief dedicated to Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). And to the right of this relief is yet another golden relief. This second golden relief is dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And the final golden relief to the right of the main altar is dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). To the left of the main altar pagoda, on the other hand, and the first of these golden reliefs, is a golden relief dedicated to Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). This is then joined to the left by another golden relief; this one, dedicated to the Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural). And the final golden relief to the left of the main altar, and the largest of the set, is a Yeongsan Hoesang-do (The Sermon on Vulture Peak Painting). Rounding out the interior of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall are two towers filled with miniature statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas next to the main altar. As you can tell, the main hall at Naewonjeongsa Temple is filled with dazzling Buddhist artistry.

To the right of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is the temple’s Samseong-gak Hall. The artwork inside this shaman shrine hall are dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korean Buddhism. They are Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). All three are done in a dominant blackish hue and are beautifully executed.

How To Get There

From the Seodaesin subway stop, stop #107, on the Busan subway system, you’ll need to take a taxi to get to Naewonjeongsa Temple. The ride should cost around 4,000 won (one way), and the ride should last about 10 minutes over 2.6 km.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Without a doubt, the main highlight to Naewonjeongsa Temple is the interior of the main hall with it’s five-story golden pagoda, the six golden reliefs and the exterior wall paintings that include Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and shaman deities. In addition to the main hall, both the percussion instruments inside the Jong-ru Pavilion and the black shaman murals inside the Samseong-gak Hall are beautiful, as well.

The two-in-one Cheonwangmun Gate and Jong-ru Pavilion at Naewonjeongsa Temple.
The painting of Damun Cheonwang, who is one of the Four Heavenly Kings, inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
A yellow dragon painting that adorns the ceiling of the Cheonwangmun Gate.
The mokeo (wooden fish drum) inside the second story Jong-ru Pavilion.
The demon-like beopgo (dharma drum) inside the second story Jong-ru Pavilion, as well.
The beautiful Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall at Naewonjeongsa Temple.
The painting dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) that adorns one of the exterior walls of the main hall.
A look inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall at the golden pagoda on the main altar.
The Samseong-gak Hall.
With a painting of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside.
A look up at the eaves of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall and the Samseong-gak Hall.

Gyemyeongam Hermitage – 계명암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)

The View at Gyemyeongam Hermitage of Beomeosa Temple in Geumjeong-gu, Busan.

Hermitage History

Gyemyeongam Hermitage is located in Geumjeong-gu, Busan on the Beomeosa Temple grounds. More specifically, it’s located to the northeast of Beomeosa Temple about midway up Gyemyeong-bong Peak (599.8 m), which is part of the Mt. Geumjeongsan (801.5 m) mountain range. Gyemyeongam Hermitage means “Rooster’s Crow Hermitage” in English.

The exact date of the hermitage’s founding is unknown. However, it’s believed that the hermitage dates back to Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.). It’s believed that Gyemyeongam Hermitage gets its name from when Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.) was searching for a temple site one night when he heard a rooster crow.

Gyemyeongam Hermitage was reconstructed after 1592 after the Imjin War (1592-1598). In 1903, the monk Gyeongheo (1849-1912) visited Gyemyeongam Hermitage. It was here that he wrote “Beomeosa Gyemyeongam Changseol Seonsaji – 범어사 계명암 창설 선사기,” or “The History of the Establishment of Gyemyeongam Hermitage of Beomeosa Temple.” This illustrates the importance that Gyemyeongam Hermitage played in the furtherment of Korean Buddhism at this time. And since the establishment of Gyemyeongam Hermitage as a Seonwon in the early 1900s, it only further established the hermitage as a major promoter of Korean Buddhism during a tumultuous time in Korean history.

Hermitage Layout

You first make your way up towards Gyemyeongam Hermitage along the side of the mountain. At times, this 500 metre long stretch of trail can be a bit steep, so be prepared. The first sign that you’re nearing the hermitage grounds is the weathered Iljumun Gate. And it’s also from this vantage point that you’ll start to see the beautiful panoramic view from the heights of the hermitage.

Continuing up the trail, and after having passed through the Iljumun Gate, you’ll next come across the monks’ dorms and administrative office at Gyemyeongam Hermitage. Next to these buildings, but before visiting the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, you’ll find an outdoor shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This is a newer image of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The slender image is surrounded by a simplistic mandorla, or “geosingwang” in Korean.

Continuing along, you’ll next come to the Gwaneum-jeon Hall. The main hall is squeezed up against the neighbouring rock face to the rear. And the front has an extension added to it for all the visitors that might come to the hermitage on special occasions. However, the extension looks haphazard, and it isn’t the most graceful-looking structure that I’ve seen at either a temple or hermitage in Korea. Inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall, you’ll find a solitary image of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) on the main altar. There are four additional murals of Gwanseeum-bosal inside the main hall. To the left of the main altar is a rather large Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

To the right of the main hall is a shaman shrine hall with a twist. The exterior walls to this shrine hall are adorned with a fierce blue dragon and a white tiger. Stepping inside this shaman shrine hall, and instead of having the typical triad of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars), this triad is centred by a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. And it’s fronted by a stone statue dedicated to Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). To the right of these two images is an image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and to the left is that of Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Conspicuously absent is an image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

But the main reason, or at least one of the main reasons, you’ve made your way up to Gyemyeongam Hermitage is for the view. The view of both Busan and Beomeosa Temple in the valley below is stunning. Together, they make for quite the beautiful view out in front of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.

How To Get There

From the Beomeosa Station subway stop, you’ll need to take exit #1. From there, you’ll need to walk about a block uphill to get to the bus stop, where you can take Bus #90. This bus will bring you directly to Beomeosa Temple. But instead of walking left towards the Iljumun Gate at Beomeosa Temple, you’ll need to hang a right towards a cluster of hermitages at Beomeosa Temple. There will be a sign halfway up between the temple and the hermitage. The sign will read “계명암” on it. Follow these signs, as they lead you right of Beomeosa Temple. Eventually, you’ll come to a small parking lot. The path will fork like a “W.” Take the trail that leads to the right. Here, you’ll finally see a large metal sign, as well as a signpost, pointing you in the right direction up the trail that leads all the way up to Gyemyeongam Hermitage.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Gyemyeongam Hermitage has a beautiful panoramic view of Beomeosa Temple down below and Busan off in the distance. In addition to all the natural beauty that surrounds Gyemyeongam Hermitage, you can also enjoy the interior artwork of the Gwaneum-jeon Hall or the unique combination inside the shaman shrine hall to the right of the main hall. Beomeosa Temple is home to a handful of hermitages that are definitely worth a visit, and Gyemyeongam Hermitage is one of those sites.

The sign leading you up towards Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
And the steep trail that guides you there.
The Iljumun Gate that welcomes you to the hermitage.
The outdoor shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal at Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
A look inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
Two of the paintings of the Bodhisattva of Compassion inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
A closer look at the main altar inside the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
The five-story slender pagoda to the south of the shaman shrine hall at Gyemyeongam Hermitage.
A white tiger that adorns the exterior wall of the shaman shrine hall.
And a blue dragon that adorns another exterior wall of the shaman shrine hall.
Rather strangely, the triad inside the shaman shrine hall are Dokseong (right), Gwanseeum-bosal with a statue of Yaksayeorae-bul (centre), and Chilseong (left).
The view from the Gwaneum-jeon Hall.
With a look down at the Beomeosa Temple grounds and the neighbouring hermitages.
And a closer look at Beomeosa Temple from the heights of Gyemyeongam Hermitage.

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