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Mitaam Hermitage – 미타암 (Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The 8th Century Statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) at Mitaam Hermitage in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

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Hermitage History and Myths

Mitaam Hermitage is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Cheonseongsan (922 m) in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do. The hermitage is named after Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Mitaam Hermitage was first established by the famed monk Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.). In addition to Mitaam Hermitage, Wonhyo-daesa built eighty-nine other temples and hermitages on Mt. Cheonseongsan (One Thousand Saints Mountain) which includes Hongryongsa Temple.

The hermitage was later expanded in 921 A.D. by the monk Jijong. It was expanded again in 1238 A.D. by the monk Jungjin. Mitaam Hermitage, and more specifically, the 8th century stone standing statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and its grotto are immortalized in the pages of the 13th century text Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). It’s stated in the Samguk Yusa that five monks at Mitaam Hermitage were disciplining their minds in meditation, when they ascended to the Western Paradise.

More recently, Mitaam Hermitage underwent a renovation in 1888. It should also be noted that Mitaam Hermitage falls under the administrative control of the neighbouring Tongdosa Temple, which is the 15th Headquarters of the Jogye-jong Order.

Mitaam Hermitage is also referred to as the “Third Seokguram” for the naturally occurring grotto that’s located on the hermitage grounds. The Stone Standing Amitabha Buddha at Mitaam Hermitage that’s located inside the grotto is Korean Treasure #998.

Here’s a little more about Wonhyo-daesa and his connection to Mt. Cheonseongsan. The text below can be found throughout the Naewonsa Temple valley, and it’s been translated by Andrew Douch on his website. If you haven’t been to his website Korean Trails, I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy hiking in Korea.

In 673 Wonhyo began meditating in Seon Buddhism and eventually ended up going to mainland China. There was a time during his visit when 1000 people from the temple Taehwa-sa in Tang China were in danger of being buried under a mountain of mud after torrential rains. Upon realising this, Wonhyo threw out a wooden board, the people saw this strange board hanging in the air and thinking it mysterious, ran into the prayer hall, immediately upon which the mountain collapsed behind them. On the board thrown by Wonhyo had been the words, “Throwing the board, Wonhyo saves the people.”

Because of this the 1000 sought out Wonhyo and became his disciples. Wonhyo began searching for a place for all these people to stay and upon reaching the spot where this Sanshin-gak now stands, disappeared. Wonhyo built 89 small temples in the area around Naewon-sa in which his 1000 disciples were to stay. Furthermore a large drum was placed in the area in front of Cheonseong-san which would announce the beginning of sermon to the disciples on the mountain, where he would lecture the Avatamaka Sutra. The place where he taught the sutra was called the field of Avatamaka (hwa-eom-beol) while the place where the drum was sounded was called Jipbukpong (grasp and strike drum).

Furthermore because these disciples who climbed the mountain would get entangled in arrowroot vines and trip, Wonhyo called on the mountain spirits to clear the mountain of these vines. It is said to this day Cheonseong-san has no arrowroot vines. Later it is said that the 1000 disciples who studied under Wonhyo became sages, this is why the mountain has the name.

As Andrew notes in his post, there are a few issues with the Naewonsa Temple valley text. First, Wonhyo-daesa never traveled to Tang China (618-907 A.D.); instead, he returned to Silla after attaining enlightenment while attempting to travel to further his Buddhist education in Tang China. Uisang-daesa (625-702 A.D.), his friend and travel companion, did in fact continue on to Tang China. As a result, it’s highly unlikely that Wonhyo-daesa would then have one thousand disciples from Tang China following him around the mountains of Yangsan. And another point that needs to be made is that Seon Buddhism wasn’t firmly established on the Korean peninsula until the late-8th and early 9th century with the founding of the Gusan Seonmun, or “Nine Mountain Meditation Gates” in English. However, it should be noted that Seon Buddhism did enter the Korean peninsula through Master Beomnang (632-642 A.D.). Beomnang was a student of Daoxin (580-651 A.D.), who is considered the Fourth Chan Patriarch. However, Beomnang’s efforts largely failed probably due to a lack of royal support. But while it took two additional centuries to take root in Korea, it would seem as though Seon Buddhism did in fact have some influence on Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.), according to scholar David Mason.

Either way, whether all or just part of the myth is true about Wonhyo-daesa and Mt. Cheonseongsan, it would appear that the famous monk did in fact play some part in the transmission of Buddhism from his home in Yangsan.

Again, if you haven’t already checked out Andrew Douch’s or David Mason’s sites, you really should!

Hermitage Layout

You’ll first make your way up to Mitaam Hermitage up a long, wandering, and very steep road, until you eventually come to a trailhead that leads you up to the hermitage grounds. The views from the trail, which is about five hundred metres in length, are gorgeous with the mountain peaks above and the neighbouring valley below. Finally, when you do arrive at the rocky ledge where Mitaam Hermitage is located, you’ll first be greeted by a gift shop to your immediate right and a coffee stand to your left. Passing by both of these commercial establishments, and the row of compact monks dorms and the visitors centre, you’ll see the stunning Daeungbo-jeon Hall.

The exterior walls to the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, rather uniquely, are adorned with simple paintings dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha). The latticework on the front door’s are beautifully adorned with wooden floral patterns. And at the base of these front doors are the descriptively designed Gwimyeon (Monster Masks).

Stepping inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, you’ll first notice the large red canopies hanging over the top of the well-populated main altar. In total, there are seven statues that take up residence along the main altar. The central three images are Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) in the middle. This statue is then flanked on either side by Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) and Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom). To the left of this central triad are two Bodhisattvas. The first is Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul), who is joined to the left by a black haired image of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). To the right of the central triad is an ornate statue of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This statue is then joined to the right by an older, simpler statue of Seokgamoni-bul. All of these statues are joined by flying Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities) and dragons up near the beautiful red canopies.

The most intriguing aspect of the artwork housed inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall is the large mural that hangs in the far right corner near the second Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) statue. In this mural, you can see Wonhyo-daesa standing in the middle of a elevated rocky perch. He’s surrounded by what looks to be one thousand of his followers for which Mt. Cheonseongsan gets its name. Joining the one thousand followers are Buddhist monks, aristocracy, and potentially Queen Seondeok of Silla (r. 632-647) making an offering to Wonhyo-daesa in the bottom left corner, and potentially Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) to the right of Wonhyo-daesa. Dokseong appears to be holding a stick with a sutra attached by a rope. He has long, white eyebrows and a leafy garment covering his body. (Thanks to David Mason for his input, as always).

Further up the trail to the right, and past the hermitage’s kitchen, you’ll come to the hermitage’s compact Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion). Along this path, you’ll be headed towards an indoor pavilion that houses both the entrance to the Samseong-gak Hall, as well as the entrance to the Gulbeop-dang Hall, which houses the Stone Standing Amitabha Buddha at Mitaam Hermitage (T #998). Housed inside the Samseong-gak Hall to the right are three newer murals dedicated to three of the most popular shaman deities that you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple: Chilseong (The Seven Stars), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit).

To the left, in a three metre wide opening to the cave, stands the 8th century statue dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). There are new granite arches that have been installed at the naturally occurring cave entry. And the historic statue rests on top of a granite stand that has cloud designs etched onto it. The image of Amita-bul appears with a large ushnisha on top of its head. It also has long ears that fall to the top of Amita-bul’s shoulders. The left hand is attached to its body, while the right hand is placed near the centre of the statue’s chest, and it has a straight upright posture. The statue at Mitaam Hermitage follows a similar style of the more famous Stone Standing Amitabha Buddha of Gamsansa Temple, which is National Treasure #82. The Gamsansa Temple dates back to 719 A.D.

How To Get There

There are two ways that you can get to Mitaam Hermitage. The first is that you can catch Bus #2000 from the Yangsan Intercity Bus Terminal. The bus ride will take about forty minutes, and you’ll have to get off at the Jujin Village in Soju-dong. The second way you can get to Mitaam Hermitage is from the Busan City Bus Terminal in Nopo-dong. You can catch either Bus #247 or Bus #301 and get off at Jangheung. From this stop, you’ll need to follow the hermitage signs the rest of the way to lead you up to Mitaam Hermitage. Either way, make sure you pack your hiking boots because where the bus drops you off, you still have the rest of Mt. Cheonseongsan to hike to get to Mitaam Hermitage.

Overall Rating: 8/10

While definitely out of the way and quite the climb, Mitaam Hermitage more than makes up for it with its 8th century statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Adding to this is the masterpiece painting dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall, as well as the amazing views and the floral latticework adorning the main hall.

The view south from Mitaam Hermitage.
The view north from Mitaam Hermitage.
The colourful Daeungbo-jeon Hall.
The beautiful latticework adorning the Daeungbo-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Daeungbo-jeon Hall.
The masterful mural dedicated to Wonhyo-daesa.
The Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion) at Mitaam Hermitage.
The trail that leads up to the grotto that houses the 8th century statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise).
The 8th century statue dedicated to Amita-bul, which is Korean Treasure #998.

Billy Go’s Beginner Korean Course | #93: I’m Going To

In this lesson we'll learn about a form useful for expressing your "intentions." For example, you can use this form to say that you're "going to do" something. It can also be used to say that you'll "try to do" something.

Remember that all of the episodes in this series are in order, so start from the beginning if you're new. Everything builds on the previous lessons, so if you follow from the start you'll be able to learn all the way to the end.

The post Billy Go’s Beginner Korean Course | #93: I’m Going To appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

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Singwangsa Temple – 신광사 (Geoje-do, Gyeongsangnam-do)

The Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) Outdoor Island Shrine at Singwangsa Temple in Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do.

This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support!

Temple History

Singwangsa Temple is located on the southern coast, on the western side, of Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do. Specifically, Singwangsa Temple is situated on the western portion of Mt. Baekamsan (494.6 m). According to the temple website, the location of Singwangsa Temple has long been regarded as a sacred place for the worship of Buddhism.

Singwangsa Temple dates back to the 1930’s, when a farmer, while digging a pond, discovered the Oryang Stone Buddha Statue. This stone Buddha statue dates back to either Later Silla (668-935 A.D.) or the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). This statue was designated Gyeongsangnam-do Tangible Cultural Heritage #48 in 1972.

More recently, Singwangsa Temple underwent extensive building during the 1980’s and 1990’s. During the 1980’s, the Iljumun Gate, the Nokyawon Shrine, the Sanshin-gak Hall, the subterranean Cheonbul-jeon Hall, and the Myeongbu-jeon Hall were built. During the 1990’s, the temple further expanded with the addition of the Beomjong-gak (Belll Pavilion) and the Nahan-jeon Hall. And in 2012, the Daeung-jeon Hall was built at Singwangsa Temple.

Temple Layout

You first approach Singwangsa Temple up a set of side-winding back roads, until you eventually see the temple’s Iljumun Gate and a collection of stupas. In a bend in the road, you’ll finally arrive at the temple parking lot. Just over a grassy knoll, and past a collection of beautiful cedar trees, you’ll see the large Daeung-jeon Hall straight ahead of you.

The exterior walls to the Daeung-jeon Hall are decorated with fading Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life Murals). In addition to this artwork, there is some beautiful latticework of dragons swirling around in their wooden frames with Gwimyeon (Monster Masks) at the base of the front doors. There are three large, dark wooden statues that take up residence inside the Daeung-jeon Hall on the main altar. The triad is centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). This statue is then flanked on either side by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise) and Yaksayeorae-bul (The Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). This triad was first made in the late 1980’s, and they are meant to represent the idea of Samsara. These three central statues are then joined by four standing statues on the main altar. Starting from the left, they are Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power), Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom), and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). This collection stands between 135 to 150 centimetres in height. The interior of the massive Daeung-jeon Hall is cavernous.

Just out in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and to the right, is the Beomjong-gak (Bell Pavilion). Surrounding the pavilion, and on strings, are folded letters left behind by people with their hopes and dreams written on them. As for the Beomjong-gak Pavilion, there’s a large Brahma Bell that takes up residence inside it. This bell dates back to 1990.

One of the highlights to Singwangsa Temple, and to the right of the Beomjong-gak Pavilion, is a shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. Past a mature collection of trees, and through an opening, you’ll come to a two-story island with a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal standing on the second story. This six metre tall statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion stands with a bottle of ambrosia in her left hand. This bottle is turned downwards. And populating the pond that Gwanseeum-bosal stands commandingly over top of are a collection of beautiful Koi. The statue and shrine of Gwanseeum-bosal date back to 1994.

Just to the immediate right of the Daeung-jeon Hall, and up a set of stairs, you’ll arrive in the upper courtyard at Singwangsa Temple. You’ll see a glass shrine dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King) in this area. It’s just past this shrine, and up a hedgerow, you’ll come to the subterranean shrine hall at the temple. This is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. Inside this temple shrine hall are eight bronze coloured plaques that depict various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the entry. Passing by these, you’ll next enter the large inner cave chamber. Seated in the centre of the chamber is the historic Oryang Stone Buddha Statue. This statue is joined on all sides by a thousand golden Buddha statues dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha).

Up past the Cheonbul-jeon Hall, and another set of stairs, you’ll come to a shaman shrine hall dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). Besides being large in size, they are rather plain in design.

Just behind the Cheonbul-jeon Hall, and to the left of the Sanshin/Chilseong-gak Hall, you’ll come to another clearing. This time in the centre of this clearing is a beautiful stone sculpture dedicated to Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). This statue stands four metres in height; and like the Gwanseeum-bosal statue at Sinwangsa Temple, this statue also dates back to 1994. Joining the seated image of Mireuk-bul in this part of the temple grounds is the Nahan-jeon Hall. There are five hundred stone statues dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) inside this temple shrine hall. These statues are between 30 to 33 centimetres in height, and they were first sculpted in the late 1990’s. These statues are then fronted by sixteen larger statues dedicated to the Nahan, and they stand 50 centimetres in height. The central image that sits on the main altar inside the Nahan-jeon Hall is a stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul.

To the rear of the Nahan-jeon Hall is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, which is unadorned around its exterior walls all but for the basic dancheong colours. Taking up residence inside this shrine hall is another stone statue; this time, dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This statue is joined on either side by a stone statue of Mudokgwi-wang (The King of Ghosts Who Purifies People’s Minds) and Domyeong-jonja. Also joining this stone statue of Jijang-bosal is another of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife. This statue is backed by a mural of Jijang-bosal and the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld).

How To Get There

Because Singwangsa Temple is actually located closer to the neighbouring city of Tongyeong, you’ll need to get to the Tongyeong Intercity Bus Terminal first. And from the Tongyeong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a taxi because there’s no bus that goes directly to Singwangsa Temple. The taxi will take about 25 minutes and cost you about 14,000 won.

Overall Rating: 8/10

While it costs a fair bit to drive from Geoje-do Island from Busan, especially when you use the underwater Gadeok Tunnel, Singwangsa Temple certainly didn’t disappoint. The temple is filled with shrine halls including the underground Cheonbul-jeon Hall. In addition to the beautiful artwork that populates these shrine halls, have a look for the island shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). With all this, you’ll have more than enough reason to visit the rather special Singwangsa Temple in the island city of Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do.

The beautiful environs around Singwangsa Temple in Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do.
The road leading up to the temple.
The large Daeung-jeon Hall at Singwangsa Temple.
The main altar inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
The outdoor island shrine dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) to the right of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A different angle to the amazing outdoor shrine.
A look inside the subterranean Cheonbul-jeon Hall.
The statue of Mireuk-bul behind the Cheonbul-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Nahan-jeon Hall.
And the main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.

Yong – Dragons: 용

The View from the Yonghwa-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support!


One of the most common things you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple is a dragon. You can find them in paintings, statues, adornments, latticework around shrine halls and even under bridges. So why do you find so many dragons are a Korean Buddhist temple?

A dragon and Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) at Daewonsa Temple in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

History of the Korean Dragon

As Buddhism started to migrate eastward from India, it started to take on local influences and forms. One great example of this can be seen when Buddhism started to spread throughout China during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.). When Buddhism entered into China, the dragon first came as a Naga. Naga, as in Hinduism, takes the form of a great cobra. They are divine, or semi-divine deities, or even a semi-divine race of half-human/half-serpent beings that are raised in Patala (a subterranean realm of the universe). As a result, they are primarily depicted in three forms. They can be wholly human with snakes on their heads or necks, a serpent, or as half-human/half-snake. Some Naga are capable of using magic powers to transform themselves into humans. As for how they interact with human beings, Naga are potentially dangerous, but they are also helpful, protective, and beneficial to humans.

With Buddhism firmly being established during the Six Dynasties (220-589 A.D.) in China, the Naga became a dragon. And with the migration of Buddhism to the Korean peninsula from China taking place first in the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.) in 372 A.D., dragons, instead of Naga, migrated to the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 B.C. – 668 A.D.), as well.

A dragon mural that adorns the side of the Yonghwa-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple.

Korean Dragon’s Appearance and Symbolic Meaning

In Korean, dragons are known as “yong” or “ryong.” In appearance, they can have deer antlers, a snake belly, a fish tail, claws, and whiskers. They can also be a number of colours like blue, red, yellow, green, or brown.

Another thing that differentiates Korean dragons from other dragons is that they have longer beards. Also, you’ll usually see a Korean dragon with an orb, which is known as a “Yeouiju – 여의주” in Korean. This is a Cintamani, or wish-fulfilling jewel. It can be held in its claws or mouth. It’s believed that whoever holds a Yeouiju has the power of omnipotence and creation. Another feature that differentiates Korean dragons is that they have four toes to hold and wield the Yeouiju, as opposed to lesser three-toed dragons.

However, unlike the western idea of dragons, which are thought to be destructive and harmful, dragons in Korea are thought to be a sign of good luck. In fact, dragons are thought to be the bearer of good fortunate and spiritual clarity because of their loud voices. Their voices clear away any and all delusions of corrupting thought. In Korea, dragons are said to have power over the sea, floods, and storms. And specifically in Buddhism, they are thought to be one of eight kinds of protective deities that help guard the teachings of the Buddha (the dharma).

Where to Find Korean Dragons

There are numerous places that you can find dragons at a Korean Buddhist temple. Here are eight specific examples of where you can find these dragons.

The Dragon Ship of Wisdom

The Dragon Ship of Wisdom, which is known as “Banya Yongseon-do – 반야 용선도” in Korean, is a ship that transports people across the Sea of Samsara. In Korean, Samsara is known as “Yunhwi – 윤회.” Samsara, or Yunhwi, refers to the idea of the cycle of life: birth, death, and rebirth. As the name of the ship kind of gives away, The Dragon Ship of Wisdom is shaped like a dragon (go figure!?). It has the head of a dragon for the bow and the tail of the dragon as the stern. Typically, the dragon shaped ship is painted blue with a handful of occupants sailing across Samsara. The Dragon Ship of Wisdom is being ferried across Samsara by two Bodhisattvas at either end of the vessel. (Picture from Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do).

Temple Shrine Hall Adornments

Oftentimes you’ll see a pair of dragon heads near the entry of a temple shrine hall, book-ending the nameplate of the specific shrine hall. These dragons that protrude outwards from the eaves of a temple shrine hall are meant to symbolically represent the Dragon Ship of Wisdom. So by entering a temple shrine hall, one is being transported across the Sea of Samsara. These dragons are one of the more misunderstood dragons that you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple. More often than not, they’re simply thought of as being ornamental, but everything at Korean Buddhist temples, especially the artwork, has meaning. (Picture from Magoksa Temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do).

Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha)

As for the Mireuk-jeon Hall, which is where Mireuk-bul commonly takes up residence at a Korean Buddhist temple, this temple shrine is also known as a Yonghwa-jeon. Yonghwa means “Dragon Flower” in English, while jeon means “hall.” This connection to a dragon might seem a bit confusing at first; however, according to Buddhist tradition, when Mireuk-bosal returns to Earth as Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha), he will have attained his Buddhahood under a Dragon Flower Tree. Furthermore, dragons are thought to have a countless amount of scales on their bodies, which is a symbol of the infinite. It’s also symbolic of a dragon’s immeasurable power. Another connection to the dragon for Mireuk-bul is the belief that Mireuk-bul turned into a dragon spirit as he entered into a meditative state while awaiting to achieve Buddhahood. This also connects the idea of a dragon’s ability as a shape-shifter to appear in any number of forms to help people towards Jeongto (The Pure Land). (Picture from Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do).

The Sacheonwang (The Four Heavenly Kings)

Another connection that dragons have to Korean Buddhist temples is through the Sacheonwang, who, in English, are known as the Four Heavenly Kings. The specific connection that dragons have to the Four Heavenly Kings is through Gwangmok Cheonwang (or Virupaksha in Sanskrit). Nagas are followers of Gwangmok Cheonwang (don’t forget that Nagas became dragons during their migration eastwards). The Four Heavenly Kings are guardians of Mt. Sumeru, which is the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual centre of the universes. As a result of this devotion of the Nagas, you can typically see a dragon being held in the right hand of Gwangmok Cheonwang. (Picture from Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju).

Poroe (The Bell Dragon)

Traditionally, a dragon adorns the top of a Korean temple bell. The hooks that hold the bell to the rafters on a temple bell are usually shaped like a dragon. As a result, they are called “dragon hooks.” In Korean, this dragon is known as as Poroe – 포뢰. Poroe has a bit of a phobia. Poroe is afraid of whales. And according to this myth, when Poroe sees a whale, Poroe cries out. The reason this is important is that the striker that hits the bell, traditionally, is a whale-shaped striker. So when the whale-shaped striker hits the bell, Poroe, who crowns the bell, lets out a loud scream. This allows the bell to make a louder noise. That’s why, in Korea, the sound that a bell makes is called a “whale sound.” (Picture from Seokbulsa Temple in Buk-gu, Busan).

Datjib (The Main Altar Canopy)

Datjib, in Korean, is a compound word. “Dat” means separate, while “jib” means house. Another name for a datjib is “celestial canopy,” which is a reference to the airy feeling that the roof-shaped structure possesses.

As for the design of the datjib, it’s made of wood, and the woodwork consists of finely interconnected brackets that have been ornately decorated. The pillar of the datjib are usually thin, which helps contribute to the airy feel of the design. Surrounding the typically red painted datjib are dragons, phoenixes, lotus flowers, Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities), and other celestial deities. At a glance, the canopy looks like a mini-palace. As for the dragon or dragons that take up residence near the datjib, they are meant in their more traditional role as protectors. (Picture from Samgwangsa Temple in Busanjin-gu, Busan).

Temple Bridges

Sometimes if you look under a bridge at a Korean Buddhist temple like Seonamsa Temple’s Seungseon-gyo Bridge in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do, you’ll find a dragon. Not only are dragons listeners of the dharma (Buddhist teachings), but they are also protectors. So some temples with streams have bridges spanning them. On the underside of the bridge or near the wall of the stream, you’ll find a dragon. The reason you’ll find a dragon on the underside of the temple’s bridge is to prevent malevolent spirits from riding the stream water and entering the temple grounds. (Picture from Seonamsa Temple in Suncheon, Jeollanam-do).

Yongwang (The Dragon King)

The name of the shaman deity kind of gives it all away. Yongwang (The Dragon King) is a shaman deity that can be found either in a Yongwang-dang Hall or a Samseong-gak Hall alongside other shaman deities like Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Chilseong (The Seven Stars) and/or Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). Traditionally, Yongwang is the deity of lakes, rivers, ponds, waters, seas, stream, or pretty much anything to do with water. There’s a belief that there’s a world beneath the sea. And in this world, Yongwang rules in his Dragon Palace called “Yonggung” in Korean. And an easy way to identify Yongwang is that he’s always with a dragon. Sometimes these dragons fly all around him, and sometimes he’s flying one. And if he is in fact riding a dragon, this act symbolizes his dominance over the dragon. (Picture from Gwaneumsa Temple in Jeju City, Jeju-do).

A mural that adorns the Daeung-jeon Hall at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang-gun, Busan.

Dragon Temples

There are a few temples in Korea with the word dragon in their name. Great examples of this can be found at Hwangnyongsa-ji Temple Site in Gyeongju; Guryongsa Temple in Wonju, Gangwon-do; Hongryongsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do; and Yongjusa Temple in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do.

In addition to temples using dragons in their names, there are several famous temples throughout Korea that have dragons in their founding creation myths like Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do; Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Gijang-gun, Busan; Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do; and Bunhwangsa Temple in Gyeongju.


So as you can see, dragons play an integral part in the artwork, history, and architecture of Korean Buddhist temples. The images and representations of dragons are diverse in their artistry and originality. So take a look around you the next time you’re at a Korean Buddhist temple and see just how many dragons you can see flying around the temple grounds.

The mural that illustrates Uisang-daesa’s voyage back to the Korean peninsula from Tang China on the Bota-jeon Hall at Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Gangwon-do.

Korean vs Japanese Markers (은/는 vs は, 이/가 vs が) | Korean FAQ

Occasionally I like to make niche videos that I know many people aren't going to watch, but that are still important.

Although my channel is about Korean, there have been a lot of people asking me if the Japanese markers are interchangeable with Korean markers.

This video attempts to answer that question.

Specifically this video will cover the differences between the Korean Topic Markers (은/는) and Subject Markers (이/가) and the Japanese Topic Marker (は) and Subject Marker (が).

The post Korean vs Japanese Markers (은/는 vs は, 이/가 vs が) | Korean FAQ appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

Urban Street Photography in Ulsan

I find street photography a challenging topic. When I first got into landscape photography, I remember having a few “street photographers” comment about my photos saying how superior their shots of people sleeping on the subway or a random street sign were. It sort of soured me on the whole genre. Not to mention, that this continued to occur and thus, the less I was interested in the genre.

The Taehwa-ru in all it’s glory

To be honest, I tend to get annoyed by the toxic of postulating of photographers at times. I try to keep an open mind but if you have read my blog over the years then you will know that I have taken a number of jabs at street photographers over the years. Usually, I have those guys from back in the day in my head. However, these days I have tried to shift my perspective.

The Struggle is Real

Since my Father passed away, I have been fighting with motivation and creativity. I will want to head out to shoot some landscapes around Ulsan and then just lose the motivation. Negative thoughts pop up like “no one gives a sh*t about your photos!” or “who are you trying to be?” “You are just trying to be [insert famous photographer] LOL” and then I just end up looking out at the window hoping that my motivation would come back.

So I finally just grabbed my gear and took a walk. I wanted to shoot…. something. I put on some good music and walked along the river as I normally do. This time, I had my camera in hand. It was a game changer.

At first, it was frustrating because I was walking super slow and didn’t get to my first location at blue hour. So the shot was a little on the “meh…” side. However, the night was young and I needed some coffee. I then decided to head to “old downtown” and see what I could find there.

There Is Character Somewhere

Perhaps it was the coffee, but after reaching SEONGNAM-DONG in Ulsan, I was starting to “see” a bit clearer. I had more of an idea that I wanted to show. This is something that I try to explain to the students that I have taught photography to over the years and that is “find the story” or to sound even more preachy “find your why” and go from there.

The seongnamdong district of Ulsan is a collection of older buildings, alleys and cheap eats.

As the rain started to fall, the character of the area started to show up more and more. I could see the colours and the mood starting to come out in this area.

If you are unfamiliar with this area of Ulsan, it is one of the older areas of the city and parts of it are almost ancient. You can still find parts of the old protective walls build to protect the city. The area is a mix of modern culture and alleys that date back to the 60’s and 70’s. It is quite an eclectic mix for sure.

The More I Wander

As the rain started to fall hard and harder, I finally retreated home. One of the things that I love about Korea is that there is always some place to buy an umbrella. I ran over to the Daiso and grabbed the first black umbrella that I could find. I thought that would be better than the assortment of teddy bears and Disney characters that adorned the other umbrellas.

Sadly, I didn’t look close enough and bought an umbrella that was shaped like a giant hat. I kept getting funny looks on the way home but it was worth it. I was dry and so was my gear.

What I realised as I walked home was the fact that there are so many stories to tell as you wander around the streets in a city. Sure there are a lot of “meaningful” shots of stairwells that have comments about life and struggle. However, what I noticed was that if you really watch the scene, you will see the real story.

The seongnamdong district of Ulsan is a collection of older buildings, alleys and cheap eats.

The bottomline here is that I learned a lot about about a style of photography that I had sort of written of as something for pretentious douchebags. I don’t think that I will be giving up my tripod for a pair of skinny jeans yet, but trust me when I say that after that rainy night, I have a newfound appreciation for street photography.

The more that you wander through the city the more interesting stories you will find.

The post Urban Street Photography in Ulsan appeared first on The Sajin.

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Why learn Korean? – 7 Reasons to Learn This Magical Language

Have you ever asked yourself the question “Why learn Korean?” What is so special about this language? Among all the languages in the world, each of them cool and unique and quite possibly worthy of learning, why should you choose to study Korean?

In this article, we hope we can decidedly answer the question “Why learn Korean?” and hopefully give you the inspiration to continue your Korean language studies.

Let’s check out the reasons why you totally should learn Korean!

Children happily holding books

1. Korean alphabet is super simple and the writing system incredibly logical

At first glance, Korean may come across as an intimidating language due to having its own alphabet. However, the Korean alphabet is actually wonderful for how easy it is to learn and memorize. In fact, with us, you can master it in just 30 minutes!

Not only is the alphabet quick to memorize, but so is learning how to form words and sentences with them. Because the alphabet didn’t naturally evolve but was specifically created by King Sejong, it functions quite differently from many other languages. The ease and logic behind learning the basics of writing and reading certainly make Korean a language worth learning.

2. Korean grammar is straightforward

One massive advantage of Korean grammar is the lack of need to conjugate verbs, at least in the same way that you would have to with many other languages. Thanks to this fact, fewer headaches and more learning can take place! If you’re already convinced about learning Korean now, here is our beginner’s guide to Korean grammar.

For example, there’s no need to worry about noun genders. One big struggle people experience when learning languages like French, Spanish, and Italian – so, Latin languages – is having to learn how all nouns have genders – and what gender each noun has! But Korean language doesn’t have them at all, which is one more awesome way to make learning the language a little simpler.

3. It’s easy to speak

Because the Korean alphabet is built on phonetics, pronouncing Korean is also incredibly logical. The sounds may be new to you, but you’ll quickly be able to learn them as everything is pronounced the way it is written. We have a guide for Korean pronunciation as well, to get you started. With practice, you’ll be able to speak Korean words properly in no time!

In addition, you get to take advantage of “Konglish”, which stand for mixing Korean and English in speech. That means, there are a lot of loan words from English in the Korean language. In turn, it means less new vocabulary to learn, as you already know many of them through English and now only need to nail the Korean way of pronouncing them. Konglish is a great way for beginners to speak Korean without necessarily memorizing a lot of foreign words.

Students sitting and studying inside the classroom

4. Korean music, dramas, and movies are incredibly popular right now

Thanks to BTS and Blackpink and many other world-famous K-pop artists, K-Pop is currently at its peak as a worldwide phenomenon. The Korean Wave is definitely here to stay! That makes Korean language a super cool one to be learning at the moment. So cool, in fact, you just might easily find friends to study together with! Better yet, maybe you could find a South Korean friend to practice your Korean with.

And not only are Korean dramas and movies great to watch for their popularity, but there are so incredibly many top-quality dramas and movies to choose from. And the best bit? They make for some of the best listening comprehension practice you could have when not in Korea. You could even learn a thing or two about their culture while watching your favorite Korean drama.

5. Korean culture is intriguing and unique

Beyond its popular culture, there’s a lot to love about the culture in Korea. It’s tremendously interesting and in many ways one of a kind. Even before the Korean wave, Korea has had a history of being a center of culture and arts. It’s possible to research and experience parts of it without knowing a lick of Korean. But the best bits you’ll likely only be able to understand once you also understand some of the Korean language. Specific terms, nuances, and so on, are much easier to get a hold of once you know some of the languages behind them.

6. It will be of so much help when you do visit South Korea

Most Koreans do speak enough English that you will survive your visit with flying colors even if you aren’t fluent in Korean. However, being able to communicate in the local language always makes things like ordering in the restaurant more convenient and comfortable for both parties. Not to mention Koreans will find you so cool and respectful for having taken the time to learn their language!

And, for example, it will give you an easier time making Korean friends once there. Koreans do spend a lot of time studying English and other languages. However, the truth is that it’s always easier to make friends with them when you approach them using Korean. But making Korean friends also means you will get to put your Korean skills into action often, making it a useful language to learn.

Korea has a very rich culture and visiting Korea to know more about their way of life is definitely worth it. However, you may want to brush up on your Korean before your trip if you really want to fully experience Korean culture. Trust us, the locals will love you for it.

7. Korean language can be useful for your career

Especially if you want to work in translation, interpretation, or other jobs that heavily involve languages, having Korean language included in your repertoire is a massive advantage.

Although there are many speakers of Korean out there, it still remains a language that few people are able to use as their talent. Therefore, it can be more advantageous to become proficient in Korean rather than Japanese or Chinese, or Russian, Spanish, French, and so on, for that matter.

Is Korean worth learning?

There are a number of factors that make learning Korean worth it. First, it’s a fantastic and fun language. If you’re a K-drama fan, then you get to understand the dialogues without having the need for subtitles. And if you love K-pop, then you’ll understand the lyrics and you get to sing along with your favorite artist.

Second, if you are going to visit or live in Korea, then it will undoubtedly be a new language that’s worth learning for you. Same if it is a language connected to your family history or your university degree. Perhaps learning Korean might even be necessary for your job! Learning Korean is worth learning because it opens you to a wider horizon. There are several reasons to learn Korean as we’ve discussed in the article above.

It could also be that the reasons above don’t apply to you. You may just want to learn a language and Korean just happens to be the one that you’ve been contemplating taking on.

Is Korean hard to Learn?

Generally, learning Korean isn’t difficult to learn. It may depend on your native language or language learning experience. But there’s nothing too difficult when you give your heart, time, and energy to learn something and that also applies to learning Korean. If you have the right materials and strategies on top of your dedication to learn Korean, it won’t be difficult to learn the language.

We hope that we’ve given you a new perspective on your Korean studies. Initially, you might feel that Korean is a new language that’s difficult to learn but eventually, with time, you’ll find that if you’re going to pick a foreign language to study, Korean might just be the one for you.

Is the language the same in North and South Korea?

The North and South use different dialects and vocabulary, but the fundamental parts of the language are the same.

Should I Learn Korean?

Although at first glance it may not seem like much more than a quirky niche language to learn for fun, learning the Korean language can actually have many advantages for you. Its relative easiness, coupled with the strong popular culture behind it, makes it a fun language.

But it’s in its usefulness both in living and traveling in South Korea as well as how you can utilize it for work, that you can truly see what a magnificent language Korean is to learn.

What questions do you have about learning Korean? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Why learn Korean? – 7 Reasons to Learn This Magical Language appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series:

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


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Learn Korean with BTS – Here’s How to Do It

Did you know that you can learn Korean with BTS? That’s right! The boys from Big Hit Entertainment can help with learning Korean!

Who knew that studying the songs of a boyband with over 100 million global fans can help you in learning the Korean language?

If you’re interested to study the Korean Language with BTS, read on!

6 men standing wearing colorful clothes

Who is BTS?

BTS is a seven-member boy pop group from South Korea. They are also called “Bangtan Boys”, and are under the entertainment company Big Hit Entertainment (Do you know how to say BTS in Korean? Check out this video). They’ve taken Korea and the whole world by storm!

What does it mean to learn Korean with BTS?

You can use BTS lyrics, songs, and content to help you with studying the language. Within the songs, you can know useful vocabulary, slang, and expressions. Then when you sing along to the songs, you can speak and listen to the words you’ve learned.

You can look out for playlists like “BTS study music” or “BTS workout music” to help you with learning the language.

As you understand what the music means, you’ll start to uncover the subtle meanings built into the language. It’s different than just learning the romanized English version of the song. Additionally, you can actually learn a thing or two about the culture at the same time!

Can you become proficient in Korean by listening to K-Pop?

Yes, it will definitely help with proficiency. However, you will still want to study the underlying grammar and words. That will allow you to understand the meaning of the lyrics, as well as be able to create your own sentences.

We have a structured online course that will teach you all of the fundamentals that you need.

How can K-Pop help me learn Korean?

There are many ways that listening to K-Pop can help you study Korean.

The lyrics of the songs use a mix of everyday conversational language and artistic language. These can help you understand words or phrases. You can listen to the lyrics and understand the meaning behind them.

K-Pop artists also have live broadcast channels such as V Live. During these broadcasts, some kind-hearted fans translate what the artists say into English for the other fans who don’t understand. Sometimes the artists even do the translating themselves, if you ask nicely!

They also have a variety of programs such as Run BTS, where you can get exposed to their dialogues or conversations.

Can BTS help me in learning Korean?

You might be asking yourself: Can BTS really teach you Korean? Yes! We know a few tips for what type of learning you can do with the Kings of Big Hit Entertainment. We hope you are ready for it because we’ll introduce them to you below.

However, simply knowing you could study a foreign language with BTS may not be enough of a reason to utilize them as a learning tool. So, on top of some of the ways you can learn with BTS, here are some reasons why it’s totally awesome to learn Korean with BTS!

7 men wearing black tuxedo

#1. You can follow along with their catchy songs

Give a few of their songs a listen, and you’ll know just what we mean. Whether the songs will become your personal favorites or not, they will get stuck in your head. Their fans know what we’re talking about!

Not only will you find their catchiness a great motivation to keep studying, but you’ll also end up learning through them whenever you find yourself singing along to the tune. AZLyrics is a great resource for finding BTS’ song lyrics in romanized, hangeul, and translated versions.

#2. You can have brief lessons throughout the day

Because each song is only a few minutes long, you don’t have to spend an hour on each one. In many cases, you’ll only need three minutes!

So if you’re pressed for time at the moment, put on a catchy song by BTS and really listen to the lyrics. You might even try singing along. It might not happen immediately, but each of those three minutes of pronunciation practice will add up. Soon you’ll be surprised by how much of the lyrics you can actually understand!

#3. Singing along improves your pronunciation

When studying Korean, practice is key. And is there anything more fun than practicing your pronunciation by singing along to your favorite songs? We don’t think so!

If you’re having a hard time understanding the lyrics, try just learning a few words at a time. Do the same with the grammar and phrases, and step-by-step the meaning will become clear!

#4. The songs’ repetitiveness makes memorization easier

Once you get started with singing along with BTS, you’ll want to listen to the songs over and over again, which will enhance your listening, memorization, and even pronunciation skills.

Because the vocabulary in the songs isn’t your typical everyday basic conversation, you’ll also try to learn them with more excitement so that you can understand properly what your biases are singing about. In little time you’ll find yourself singing the songs from memory, even when it’s not playing in the background!

#5. Beyond songs, there’s so much content with BTS in them to explore through

Any song from this awesome group would eventually be a big hit. But beyond the songs, they have so much content to help you learn.

You can also follow them on their social media accounts and focus on reading their photos’ captions. You can even connect and socialize with the millions of BTS fans who are also trying to study the language. Youtube videos of their interviews are a big hit among fans, with hours of content, garnering millions of likes from fans. Ask any of their global fans (called the BTS Army), they’ll tell you that they’re so much more than just the music.

#6. You can learn slang that isn’t taught in textbooks

It’s fun to pick up slang in songs, and the BTS lyrics are a great way to study them! The more modern slang you know, the more you’ll be able to understand K-Dramas and Korean movies, too.

#7. It can aid in understanding K-Pop culture and culture in general

BTS is a big name in K-Pop as well and can be likened to as one of Korea’s flagship music acts at the moment. Through them, you can not only open doors to more understanding and knowledge of K-Pop, but of Korean culture as a whole. And loving the culture behind the language is a great way to learn.

7 men standing on red carpet

These are just a few examples of the reasons and ways that BTS can help you in learning Korean. You may even come up with new ways yourself!

If you want to learn what BTS lyrics mean, we have a step-by-step course inside of 90 Day Korean membership that will teach you the basics in only 3 months. Skip the guesswork plus get hand-picked content and full support from a native Korean speaker.

What questions do you have about learning Korean with BTS? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Learn Korean with BTS – Here’s How to Do It appeared first on 90 Day Korean®.

"Songs of the Kisaeng" Chosun Dynasty Poems in English.

 My post "Tales of a Gisaeng" is almost over 1,500 pageviews versus the mere 100-200 page views for my other posts. Thus I bring you more Gisaeng poetry!

 During the Chosun dynasty Korean society was strictly Confucian; marriages were most often arranged and young ladies were not permitted to go out. There is the often told tale of girls on a swing set, swinging as high as they could, just to get a view over their courtyard wall.

In this context, where women had few freedoms, even that of expression, the Gisaeng may be viewed as a 'feminist' one. Although their lives were confined to their role as concubines, serving at the pleasure of the state, they did have the education and freedom to write with their most often form of expression being the shijo poem, many of which were made into songs. It is important to note that many of these poems express both their loves and longings as well as their complicated emotions they had for their clients. Being unmarried, the Gisaeng also had great financial freedom and many were known throughout the open air markets of Chosun Dynasty Korea.

From a used bookseller conglomerate I received a copy of Songs of the Kisaeng a collection of shijo poems by various Kisaeng translated by Constantine Contogenis and Wolhee Choe.

All of the translated poems come with the original Korean so it is a great source for English speakers wishing to expand their Korean vocabulary.

Many of the poems are by the famous Hwang Jini. Reviewer and author Sam Hamill aptly describes the poems as "courtesan blues from the Chosun Dynasty". Indeed many of the poems are of longing and loss while others are passionate love poems. Here are a few samples from the book:

Ah, What Have I Done?

Ah, What have I done -- as though I didn't 
know my feelings would remain.
I would not add the few
words that would keep him.

I want to understand the joy
I felt as I was letting him go.
     -- Hwang Jini.

An Anchor Lifts

An anchor lifts, a ship is leaving
he goes this time, when to return.
Far over the sea's vast waverings
one can see a going as return.

But as the sound of that anchor lifting,
the night could hear her insides turn.
     -- Anonymous Gisaeng. 

Iron, We Were Told

Iron, we were told; iron had arrived again
Sure I remember brittle pig iron,
but your close, cold surface told me iron
again that was hammered and annealed.

This time I will use a furnace of earth, bellows
of such breath you will not withstand the fire. 
     -- Chinok.

Overall I'd say this book is an excellent read providing much insight into the midset of the Gisaeng. There is a fine selection of poems: some love poems, some speak of longing and loss while others are of renunciation. Theirs is a poetry of passion whereas many of the poems written by the literati yangban at the time are of historical or of topical themes and tend to be rather dry overall. Perhaps this explains current interest in the emotional complexities found in Gisaeng poetry. Indeed, it is one of their more intriguing charms.

About the Author

Matthew William Thivierge has abandoned his PhD studies in Shakespeare and is now currently almost half-way through becoming a tea-master (Japanese,Korean & Chinese tea ceremony). He is a part time Ninjologist with some Jagaek studies (Korean 'ninja') and on occasion views the carrying on of pirates from his balcony mounted telescope.

About Tea Busan  *   Mr.T's Chanoyu てさん 茶の湯   *  East Sea Scrolls  *  East Orient Steampunk Society


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