Hyanggok-seonsa (1912-1978), who was the founding monk of Haeunjeongsa Temple, was wandering all over Korea in an attempt to find a perfect place to build a temple. And the reason that Hyanggok-seonsa wanted to build a temple is that he wanted to help rescue people’s souls. Eventually, he arrived in Haeundae, Busan. More specifically, he found the perfect place for a temple at the base of Mt. Jangsan (634 m) to the south and east of the diminutive Mt. Bongdaesan (147.7 m). The reason that Hyanggok-seonsa decided to build Haeungjeongsa Temple where it’s located is that he believed that Mt. Jangsan looked like a seated female lion. And since he wanted his followers to be like lions, he decided to build Haeungjeongsa Temple in Haeundae, Busan in 1971.
It’s also believed that Haeunjeongsa Temple in Busan is placed in a geographically auspicious location based upon the principles of geomancy, or “Pungsu-jiri” in Korean. So based upon Pungsu-jiri (geomancy), if a person visits Haeungjeongsa Temple once a day, they will gain greater personal fortune and luck.
Throughout the past two decades, there has been numerous changes that have taken place at Haeunjeongsa Temple. The temple continues to grow and expand. This is made evident right at the very entry of the temple. When I first visited Haeunjeongsa Temple back in 2004, there wasn’t an entry gate. Now, there’s a beautiful Haetalmun Gate. This gate wasn’t completed until 2006. This beautiful and spacious entry gate is joined by a pair of large Haetae statues out in front of it.
Up a long stone staircase, you’ll enter into the temple’s main courtyard. Straight ahead of you is the massive Wontongbo-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to this massive main hall are adorned with two sets of murals. The upper set of murals are the Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life Murals), and the lower set of murals are the Shimu-do (The Ox-Herding Murals). Joining these murals is intricate woodwork adorned with elaborate dancheong colours that cover every square inch of the Wontongbo-jeon Hall’s exterior walls. As for the interior, there are five large statues that take up residence on the main altar. The most impressive is the central image of the multi-armed and headed Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). The far left wall is home to a memorial shrine for the dead, while the far right wall acts as an altar for Buddhist monks that were important in the growth of Buddhism in Korea. Additionally, there’s a Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) to the immediate right of the main altar inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall. There’s also a simplistic mural of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) next to the Shinjung Taenghwa.
To the right of the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, and just as impressive as the main hall, is the Gwaneumbo-gung Three-Story Wooden Pagoda, which is a three-story wooden pagoda dedicated to the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Gwanseeum-bosal. Just like the main hall, the Gwaneumbo-gung Three-Story Wooden Pagoda is beautifully adorned with dancheong colours that are predominantly green in colour. As for the interior, you’ll only be able to enter the first floor of the structure. Sitting on the main altar is a miniature golden palace-like structure with a statue of Gwanseeum-bosal inside. Joining this main altar structure, and flanking it on both the right and left walls, are two more incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. One of these statues holds a baby, while the other cradles a medicinal bottle in her right hand. These two larger statues, in turn, are joined by wall-to-wall ceramic statues of Gwanseeum-bosal.
And to the right of the Gwaneumbo-gung Three-Story Wooden Pagoda is the Daebul-jeon Hall. This temple shrine hall is a variation of the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with various Buddhist motif paintings around the eaves of the hall. And just like the previous two temple shrine halls, the Daebul-jeon Hall is also adorned with beautiful dancheong colours. As you enter the Daebul-jeon Hall, you’ll be greeted by a thousand tiny jade green statues dedicated to the Buddha. Resting on the main altar is a triad centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). And on the far right wall is a painting dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). And on the far right wall is another Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
In front of both the Gwaneumbo-gung Three-Story Wooden Pagoda and the Daebul-jeon Hall, as you make your way back towards the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find an exact replica of the Dabo-tap Pagoda. For those that might be unfamiliar with this pagoda, it’s the famous pagoda at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju. The original is National Treasure #20.
Having walked around the main temple courtyard, and past the main hall, you’ll find a collection of statues dedicated to prominent Buddhist monks like the Bodhidharma (5th to 6th century), Taego Bou (1301-1383), and Gyeongheo-seonsa (1849-1912). Sitting in the centre of the set is a stone statue of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). In total, there are ten statues of these prominent monks in this outdoor shrine.
And out in front of this outdoor shrine dedicated to prominent monks is a rather peculiar looking seven-story pagoda. At its base sits four lions reminiscent of the Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda of Hwaeomsa Temple (N.T. #35). The body of the pagoda has Buddhas on its four sides. And out in front of the pagoda stands a golden statue dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. To the rear of this seven-story pagoda is the temple’s compact Jong-ru (Bell Pavilion), as well as the monks dorms, administrative office, and kitchen.
How To Get There
You simply need to take the Busan subway system to Haeundae Station, which is stop #203. Take one of the exits out of the north side of the station and head towards the Haeundae train station. Once you get outside, you can easily catch a taxi that will bring you to Haeunjeongsa Temple.
Overall Rating: 7/10
This relatively unknown temple is an added little bonus if you’re headed to Haeundae Beach. As for Haeunjeongsa Temple, it’s filled with beautiful architecture like the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, the Gwaneumbo-gung Three-Story Wooden Pagoda, and the Daebul-jeon Hall. Adding to this is the beautiful main altar statue inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall of Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as the outdoor shrine dedicated to prominent Korean monks and the seven-story stone pagoda. So if you’re in the area, Haeunjeongsa Temple is definitely worth a visit.