Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
Following “Busan Landing” and “Chan’s Guesthouse and Friends,” I give you the last, and by far, the most interesting and perhaps the most eye-catching blog installment of my trip to Busan. Amid my joyful wandering in and around Busan, I took advantage of the propitious, sunny weather and ventured throughout three Buddhist temples: Beomeosa, Samgwangsa, and Haedong Yonggungsa. All three temples were quite distinct in terms of location, nature, enormity, and general composition. Thus, I honestly stood amazed, and sometimes greatly bewildered, while gazing into the depth of the art, color, architecture, and sacrosanct chambers found at each temple site. Walking amidst those sincerely praying while inadvertently listening to monks chanting away synchronously in distant chambers with their loud, soothing bass voices, I found that there was this cool peace about it that transcended far beyond my own understanding. I honestly left each temple feeling rested and at peace.
I stayed for quite a long time during each temple visit and was always the only foreigner present. At each temple I was given a few authentic smiles, but the majority of the time I was treated with a somewhat mild neglect as I snapped photos trying my best not to disturb those around me. My first visit: Beomeosa Temple.
Beomeosa Temple is the most remote of all three temples visited and probably the most remote in all of Busan.
Beomeosa Temple was first constructed in 678 A.D. Unfortunately, the temple was burned to the ground in 1592 during the Japanese invasion and was reconstructed in 1602. However, it burned to the ground again by an accidental fire a few years later, and in 1613, it was rebuilt again to it’s current composition.
Situated in the northern most part of Busan near Geumjeongsanseong Fortress, I had to take a long subway ride to the end of the line and then get on a bus that took me for a somewhat stomach-churning 20-minute ride up Geumjeongsan Mountain. After I was dropped off, I then hiked up a fairly steep hill and snapped a couple photos of a few things that caught my interest.
A “stele” is a stone or wooden slab, normally erected for funerals or commemorative purposes with enscriptions of the names and titles of the deceased or living. These “steles” can also be used as territorial markets to delineate land ownership. At Beomeosa, there were several dozen laced around the temple surroundings.
When I reached the entrance I already had my wallet out and ready to pay an entrance fee, but I just continued walking through and quickly realized there wasn’t any fee. Cool, I thought. Then I saw many people bowing to the 7-story stone pagoda seen below and I attempted to snap a cool photo with the sun directly behind it.
Upon entering the confines of the temple, I immediately noticed another smaller pagoda and a few people trying to flip coins onto the top of it. I’m unsure about the significance of this practice, but it was rather interesting to watch. This pagoda is believed to have been built during the reign of King Heungdeok (826-836) of the Unified Silla Kingdom.
After observing the comings and goings of temple patrons, I snapped photos of some of the temple’s artistic relics.
Beginning to fight daylight, I left the temple through this backroads path seen above and walked down the hill alongside dozens and dozens of “Beomeosa Lanterns.”
Next: Samgwangsa Temple
Samgwangsa Temple is the most enormous of all three temples visited and undoubtedly the most wealthy in all of Busan.
Built adjacent to the Baekyang Mountains by the monks of the Chongdae Order, this temple is practically spotless as it was recently completed ten years ago, having been built from 1982-2001. Although the temple’s construction is recent, its design and elements still follow Buddhist traditions and I figured it was worth a visit. Again, there was no entrance fee.
During my time at Samgwangsa, many people came to bow to this particular pagoda, seen below.
The significance of this resides in the fact that a pagoda is seen as the home of Buddha’s body because each one is supposed to contain some of his thousands of sari, or beads. These sari are considered to be Buddha’s remains because they weren’t consumed when his body was cremated. An interesting facet about Korean pagodas are that they are made of stone, while Chinese Buddhist pagodas are usually made of brick and Japanese pagodas are most often made of wood. After quietly observing several temple patrons bow and begin to pray, I ventured around the temple site captivated by all the colorful art and enormous buildings.
After this last photo was taken, a busload of practicing Buddhists were dropped off, and with only minutes of useful daylight left, I decided to take off and save the next and last temple I wanted to visit until the following day.
Next: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
While Beomeosa is situated in the heart of mountains and Samgwangsa in the general confines of the city, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is situated on the outskirts of Busan alongside the sea. Of all three temples, Haedong felt the most “open” and was my favorite among those visited in Busan.
Haedong Yonggunsa Temple was built in 1376 A.D and founded by venerable monks named Naong. However, during the Japanese invasion of 1592, the temple was burned down. In the 1930’s, almost 300 years after its arson, the Wunkang monks of the Tongdo temple reconstructed the temple to its original stature.
Upon entering the temple free of charge, an 8-story pagoda laid in my view, as seen below.
After passing a painting of swans, I was given a wonderful view of the temple confines.
Soon thereafter, I passed by a person in prayer, who in fact was praying the entire 2 to 3 hours I was there.
Then I crossed the bridge and watched people tossing coins trying to make it into the stone bowl far below. I’m still not sure of this practice or significance, any ideas?
Then I came across a 15ft tall “gold buddha” or a bodisattva of some kind.
Then I was amazed by the 4 different types of detailed lotuses around the rather ornate temple shrine.
Which one is your favorite?
All in all, it was a very fun, eventful, adventurous, and thought-provoking learning experience visiting these three buddhist temples in three different areas in and around Busan.
Busan was an experience I shall never forget… and I shall return.