As Korea gears to celebrate Buddha’s 2565th birthday, let us visit one of the historical temples in the southern part of Korea, Beomeosa. Beomeosa is on the slopes of Geumjeongsan mountain of the Geumjeong district, Busan, and is the head temple of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The temple is the origin of Seon Buddhism, the most common Buddhism followed in Korea. Beomeosa was one of my top sites to visit in Busan, and I am delighted to have visited this ascetic location multiple times.
King Munmu of the Silla Dynasty heard a voice in his dream, which helped him to defeat the invading Japanese army. King Munmu then requested monk Uisang in 678 to build a temple known presently as Beomeosa. The origin of the name of this temple has an interesting story. At the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan, there is a golden well that never dries up, and also a fish from heaven is living inside that well. Hence, the name Beomeosa translates literally to the phrase “The temple where fish from the heaven stays.” The monks who stayed in Beomeosa practiced martial arts techniques known as Sunmudo, which originated from Seon Buddhism.The monks used these techniques to fight the Japanese invasion during the late 1500s. Most parts of the temples were reduced to ashes during the war which led to the downfall of Sunmudo techniques.
Located on the hills of Geumjeongsan, Beomeosa boasts a scenic view and is surrounded by various trees. Beomeosa is also a host of wisteria plants during May, which adds more beauty to this beautiful location. A beautiful stream along the walking course near the temple offers a pleasant breeze during summers, making the hike even more special.
Visitors entering must first pass through the famous Jogyemun Gate. When viewed from the side, the gate looks like a single pillar supporting the entire roof and hence referred to as a one-pillar gate. The gate with four guardians is one of the impressive architectures of the temple. It is a replica of its original version, which was initially destroyed by the Japanese and the Korean Government reconstructed in 2012.
Daeungjeon hall is the main temple hall enshrining a Sakyamuni statue along with Maitreya and Gara Boddhisatva statues. The Japanese destroyed this hall during the Japanese war in 1592. Various rulers of the Silla dynasty repaired and rebuilt the hall in the early 1600s.
The three-story stone pagoda is one of the important attractions in this temple. The pagodas in Korea are very different from other countries as they are stone-made. Pagodas became very famous during the Silla dynasty.
Visitors can also find stone lanterns dating back to the Silla dynasty around the temple. Both the stone lantern and three-story pagoda are part of the country’s national treasure.
Inside the temple, there is also a small souvenir shop full of miniature Buddha statues, gifts, and memorabilia of the temple.
Beomeosa offers temple stay to local and foreign people interested in experiencing Korean Buddhism and culture. The temple stay program offers two services – the prayer service (yebul), which happens thrice a day, and a workshop on making lotus lanterns. You can find these lanterns around any buddha temple as they are an essential offering to Lord Buddha. You can check more details on the reservation of temple stay via this link: www.beomeo.kr
If you are looking for an adventure, taking the trail of Mt. Geumjeongsan from Oncheonjang to Beomeosa must be entertaining. It is not too tiring unless you want to take a detour to the peak of Geumjeongsan, Godang peak. You can also visit the Geumjeong fortress on the trail of Geumjeongsan, which also offers stunning views.
My personal experience
Beomeosa was the first place I visited after reaching Korea. I had no idea of Korean culture and history and visiting Beomeosa was such an eye-opener. Trekking Geumjeongsan to reach Beomeosa on the birth anniversary of Buddha made the journey even more special and exciting. The initial trekking phase was difficult, but once we got a decent height, it was smooth until we reached Beomeosa. Many Koreans greeted us and guided us all over the trip at various junctions. I never expected them to be so friendly. Though I never understood a word of what they said, it felt so good. So be ready to experience the warmth of Korean people when you are on such trips. The hike is not extremely difficult but make sure to carry enough snacks and water.
You will also come across the gates of Geumjeongsan fortress. The fortress built in 1703 and remains the longest mountain fortress in the country (about 17kms). In the middle of the hike, we planned to have some snacks which we had bought. We had our instant cup noodles and some fruits, which were ideal for the trip. We rested in a place called “동문집,” which was indeed a small restaurant with a lovely garden view. Also, the garden had a variety of flowers which would calm anyone amidst the hike.
Another exciting find was the freshwater ponds you could find along the hike, where people stopped drinking water and refilling their bottles. There are small cups around the pond that you can use to drink/fill your bottles. The taste of the water is so sweet and refreshing to the mind and the body. Hiking Geumjeongsan treated us to some of the stunning views and sceneries all along.
On reaching Beomeosa, I was further treated to a beautiful sight of different colored lantern arrangements all over the temple. It was indeed a pleasure to have visited the temple on such an auspicious occasion.
We started around 10.30 am and reached Beomeosa by 4 pm with a lunch break for about 30~45 mins. Since it was my first hike, I guess we took longer than expected. Overall, the historical facts of Beomeosa and the hike combined to present an unforgettable experience in my life.
How to reach?
Beomeosa has visitors all over the year as it usually becomes the start or end of the hiking trip in Geumjeongsan. So, hiking becomes one of the most widely opted means to visit Beomeosa by the locals.
Take line 1 towards Nopo and get down at the Beomeosa station exit 5 or 7. You can take bus 90 (once in approximately 15~20 mins). Taking a taxi from Beomeosa station is another option which would cost around 5500 to 6000 won. You can also bring in your vehicles as the premises also has a parking lot.
- Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm
- Note: the temple is temporarily closed due to repair works. Hopefully, it should be ready before the birth anniversary of Buddha.