Bokcheonsa Temple – 복천사 (Yeongdo-gu, Busan)

The View at Bokcheonsa Temple in Yeongdo-gu, Busan.

Temple History

Bokcheonsa Temple is located in Yeongdo-gu, Busan on the west side of Mt. Bongraesan (396.2 m). According to tradition, it’s believed that Bokcheonsa Temple was founded by the monk Naong Hyegeun (1320-1376) at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). However, the exact date of the temple’s founding remains unknown. At the time of its founding, Bokcheonsa Temple was known as Haeunam Hermitage.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Yeong-do Island was known as Jeolyeong-do Island. It was at this time that the island was closed off to the general public for a couple of reasons. First, it was to protect the land from Japanese pirates. Secondly, the land was used for grazing horses. This was largely because of the anti-Buddhist policies during the Joseon Dynasty. During the 1800s, hermits began to be drawn to the island, again. It was at this time that a monk from the famed Jikjisa Temple, Kim Seonji, built a hermitage in the area. Then in 1921, Yang Wanho, a traditional Buddhist artist from Busan, and Yeong-do Island in particular, renamed the temple to Bokcheonam Hermitage. Afterwards, the temple was rebuilt, in part, to help teach Buddhism and produce Buddhist paintings and statues. And in 1973, the temple was renamed Bokcheonsa Temple of the Jogye-jong Order. However, in 2011, and as a result of landslide, parts of the temple were destroyed including the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, the Sanshin-gak Hall, and the Chilseong-gak Hall. Fortunately, and more recently, these shrine halls have been repaired.

Bokcheonsa Temple is home to the largest collection of historic Buddhist artifacts in Yeongdo-gu. This includes four Busan Tangible Cultural Properties.

Temple Layout

You first approach Bokcheonsa Temple up a set of steep side-winding stairs, until you come to the one kilometre long mountain road that brings you to the temple grounds. Beyond the temple parking lot, and to the right, you’ll first be welcomed by a large budo (stupa) and a tortoise-based biseok (stele). And all the while, and beyond this walled off enclosure, you’ll find the first couple of temple buildings in the background.

To the left, and then to the right, and up another steep incline, you’ll finally near the two-story entry gate. On the first floor, you’ll find the Cheonwangmun Gate. This large, cavernous entry gate has a beautiful collection of fierce-looking guardians and the Four Heavenly Kings painted on the walls. And on the second story of this structure is the Jong-ru Pavilion (Bell Pavilion). Passing through the Cheonwangmun Gate, climbing the stairs, and looking back from the outer part of the main temple courtyard, you’ll see the bell pavilion. Housed inside the Jong-ru Pavilion is a large Brahma Bell and a beautifully painted mokeo (wooden fish drum). It’s also from this vantage point that you get your first real glimpse of the amazing view that awaits you at Bokcheonsa Temple.

Stepping into the main temple courtyard, you’ll notice a slender three-story stone pagoda in the centre of the grounds. To the left are the monks’ dorms and the administrative office. It’s also between the Jong-ru Pavilion and the monks’ dorms that you get an amazing view of Busan and the Namhang-gyo Bridge off in the distance.

Straight ahead of you is the large Daeung-jeon Hall. The front of the building is adorned with beautiful floral latticework and a pair of eye-popping dragons near the signboard of the shrine hall. Surrounding the exterior walls, you’ll find the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) and the Palsang-do (The Eight Scenes from the Buddha’s Life Murals). The Shimu-do are situated on the left exterior wall and the left half of the backside, while the Palsang-do continue on the back right side of the Daeung-jeon Hall and wrap around to the right exterior walls. Interestingly, the eaves are adorned with both dancheong and the faces of Gwimyeon (Monster Masks) along the edges of the eaves.

Stepping inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll find a triad of statues resting on the main altar that are centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). Rather interestingly, the image of Munsu-bosal is sitting atop a blue haetae, while the image of Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power) is resting atop a white elephant. The rest of the interior is filled with Buddhist motif murals. And hanging on the far right wall is a golden relief of the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).

To the right of Daeung-jeon Hall are a row of three temple shrine halls. The first to the far left is the Myeongbu-jeon Hall. The exterior walls of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall are adorned with images of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife), as well as a wintry image of Bokcheonsa Temple. Stepping inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, you’ll find a green haired image of Jijang-bosal on the main altar. This image is joined on either side by the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld).

To the right of the Myeongbu-jeon Hall is a larger sized Chilseong-gak Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with murals of the Sinseon (Taoist Immortals), while the interior has a large mural dedicated to Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the right of the Chilseong-gak Hall is the Bokcheon-gak Hall. Housed inside this compact temple shrine hall is an older stone statue dedicated to Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise).

It’s to the rear of these three temple shrine halls, and up a set of side-winding stairs, that you’ll find the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak Hall. Housed inside the shaman shrine hall are a pair of older paintings dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). But it’s out in front of the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak Hall on the wooden platform that you get the most spectacular views of Busan off in the distance. It’s one of the best views that a temple gets to enjoy in all of Busan.

How To Get There

To get to Bokcheonsa Temple, you’ll need to take the subway to the Nampo subway stop. From there, you’ll need to take a taxi to get to Bokcheonsa Temple. The taxi ride will take about 10 minutes, or 3.7 km, and it’ll cost you 5,400 won (one way).

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Without a doubt, one of the main highlights to Bokcheonsa Temple is the spectacular view of Busan. It’s a beautiful blending of the modern with the historic. In addition to the amazing view, the exterior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, the interior paintings of the Cheonwangmun Gate, the shaman murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) and Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) are but a few highlights to this urban temple.

The monks’ dorms and visitors centre to the left with the two-in-one Cheonwangmun Gate and Jong-ru Pavilion to the right.
Two of the four paintings of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.
One of the guardians inside the Cheonwangmun Gate. If you look closely, you can see that he’s holding an image of the Haein-do (Ocean Seal Diagram).
The view from between the monks’ dorms and the Jong-ru Pavilion.
A look inside the Jong-ru Pavilion at the mokeo (wooden fish drum) and the large Brahma Bell behind it.
The view from the Jong-ru Pavilion out towards Busan.
The large Daeung-jeon Hall at Bokcheonsa Temple.
The beautiful dancheong and eye-popping images of dragons that adorn the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A pair of paintings from the Shimu-do (Ox-Herding Murals) that adorn the exterior walls of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
Inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A look towards the Chilseong-gak Hall (left) and the Bokcheon-gak Hall (right).
The mural of Chilseong (The Seven Stars) inside the Chilseong-gak Hall.
And the image of Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha) inside the Bokcheon-gak Hall.
The main altar inside the Myeongbu-jeon Hall.
The spectacular view from the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak Hall.
And the image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) inside the shaman shrine hall.
One more look at the amazing view.

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