Geumsansa Temple – 금산사 (Gijang-gun, Busan)

The Reclining Buddha at Geumsansa Temple in Gijang-gun, Busan.

Temple History

Geumsansa Temple is located in Gijang-gun, Busan, and it belongs to the Jogye-jong Order. The temple was first established in October, 1990 by the monk Geumsan; and hence, where the temple gets its name. In January, 2004, the temple added a large Reclining Buddha image inside the main hall. Also, and it’s unclear of the connection between the two, but the Sanshin-do (Mountain Spirit Mural) of Geumsansa Temple is Busan Cultural Heritage Property #85 as of 2015. The painting of Sanshin dates back to 1856. And it’s a wonderful example of a mid-19th century shaman painting. It’s unclear of the paintings present location.

The Sanshin-do (Mountain Spirit Mural) of Geumsansa Temple from 1856. (Picture courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration).

Temple Layout

You first approach Geumsansa Temple down a country road that twists and turns. You’ll know that you’re nearing the temple grounds when you see a three-story stone pagoda to your right that’s joined by a stone lantern. Continuing to go straight, you’ll see a very busy compact temple courtyard. In front of the Daeung-jeon Hall are numerous statues, including a beautiful pink stone statue of fish, a statue of the Podae-hwasang (The Hempen Bag), and a pair of stone lanterns.

To the right of the Daeung-jeon Hall are the monks’ dorms, an administrative office, and the temple’s kitchen. And to the left of the Daeung-jeon Hall is the temple’s Jong-ru Pavilion that houses a Brahma Bell and a golden mokeo (wooden fish drum). And to the left of the Jong-ru Pavilion is the Yongwang-dang Hall. This newly built shaman shrine hall houses a seated image of Yongwang (The Dragon King) joined by a blue dragon with the sea as their backdrop.

As for the Daeung-jeon Hall, its exterior is rather plain, which in no way prepares you for what awaits you inside the main hall. When you first step inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, you’ll be welcomed by a massive, golden statue of a Reclining Buddha, Seokgamoni-bul. While more popular in other countries, the Reclining Buddha image is rarer to locate at a Korean Buddhist temple. Temples that come to mind are the neighbouring Jangsansa Temple in Gijang-gun, Busan and Manbulsa Temple in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do. This massive image of Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) takes up nearly the entire interior of the main hall. In front of this eye-catching image are sixteen statues dedicated to the Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha), who are also joined by a larger image dedicated to an all-white Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).

But that’s not where the splendour of the Seokgamoni-bul statue at Geumsansa Temple ends. To the right, and through the feet, you can enter into the body of the Buddha. Waiting for you at the entry are four wooden reliefs dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Stepping inside the massive Reclining Buddha, and on the right wall, is a large Gamno-do (Sweet Dew Mural) wooden relief. And at the end of the corridor, near the head of the Reclining Buddha, is a standing triad centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). The rest of the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, outside the reclining image of the Buddha, are lined with tiny, golden statues of Seokgamoni-bul.

After exiting the Daeung-jeon Hall, you can follow the sign next to the Jong-ru Pavilion that leads you up towards the Samseong-gak Hall. A forested pathway leads you through a bamboo forest to the a walled-off enclosure. This is where you’ll find the Samseong-gak Hall. The exterior walls of the Samseong-gak Hall are adorned with images dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) on the right wall and an image of Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit) on the left wall. Stepping inside the Samseong-gak Hall, you’ll find three murals dedicated to the three most popular shaman deities in Korean Buddhism. From left to right, they are Dokseong, Chilseong (The Seven Stars), and Sanshin. And these three murals are fronted by another beautiful collection of Nahan statues.

How To Get There

The easiest, and the least complicated, way to get to Geumsansa Temple is to take a train to Seosaeng Station K127, which is part of the Donghae Line, and take a taxi to Geumsansa Temple. From the Seosaeng Station to Geumsansa Temple by taxi, it’ll take about 8 minutes, and it’ll cost you about 7,000 won (one way).

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

The obvious main highlight is the interior of the Daeung-jeon Hall, especially the Reclining Buddha image (both inside the out). While the exterior of the statue is inspiring, the interior is awe-inspiring with its wooden reliefs of the Four Heavenly Kings and the Gamno-do (Sweet Dew Mural), as well as the triad centred by Birojana-bul at the end of the corridor. Adding to the Daeung-jeon Hall is the Jong-ru Pavilion, the Yongwang-dang Hall, and the Samseong-gak Hall.

Some of the statues in front of the Daeung-jeon Hall.
A look inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at the massive Reclining Buddha.
Who is joined by this reclining image of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion).
And a row of Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) in front of the Reclining Buddha.
A look inside the Reclining Buddha.
At the front of the corridor are these four reliefs of the Four Heavenly Kings.
That are joined by this Gamo-do (Sweet Dew Mural) relief.
And the triad at the end of the corridor is centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy).
A look around inside the golden Daeung-jeon Hall.
The stairs leading up to the Samseong-gak Hall.
A look towards the Daeung-jeon Hall along the way.
The bamboo pathway that leads you towards the shaman shrine hall.
And the Samseong-gak Hall.
With an image of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) inside.

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