Just south-west of the famous Beopjusa Temple in Boeun-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do is Sujeongam Hermitage. And like Beopjusa Temple, it’s beautifully situated in Songnisan National Park. Sujeongam Hermitage is one of twelve hermitages that’s located on the Beopjusa Temple grounds.
Sujeongam Hermitage is believed to have been built around the same time as Beopjusa Temple in 553 A.D. by the same monk, Uisin. Unfortunately, very few records remain to tell about the hermitage’s history. However, records do exist stating that the hermitage had shaman shrine halls like the Sanshin-gak (Mountain Spirit Hall), Chilseong-gak (Seven Stars Hall), and Dokseong-gak (Lonely Saint Hall), as well as a Daeseon-bang (Great Meditation Hall) in 1914. The Great Meditation Hall was expanded in 1960. And the Geukrak-jeon Hall, the Josa-jeon Hall, and the monks’ dorms were renovated in 1973.
As you make your way towards Beopjusa Temple, you’ll first come across Sujeongam Hermitage down a beautiful pathway that skirts the neighbouring stream and a Budo-won (stupa cemetery for deceased monks). Finally, you come to the compact hermitage grounds. The first thing to welcome you at the gate are a pair of Geumgang-yeoksa (Vajra Warriors).
Directly to your right, and a bit past the monks’ dorms, is the beautiful Geukrak-jeon Hall at Sujeongam Hermitage. Adorning the exterior walls of the main hall at the hermitage is a beautiful collection of rustic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding murals. As for the interior, and resting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This statue is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul). To the right of the main altar triad is a golden stone statue dedicated to Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). The date of the statue is unknown, but it’s still historic in nature. This golden statue is joined to the right by a red-motif Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural).
But the main highlight to Sujeongam Hermitage hangs, collectively, to the left of the main altar triad. Here there is a collection of older-looking shaman murals. The set consists of a Chilseong (Seven Stars) mural, Dokseong (Lonely Saint) mural, and a Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural. Of the set, it’s the Sanshin mural that’s the most original with a folk-style tiger to Sanshin’s left, while embracing a dongja (attendant) to the right. Sanshin appears to be paternally holding tight to the dongja. A definite first for me!
The other temple shrine hall that visitors can explore is the tiny Josa-jeon Hall. Like some other temples and hermitages I’ve come across in Korea, this Josa-jeon Hall has a dual purpose. Not only does it honour former monks that once called Sujeongam Hermitage home, but it also acts as a storage hall. Housed inside the Josa-jeon Hall are three unidentified murals hanging on the main altar.
How To Get There
Much like getting to Beopjusa Temple, to get to Sujeongam Hermitage, you’ll first need to take a bus bound for Boeun-gun. From the Boeun-gun Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a direct bus to Songnisan National Park. This bus runs every thirty to forty minutes throughout the day. When you arrive at the Songnisan Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to walk about twenty minutes towards Beopjusa Temple/Songnisan Ticket Office. However, a couple minutes before you arrive at Beopjusa Temple, you’ll need to hang a left to find Sujeongam Hermitage.
Overall Rating: 4/10
Sujeongam Hermitage is one of the most scenically located hermitages in all of Korea. Sujeongam Hermitage, in combination with Beopjusa Temple and Songnisan National Park, makes for quite an amazing outing. In addition to its location, Sujeongam Hermitage has a beautiful collection of shaman murals inside the main hall, as well as a golden Yaksayeorae-bul statue, too.