Cheongryeonam Hermitage – 청련암 (Geumjeong-gu, Busan)
Cheongryeonam Hermitage, which means “Blue Lotus Hermitage” in English, is located on the Beomeosa Temple grounds in Geumjeong-gu, Busan. Of the eleven hermitages on the expansive Beomeosa Temple grounds, Cheongryeonam Hermitage is the closest to the main temple. It’s unknown as to when Cheongryeonam Hermitage was first built; however, records indicated that the hermitage was rebuilt in 1709 by the monk Shinju-daesa. It’s believed that Cheongryeonam Hermitage was rebuilt around the same time as other hermitages at Beomeosa Temple.
But Cheongryeonam Hermitage is perhaps best known for reviving Seonmudo (The Way of War for Seon), which is a type of Korean martial arts. Officially, Seonmudo is known as “Bulgyo Geumgang Yeong Gwan – 불교금강영관” in Korean. Seonmudo is believed to date all the way back to the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.), when monks like Wonhyo-daesa (617-686 A.D.) and Wongwang-guksa (558-638 A.D.) taught martial arts of the mind and body to the Hwarang (Flower Knights). The Hwarang were a group of elite warrior monks from the Silla Dynasty. The Hwarang lasted until the 10th century. During the Imjin War (1592-1598), Korean Buddhist monks used Seonmudo, as well as swords and knives, to help defend the Korean peninsula from the invading Japanese. Afterwards, Seonmudo was passed on from generation to generation, until it was suppressed by the Japanese during Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945). Finally, during the 1970’s, Seonmudo was revived and systematized under the watchful eye of the head monk Jeogun at Beomeosa Temple. And Cheongryeonam Hermitage was at the forefront of this resurgence and training of Seonmudo. Training laypeople started in the 1980’s for the very first time in the martial arts’ history. The central location for the training of Seonmudo martial arts is now located at Golgulsa Temple in Gyeongju; however, an integral component to the ever growing popularity of Seonmudo will always have its roots in Cheongryeonam Hermitage at Beomeosa Temple.
Admission to the hermitage is free.
As you first approach the hermitage from the hermitage’s parking lot, you’ll pass through thick foliage accented by beautiful patches of flowers like blue hydrangea and Rose of Sharon. Past these flowers are a pair of stone Geumgang-yeoksa (Vajra Warriors) that are intimidatingly protecting the entry of the hermitage.
Next you’ll need to climb a wide set of stairs. The stairs are beautifully book-ended by a pair of ferocious twin dragons that hold wisdom pearls in their mouths. To the right of these stairs is the Seonmudo Hall for martial arts practice. Two more uniquely designed stone guardians await you before you can travel any further at Cheongryeonam Hermitage.
Straight ahead of you is the dazzling outdoor shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife). This outdoor shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal has to be one of the most impressive of its kind in all of Korea. Climbing two flights of stairs that are accompanied by two large Haetae (mythological creatures that consume fire), you’ll gain entry to this amazing outdoor shrine. In the centre of this shrine sits a large, bronze and golden statue dedicated to a seated image of Jijang-bosal. Fronting this central statue is a copper incense burner with a dragon-base that has turned green through the passage of time and the process of oxidation. This beautiful incense burner is joined by four green copper Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities) and a pair of copper monks. There are two entries to this outdoor shrine, which have two Geumgang-yeoksa standing over top of them. And surrounding the central statue of Jijang-bosal are countless smaller copper statues of the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife, as well as equally green copper statues of the Shiwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld). The entire collection of copper statues are extremely impressive. And to the rear of this collection are a pair of large statues perched on top of the concrete wall backing this outdoor shrine. The white statue to the left is Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion), while the contemplative statue to the right is Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha). And fronting the entire outdoor shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal are a collection of smaller sized statues of the twelve Zodiac Generals. Take your time and take it all in, because it’s rare to see such an ornate outdoor shrine anywhere else on the Korean peninsula.
To the left of this outdoor shrine is the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall. The exterior walls to the main hall at Cheongryeonam Hermitage are beautifully adorned with highly original murals dedicated to the practice of Seonmudo. Inside the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall, and resting on the main altar, is a triad centred by Birojana-bul (The Buddha of Cosmic Energy). This statue is joined on either side by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) and Rocana-bul (The Perfect Body Buddha). These three statues are backed by two flaming nimbuses with smaller size statues of the aforementioned Buddhas. Rounding out the main altar are a triad of smaller statues fronting the larger main triad. These smaller statues include Gwanseeum-bosal and Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). To the right of the main altar is a painting and shrine dedicated to Jijang-bosal. And to the left is a painting and shrine dedicated to Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The painting of Amita-bul is fronted by a collection of smaller golden statuettes, none more impressive than the Indian-inspired statue of Gwanseeum-bosal. And to the left of the Amita-bul painting is the temple’s Shinjung Taenghwa (Guardian Mural) and shelves of statuettes dedicated to Seokgamoni-bul.
To the right of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is a small artificial pond, and in front of the main hall you’ll find a pair of uniquely designed lions with their mouths wide open and a bell hanging from their breast. To the left of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall is a large building that looks like the hermitage’s visitors centre and the monks living quarters.
Finally, and to the rear of the main hall, and up a pathway to the left of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall, is the hermitage’s Samseong-gak Hall. The central image in the set is Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is fronted by a multi-armed and headed image dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). To the left of this painting is a mural dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit). And to the right of the mural dedicated to Chilseong, and equally older in age, are a pair of murals. The first is dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and the other is dedicated to Yongwang (The Dragon King).
How To Get There
From the Beomeosa Station subway stop, stop #133 on line #1, leave this station through exits #5 or #7. From there, walk five minutes to the bus stop and take Bus #90 to get to the entrance of Beomeosa Temple. Now, instead of walking left towards the Iljumun Gate at Beomeosa Temple, continue to hang a right towards the hermitage. You’ll pass by Beomeosa Temple, which will be located to your left. There will be a sign halfway up the road between the temple and the hermitage. The sign will read “청련암” in Korean. Continue to follow these signs, as they lead you to the right of Beomeosa Temple. Eventually, you’ll come to a small parking lot. The path will fork like a “W.” The hermitage to the left is Cheongryeonam Hermitage.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Cheongryeonam Hermitage has one of the most amazing modern outdoor shrines dedicated to Jijang-bosal in all of Korea. With its swirling Bicheon statues, to the dragon-based incense burner, and the collection of smaller sized copper statues dedicated to both the Bodhisattva of the Afterlife and the Siwang (The Ten Kings of the Underworld), the outdoor shrine is something you really need to see to believe. Joining this amazing outdoor shrine is the intricate interior of the Daejeokgwang-jeon Hall and the stone statues scattered throughout the rest of the hermitage grounds.