Gatbawi Shrine, which is officially known as the “Stone Seated Buddha at Gwanbong Peak in Palgongsan Mountain, Gyeongsan,” according to the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, is located on the famed Mt. Palgongsan (1192.3m) in Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do. In Korean, it’s officially called “Gwanbong Yeorae-jwasang.” Gatbawi is simply a statue on top of Gwanbong Peak (852.9m). Surprisingly, Gatbawi isn’t a National Treasure; instead it’s Korean Treasure #431.
The name of the shrine, Gatbawi, is in reference to the name of the bamboo hat, a “Gat,” which is a traditionally worn by men. So Gatbawi is a compound word. It’s a combination of “Gat” with the Korean word “bawi,” which means “rock,” in Korean. So in English, it would be a “Rock Hat Buddha.” The statue sits four metres tall, and its hat is a fifteen centimetre thick flat stone slab. It holds a medicine bottle in its left hand, while making the “Touching the Earth” mudra reminiscent of the statue inside the Seokguram Hermitage grotto. The statue is plump with slanted eyes turned upwards. This statue is an image of Yaksayeorae-bul (The Medicine Buddha, and the Buddha of the Eastern Paradise). Because of certain attributes of the statue like the plump still face and the flat rigid-looking body, these features distinguish it from an 8th century carving and date it as a 9th century statue. And if you pray at the feet of the shrine either on the first or fifteenth (or both) of each month, you’ll supposedly have your wishes granted. Gatbawi Shrine is also especially busy during the university entrance exam period, as well.
The trek up to Gatbawi Shrine can be a long one. Follow the well marked signs along the way that will guide you all the way up to the statue. Halfway up the mountain, you’ll come across Deokunsa Temple, which is small in size, but can make for quite the nice break. There are a countless amount of stairs on your way up to the shrine; but once you finally do summit the mountain, and are standing on the peak staring over at Yaksayeorae-bul, all those stairs will be well worth it. So take your time and be careful.
How To Get There
To get to the Gatbawi Shrine, there are a couple of ways to get there. First, you can take the Daegu City Tour Bus, and it’ll cost you 5,000 won. Or you can take Daegu city bus #401. This bus will drop you off about 20 metres away from the trail head.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
It takes a lot of energy to get to the Gatbawi Shrine; but once you’re in front of it, you’ll know why you spent so much time finding it. It has religious, historical, and artistic importance that is rarely surpassed by other statues in Korea.