Sanghwanam Hermitage – 상환암 (Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do

The Amazing View at Sanghwanam Hermitage on the Beopjusa Temple Grounds in Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do.

Hermitage History

Sanghwanam Hermitage is one of 11 hermitages directly associated with Beopjusa Temple in Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do. Sanghwanam Hermitage is located to the east of Taebong (549.9 m) on Mt. Songnisan (1058 m). According to the “Boeungun-ji,” Sanghwanam Hermitage is believed to have first been built in 720 A.D.; however, the founder of the hermitage is unknown.

Later, and in 1391, Lee Seong-gye (1335-1408), who would become the founder and first ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo of Joseon (r. 1392-1398), prayed for one hundred days at Sanghwanam Hermitage before ascending the throne. Another interesting feature about the hermitage is whether it was called Sanghwanam Hermitage since it was first founded. According to rumours, and when King Sejo of Joseon (r. 1455-1468) visited Bokcheonam Hermitage, it’s believed by some that Bokcheonam Hermitage was in fact named Sanghwanam Hermitage. Also according to this rumour, King Sejo of Joseon is believed to have prayed at Sanghwanam Hermitage for seven days to commemorate King Taejo of Joseon. And he called the experience incomparable.

Sanghwanam Hermitage survived the Imjin War (1592-98), but it was destroyed by fire during the Korean War (1950-53). So in 1963, the Wontongbo-jeon Hall and the Samseong-gak Hall were built. In 1968, the Yosachae (nuns’ dorms) were built. And finally, in 1976, the three-story stone pagoda that stands in front of the Wontongbo-jeon Hall was added.

Hermitage Layout

You first make your way towards Sanghwanam Hermitage up a long valley and up quite a few sets of stairs. When you finally do arrive at the hermitage, you’ll be greeted by the hermitage’s garden and administrative offices. After finally mounting all the stairs and looking back over your shoulder, you’ll find an amazing view of Mt. Songnisan.

Up an enbankment, and to the left of the hermitage’s kitchen, administrative office and a set of stone stairs, you’ll find the Wontongbo-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are adorned with murals dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and to King Taejo of Joseon. As for the main altar inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, you’ll find a large all-white multi-armed and headed mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal. In front of this beautiful mural is a triad centred by Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). This central image is joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Power for Amita-bul).

To the right of the Wontongbo-jeon Hall, and behind the Yosachae (nuns’ dorms) is a pretty sketchy set of stone stairs that are carved directly out of the side of the mountain. The first of the two diminutive shrine halls up these stairs is the Dokseong-gak Hall. Housed inside this shaman shrine hall is an understated mural and statue dedicated to Dokseong (The Lonely Saint). And further up the stairs, and across a wooden boardwalk, you’ll find the second of two shaman shrine halls. This is the Sanshin-gak Hall. Like the Dokseong images, the Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) painting and statue are understated, as well. But it’s from these shaman shrine halls, and the hermitage as a whole, that you get amazing views of Songnisan National Park. Truly breath-taking stuff!

How To Get There

To get to Sanghwanam Hermitage, you’ll first need to get to the Boeun Intercity Bus Terminal. From the terminal, there’s a bus that goes directly to Mt. Songnisan. This bus runs every thirty to forty minutes throughout the day. From where the bus drops you off at the Songnisan stop, you’ll need to walk an additional twenty minutes to the Beopjusa Temple/Mt. Songnisan ticket office. From Beopjusa Temple, you’ll need to walk 3 km to get to the “Sesimjeong Rest Area – 세심정 휴게소.” From this mountainside rest stop, you’ll need to head east for 800 mountainous metres of hiking to get to the hermitage.

Overall Rating: 6/10

Sanghwanam Hermitage is one of the most beautifully located hermitages in all of Korea with its commanding views of the rolling mountains off in the distance. In addition to all of the natural beauty that surrounds this Beopjusa Temple hermitage is the Wontongbo-jeon Hall’s artwork and the location and artwork of the two shaman shrine halls. It’s well-worth the effort it takes to get to Sanghwanam Hermitage.

The hike up to Sanghwanam Hermitage.
The final set of stairs that lead up to Sanghwanam Hermitage.
A look across the front of the Wontongbo-jeon Hall.
The main altar inside the Wontongbo-jeon Hall.
A mural of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) that adorns the main hall.
A mural of King Taejo of Joseon that also adorns the main hall.
The beautiful view from the Wontongbo-jeon Hall.
A look up towards the Dokseong-gak Hall from the Wontongbo-jeon Hall.
A beautiful day at a beautiful hermitage.
The amazing view from the Dokseong-gak Hall.
The main altar inside the Dokseong-gak Hall of the Lonely Saint.
A look up at the Sanshin-gak Hall.
The view from the Sanshin-gak Hall.
The main altar inside the Sanshin-gak Hall of the Mountain Spirit.

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