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The Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony »« South Korea’s Troubling Quest for Beauty

Seokbulsa Temple

Books About Buddhism In Korea

We’ve heard people claim that Seokbulsa is not just the best Buddhist temple in Busan, but the most lovely in all South Korea. Although we’re in no position to judge, Jürgen and I are in agreement that Seokbulsa is the most amazing temple we’ve seen during our three months here.

Seokbulsa-Temple

Found high up Mt. Geumjeongsan, Seokbulsa (석불사) is difficult to reach, but well worth the effort. We began our journey by returning to the cable car we’d ridden during our first ascent up the mountain, on one of our very first excursions in Busan. Back then, we had been visiting the Geumjeongsanseong Fortress, but this time we headed off in the opposite direction. An easy, downhill path led us through South Gate Village (남문 마을) and then followed a stream for a couple kilometers. It was a beautiful walk through the woods, fairly crowded with other hikers.

Eventually, the path ended at a T, and we immediately knew that we’d have to take a right to reach the temple. No, we’re not master navigators, nor did we have a map — there just happened to be a gray-clothed Buddhist monk sitting on a stone, up towards the right, bald head buried deep in a book. When you’re searching for a temple, a monk in the woods is a good sign you’re on the right track.

Monk-Friend-Friends

The final twenty minutes of our journey was steeply uphill, and very difficult. But the sight that awaited us made up for the sweat. Seokbulsa is a small temple lodged unforgettably into the side of a mountain. There are a number of buildings and cave altars to explore and, probably because of how hard it is to reach, not many other people around to detract from the experience. In fact, we were completely alone during our visit.

The altar buildings are impressive, and from the courtyard you have a superb view over Busan, but the highlights of Seokbulsa are the massive, 30-foot Buddhist figures carved out of the mountain rock. I don’t know who any of them were, Bodhisattvas of some sort, but my ignorance didn’t make them any less incredible. Past the figures, you can visit a small altar and squeeze through a narrow opening in the rocks to another cave where candles have been set.

Our trip to Seokbulsa was the only time we’ve experienced that sense of adventure that went hand-in-hand with exploring the ancient Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka. Not only is the temple itself worth the effort of hunting down, but the beautiful hike and entertaining cable car ride combine to make this one of the most rewarding excursions in Busan.

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July 26, 2012 at 12:59 am
7 comments »
  • July 26, 2012 at 1:54 amEscaping Abroad

    Enjoyed the photos.. sometimes the hardest places to reach are the most rewarding!

  • July 26, 2012 at 6:05 amcastro

    It is always such a pleasure to see your gorgeous photos and writings! Seokbulsa-temple looks like a hidden gem in Busan. Your photos always amaze me. In your photos, Busan seems to be surrounded by thick green jungles.  I also read your 2 stories of 
    Mt. Geumjeongsan hiking. I love them. Indeed I expect that in the near future you could write stories and take pictures of Seoul, Mt.Bukhansan, Mt.Bugaksan, Mt.Namsan, and 5 palaces in Seoul. For me, the most impressive Buddhist temple was Hwaeumsa-temple at Mt. Jirisan(1915 meter) located in the southwest of Korea. I felt awe there. 

  • July 27, 2012 at 3:59 pmPreemie Maboroshi

    The photo of the monk reading in the forest was really incredible. The forest really looks like the forests you see in the Asian watercolor paintings. Beautiful. I also loved the Buddha in a seashell.

  • March 19, 2014 at 6:16 amSierra

    Adding this to places I want to visit when I go to Korea next year. But uhm the one picture of doors in the side of a hill has nazi signs on it o.o kinda weird.

    • March 20, 2014 at 5:55 amMike Powell

      Swastikas are actually traditional symbols used in Buddhism. The Nazis “borrowed” them and corrupted their meaning, but you’ll see swastikas at Buddhist temples and sites around the world. They have nothing to do with Nazi Germany :)

  • August 20, 2014 at 8:26 pmAbticem

    Hi ! I wanted just to thank you for your article ! Thanks to you we visited this wonderful temple and the surronding… so beautiful :)Plus, we have been lucky enough to lunch with the people in the temple.


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