Coffee and Cats – a morning with Buddhist nuns

Written by on July 17, 2014 in Travel, Worldwide Korea Bloggers

Hello Again Everyone!!

The very last major temple I had yet to visit in Yangsan was Beopcheonsa Temple. The first time I attempted to visit this nunnery in the mountains of Mt. Geumjeongsan, which borders on Busan to the south, I thought I was going the wrong way down a dirt road. The road simply seemed to be headed to nowhere. I hadn’t brought a map with me, and the prospect didn’t look all that promising, so I turned around.


 The temple courtyard at Beopcheonsa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.

A week later, and with map in hand, I headed back to Beopcheonsa Temple. Upon second look, if I had in fact followed my instincts, and the road that appeared to go no further than a farmer’s field, I would have ended up at the beautiful Beopcheonsa Temple.

After arriving at the temple parking lot, I was greeted by a beautiful Cheonwangmun Gate and stone lanterns. After passing through the gate, and coming out on the other side, I was nicely surprised with the unique main hall that had windows behind the main altar statues that looked out onto the mountain, as well as a Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall that was  joined by twisting read pines.


 The pair of ducks that walk around the temple grounds.

As I walked the grounds, I was able to see a beautiful pond where a pair of colourful ducks were swimming, as well as an area for some stone statues of Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). Amazingly, the entire grounds were populated by stray cats that the nuns at the temple took care of. It was only when I got to the north side of the temple grounds, and was walking around the Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) shrine that a nun called me over. I thought, “oh no,” now I’m in trouble for trespassing on a part of the temple that I shouldn’t have been visiting.


 The Jijang-bosal shrine where I thought I was going to get in trouble.

But when I got to her, she invited me in to the temple’s visitors’ centre. I thought, “okay, why not.” When I entered, they offered me a coffee and tangerines. We talked exclusively in Korean. They asked me questions about my time in Korea, whether I was married, and why I was so interested in Korean Buddhism. As we were talking, a half dozen cats came in to have a drink of milk that the nuns had provided inside the visitors’ centre. After about 30 minutes, they gave me a Buddhist CD and wished me well upon my way.

The offering up of coffee to me is a bit funny. It’s a bit funny because I never have coffee unless a Buddhist monk or nun offers it to me, which upsets my coffee-loving wife to no end.

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 Inside the main hall as one of the nuns I had coffee with conducts the morning prayer service.

About the Author

Dale Quarrington

Dale Quarrington has lived in the Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do Province area ever since arriving in Korea in 2003. He’s visited all of the Korean provinces, exploring both the known and unknown temples and hermitages around the Korean peninsula. While he’s not traveling, he enjoys reading books and learning about Korean history.