With the summer heat approaching, many in the Seoul area begin flocking to the mountains or to the southern port city of Busan. Why not? The ride to Busan takes only two-and-a-half hours by KTX from the Seoul area, putting you seaside before brunch. When there, several attractions may vie for your attention, but one of the most spectacular is Yonggung Temple: Korea’s amazing seaside retreat.
Yongungsa (용궁사 / Yong Gung Temple) was originally constructed in 1367 by the monk Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty. As legend has it, Naong visited the current temple site and saw the rock outcropping next to the ocean. In traditional Korean Buddhism, this is means that if prayers are given at sunrise, they are answered in the evening. Ultimately, he built a temple here to honor The great Goddess Buddha, Gwanseumbosal. Unfortunately, the original temple was destroyed during the Japanese invasion. It wasn’t until the 1930s when the temple was restored.
Walking up from the bus stop, visitors are immediately greeted by life-sized statures representing warriors of the twelve Zodiac animals. Many who come to the temple chose to take pictures here, finding their birth year animal and striking a pose. Once past this area, visitors pass by one of many stone pagodas and descend 108 steps to the temple complex. Halfway down the steps, once catches an initial view of this treasured site.
Even with all the visitors, locals and those that pilgrimage to the site use the temple. Located in front of the main sanctuary (Daeungjeon) is a three story stone pagoda. Four lions face the cardinal directions representing, joy, anger, sadness, and happiness. Above the main shrine is a statue of the Goddess Buddha overlooking the sea. It’s from that the most spectacular views of the temple can be seen.
When visiting, make sure you descend under the temple to the Gulbeop Sanctuary. This is often overlooked, but not hard to find. It’s a secluded cave shrine with a small Buddha situated before a fresh water spring. Walking down the 30 steps into this cavern transports visitors away from the hustle and bustle topside.
Address: Busan-si Gijang-gun Gijang-eup Sirang-ri 416-3
Web: www.yongkungsa.or.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Operating Hours: 04:00 – 19:00
Parking Facilities: Available (cars: 2,000won/ buses: 5,000won)
Admission Fees: Free
Directions: From Busan Station (60 min.), Busan Express Bus Terminal (90 min.), or Haundae Station (30 min.), take bus 181 and get off at Yonggungsa Temple.