Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was first built in 1376 by the great Buddhist teacher known as Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty. Haesu Gwaneum Daebul (Seawater Great Goddess Buddha), Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary, Yongwangdang Shrine, Gulbeop Buddhist Sanctum (enclosed in a cave), and a three-story pagoda with four lions can all be seen looking out over the ocean.
The temple's history dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty in 1376, and is one of the frare temples to be built near the ocean rather than in the mountain. It was destroyed during the Japanese occupation. Reconstruction was completed in 1970.
1. Getting there
1.1 Using Public Transport
Take Busan Subway line 1 (exit 7) and get off at Haeundae Station. Take bus 181 (1200 won). The bus stop was in 2013, a small roadside bus shelter, about 10 minutes brisk walk up slope to the temple entrance. We went during the off peak season, and almost miss the bus stop if not for the number of visitors alighting. It is best to prepare a card with the location name in Hangul and show it to the driver. Busan bus drivers are helpful and they will usually remember to stop and get you off at the right place.
If you are travelling in a group of 4 it may make more sense to get a taxi from Haeundae station. You can also avoid walking up slope to the entrance. Trust me- you would rather reserve the energy for the steps at the leading to the temple.
You know you are near the entrance when you see makeshift tents lined up along the road. There are some statues and sculptures for photo-taking moments outside the entrance.
1.2 Using City Tour Bus
There is a City Tour Bus service which claims to offer a route "in Haedong Yonggungsa Temple". The fact is you will need to alight midway to transfer to a smaller bus. At 15000 won per pax, I think I will do the subway then taxi option which I mentioned above.
2. Area information
Official Website: yongkungsa.or.kr
When you find the temple entrance, you need to go down 108 steps to get to the temple. I suggest you make a toilet stop before you start the descend (and ascend on the say back). You will be spending some time here, and the public toilet at the temple is itself a heritage too with less of the modern facilities.
3. Moving Around
3.1 The significance of the bigger statues
Goryeo dynasty is a time where there is a very strong attachment to the gods and divine powers. And if you know a little of the the difference between toaism -buddha and buddhist-buddha, the temple is more of the first kind. Hence, you will find many types of buddha, each having its own area of divine intervention.
You will find the Haesu Gwaneum Daebul which means Seawater Great Goddess Buddha of Mercy. They say that when you chant her name repeatedly you will achieve your goals and wishes.
A sea dragon is erected outside the main temple hall. The temple represents the divine god of the East Sea.
3.2 The significance of the mini statues
The motto of Haedong Yonggung temple is "At least one of your wishes will be answered here through your heartfelt prayers." Whenever prayers are answered, people offer miniature monks to the temple. You can find them at many part of the temple grounds.
3. Meal Options
There is a small cafe where you can take a cup of jujube tea overlooking the sea. The place is too small and crowded to sit down and have a good meal. There is no actual seating benches at the vicinity either, so most people will walk out for street food outside the temple, or go elsewhere for food.
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