Haedong Yonggungsa, Busan

Haedong Yonggungsa: Spirituality by the Sea

Perching on a sea cliff in northeastern Busan, Haedong Yongungsa is undoubtedly one of Korea’s most impressive worship places. The temple is widely known for its stunning ocean view, architectural beauty, as well as the enigmatic phenomenon that occurred throughout its 600-year history.

Haedong Yongungsa was first founded in the 14th century, following the vision of Goryeo’s royal consultant, Naong Hyeguen. Legend said that a sea god appeared in his dream and instructed him to build a worship place on the fringes of Bongrae Mountain and pray there. In this way, the kingdom would be saved from the disastrous drought. And people would once again live happily, without hardship.

Following the holy guidance, Naong traveled to the site where Haedong Yonggungsa is currently located. He instantly recognized that the place was auspicious according to the principles of Feng-shui; namely being situated between a mountain and the sea. A temple facing the ocean was then constructed. Naong named it Bomun, which indicates the omnipotent power of Gwanseum-bosal, the Goddess of Mercy.

Auspicious location: between a mountain and the sea

The name Haedong Yonggungsa

Like many historical sites in Korea, Bomun was largely damaged in the first Japanese Invasion. The temple was left in ruins for many years before it was rebuilt in the early 1930s by the monks of Tongdosa Temple. Forty years later, another mystical incident occurred. This time, none other than the Goddess of Mercy herself appeared in the dream of the head monk. Cloaked in a pristine white gown, she rode on the back of a dragon from which a multicolor beam of light radiates. It was then that the temple was renamed Yonggungsa, meaning the Dragon Palace Temple. Today, it’s counted as a rare find among temples in Korea; firstly because of its unique location, and secondly because of the deity that it was devoted to.

Stunning architecture
The main sanctuary of Yonggungsa

The Goddess of Mercy

Standing tall on the Bongrae Mountain and overlooking the sea, Haesu Gwaneum Daebul, or statue of the Goddess of Mercy is perhaps the most noteworthy structure of Haedong Yonggungsa. According to local lores, the snow has never laid thick where the Goddess stands, even in winter.

Additionally, there was a bright five-color light spotlighting the statue on the third day from its enshrinement, dazzling every spectator. These mystical occurrences, along with Haedong Yonggungsa’s impressive history and breathtaking architecture, continue to make the temple one of South Korea’s most sacred sites, attracting visitors from far and wide seeking a bit of spiritual intervention.

Sunset at Haedong Yonggungsa
Haedong Yonggungsa, the Dragon Palace Temple

Tips for visiting Haedong Yonggungsa

  • Located in Haedong, a suburb in northeastern Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa is accessible by Bus 181 from Haeundae Station (Metro line 2, Exit 7). The trip takes around 20-25 minutes. From the Haedong Yonggungsa bus stop, there is another 15-minutes walk to the temple.
  • Taxi is a more convenient option. It takes less than 15 minutes and costs approximately 15,000 ₩ (from Haeundae)
  • Please note that the temple will be closed after sunset.

6 thoughts on “Haedong Yonggungsa: Spirituality by the Sea”

  1. Jolene – Sydney, Australia – Jolene is a banker by trade, a writer at heart, and is a contributor to Thought Catalog. You are welcome to peek into her adventures and reflections on films and life at "SoMuchToTellYou", her ultimate love affair with words.
    Jolene says:

    It’s amazing how architecture back in the days can be so intricate and eye-catching. It’s as if the architects gave their entire lives to every tiny detail rather than simply commoditising a building. The eaves look amazing and I’m sure there’s many stories behind them.
    Merry Christmas to you and family as well! Hope the year has been kind to you. 😊

  2. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    This temple makes a trip to Busan even more appealing! Thanks to this post and the previous one on Busan, I think I really should consider including South Korea’s second most-populous city in the list of places I should visit the next time I’m in this part of the world. Happy Holidays!

    1. Thank you, Bama! This temple is definitely worth visiting, and so does Busan. I even like the city more than Seoul, especially the people. They are kind and very helpful to tourists. Didn’t experience such kindness in Seoul. I wish you and your family a wonderful 2019! 😀

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