At its height Beomeosa was home to over 1,000 monks. Despite many foreign invasions and devastating fires, 34 main buildings remain, and seven are designated treasures. The two most important are a three-story stone pagoda and the main hall, which is named Daeungjeon (대웅전).
First built over 1,300 years ago, Daeungjeon’s latest edifice dates to 1614 and is the temple’s oldest building. This main hall’s faded paint reveals its antiquity, and there’s something beautiful about how old buildings age. In this case, I was grateful that it had been a couple of centuries since it had received a splash of paint. Inside, the ornate ceiling features carved wooden flowers and the brilliant, intricate painting style typical of Joseon Dynasty temples and palaces.
Beomeo Temple features several other buildings also worth mention. On the north side of the lecture hall is a series of paintings known as “The Ten Bulls”. This popular Buddhist message outlines the ten steps towards enlightenment. In another area, four fierce and heavenly kings stand guard to warn away evil spirits.
Since you won’t have to worry about those pesky evil spirits, why not spend the night? Beomeosa offers a temple-stay program. Guests eat and meditate with the monks, and help to clean and maintain the grounds. Before you leave, visit one of the 11 nearby hermitages or “am” as they’re called in Korean.
Especially on holidays or weekends, Beomeosa is very popular with visitors. But beyond the families and temple faithful, are many smartly dressed hikers. You see, the Geumjeong Mountain trails also begin here.
Beyond fantastic views of granite boulders, caves and mountain springs, the extraordinary setting is also home to the Geumjeong Fortress. It was once Korea’s largest fortress, but today only the gates and a four-kilometer stretch of wall remain. But don’t fret. The area still boasts some of the Busan area’s greatest hiking. And if you aren’t the world’s most fit outdoorsman or woman, listen up- you can enjoy the view via a cable car that’s just a 15-minute walk from the subway. So, the next time Busan city is on your itinerary, save the beach for the afternoon, and take a half-day trip to Beomeo Temple and the Geumjeong Fortress.