Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (해동 용궁사) is located off the coast of Busan and is not the easiest place to get to.
During our holidays we decided to go in search for it, however we took the easy route of the metro to Haeundae then a taxi to the temple (about 8,000 ₩) which takes you right to the beginning of the temple. You can take the metro to Haeundae and then a bus along with a big hike up a hill to get there however as this was August and very hot we didn’t fancy walking in the heat!
Most of the temples here are in the mountains however The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple was built on the shoreline overlooking the sea which makes for some impressive views. Built in the Goryeo Dynasty in 1376 it had to be reconstructed in 1970 after it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation of Korea. This was the first temple I had been to in Korea and I have to admit I was disappointed. (After Thailand especially!) Why? Well it became immediately obvious that it has been reconstructed, in one area especially (The Gulbeop Buddhist Sanctum) which is an enclosed cave in the middle of the temple where people can go to worship, it looks original from afar, however when you get closer you actually realize the walls are made of plastic!!
Knowing now that the Japanese destroyed all the temples here in Korea and they had to be reconstructed after the Japanese left its easy to let it slide, however the problem I have with it is they have not taken care to reconstruct it and have thrown it up as quick as they can like other things in Korea. (One being the POW camp with ‘original’ camp ruins which were again reconstructed of plastic and made to look like the stone remains.) I would have enjoyed this temple much better if they had reconstructed it trying to stick as close to the original as possible including the materials which is what usually happens if something has to be reconstructed. The other problem with reconstructing the temple is it loses its ‘charm’ as it has been reconstructed to look perfect and the feel of the temple is very new.
That aside it was a beautiful park with lots of steps to get down to the temple each with its own stone lantern which can be tricky during summer. (Hello sweaty pictures!) walking in, you walk past hundreds of tiny stalls of food and juice (so don’t worry about taking it with you) and then tourist shops selling all forms of things! There is a lot to look at including the massive Chinese year statues, the four lions symbolizing happiness, sadness, joy and anger, the giant Buddha, a wishing well as well as the temple itself.
All around the park you can also see loads of shrines where people can pray for all different kinds of things… including ones for good grades and good education.
It is worth going for a visit and is free to get it, however do not expect to see an original temple! I have been told that its great to visit on New Year’s Day to make a wish for the new year as the sun comes up or in April during Buddha’s birthday when the whole park is lit up with electric lanterns.
To get there
Take line 2 to Haeundae station and leave exit 7. Get on bus 181 and get off at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. Walk to the temple up the hill. Or take a taxi from Haeundae station right to the temple.