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Monday, 23 September 2013

Namo Palbeon Daebosal, Part II: Beomeosa, Busan Geumjeong-gu


Beomeosa (Hanja: 梵魚寺; literally as the Temple of the Nirvana Fish) is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in 546 Beomeosa Avenue/Beomeosa-ro, Cheongnyong-dong, Busan Geumjeong-gu, South Korea. Built on the slopes of Mount Geumjeong, it is one of the country's most known urban temples. It is also claimed that the fish came from Nirvana, the Buddhist state of non-suffering. Therefore the temple also became known as 'The temple where fish from Nirvana Play.'

Beomeosa was constructed in 678 during the reign of First King of Unified Silla Dynasty, Munmu the Great, by the monk Uisang. It became known as one of the ten great temples of the Hwaeom sect, although like most Korean temples it was later assimilated into the Jogye Order. In the geography book 'Donggukyeojiseungram/동국여지승람' the origin of Beomeosa Temple is written as follows: 
"There is a well on the top of Mt. Geumjeong and the water of that well is gold. The golden fish in the well rode the colorful clouds and came down from the sky. This is why the mountain is named Geumsaem/금샘 (gold well) and the temple is named 'fish from heaven'." 

At its largest, during the Goryeo dynasty, it was much larger than it is today - with over 360 rooms and more than a thousand monks in residence. The temple was burned to the ground in 1592 during the Japanese Imjin Invasion but not before priest Seosan had defeated a Japanese army here. It was reconstructed in 1602, but was burned again by an accidental fire. In 1613 it was rebuilt again. The main hall (Daeungjeon) and the front gate (Iljumun) date to this reconstruction.

The mountain where Beomeosa is found is said to have huge rock at the summit where there is a golden well which never, ever dries up. The water of this well is believed to have very special magical properties as one day a golden fish came from heaven and has lived there ever since. Designated as a natural monument, the wisteria woods and valleys are most beautiful in May.

On December 26, 2011, the Los Angeles Times printed a story of the fighting monks at this temple. South Korean Buddhist monk Ando demonstrates Sunmudo martial arts techniques. Monks from Beomeosa Temple are famed for defeating Japanese invaders during the late 16th century and again during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century.