Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea
Introduction Natural Environment History Temple Layout Cultural Properties Information
Natural Environment of Yeongchuksan Mountain
- Yeongchuksan Mountain spreads over Habuk-myeon and Wondong-myeon in Yangsan-si, Gyeongsannam-do Province. Standing 1,087m tall, it forms a part of the “Alps of Yeongnam.”
Situated below Sinbulsan Mountain, it is nestled between Ulsan and Yangsan.
As for the originating point of Yeongchuksan, the mountain range extending southward from Gajisan Mountain splits into two directions at Neungdongsan Mountain.
One leads to Cheonhwangsan and Jeyaksan mountains in Miryang toward the southwest direction, while the other, extending toward the east, passes through the Baenae Hill, Ganwolsan and Sinbulsan before rising to the first head of Yeongchuksan and continuing on southward.
Tongdosa Mountain has been built on a flat land on the southern foothills of Yeongchuksan at 170m in altitude. It faces the south, and it is sheltered by the mountains on its back and waters on its front.
This area was designated Gajisan Provincial Park Tongdosa Area in November 1979 for the beautiful natural scenery provided by Gajisan, Yeongchuksan and Cheonseongsan along the Taebaeksanmaek Mountain Range and the traditional mountain temples nestled in these mountains. The park is divided into the Seongnamsa area, Yeongchuksan Tongdosa area and Cheonseongsa Naewonsa area, each forming an independent zone.
- Pine tree forest behind Geungnagam and Yeongchuksan Mountain
- The name, Yeongchuksan, was given based on the name of the mountain situated east of Rāja-gṛha of Magadha Kingdom during the time of the Buddha.
Long ago, it was called Chukseosan because it was reminiscent of a hawk sitting down with its wings spread open, but at present, it is called Yeongchuksa Tongdosa, combining the name of the temple, because its shape is similar to the mountain in India where the Buddha gave the Dharma talks.
Meanwhile, Mount Grdhrakūta in India was given its name because it is home to a number of followers of Buddhism who are practicing the path of enlightenment as well as eagles.
- Mupunghansong, the best site among the Tongdo 8-gyeong
- There are eight scenic spots and celebrated aspects of Tongdosa, called Tongdo 8-gyeong: the pine trees dancing to the winter winds on the entryway from Yeongchuksanmun Gate to Iljumun Gate; the sunrise observed from Anyangam; Soriin, which is the waterfalls of Biroam; the valleys and mountain terrains around the premises of Jajangam; the holy ground of Geungnagam with the beautiful natural scenery of Yeongchuksan; the large drum sound from Baegunam; the sunset seen from Daejoseong, fortified at the peak of Yeongchuksan; and the sound of the great bell from Chwiunam.
- The forests surrounding the temple are primarily old pine tree forests, while there is a localized forest of deciduous trees, forest of both conifers and deciduous trees, and nut pine trees. Also, behind the Geumdang at Daegwangmyeongjeon, there remains a colony of bamboo trees that are estimated to have been planted to break winds. The pine forest trail leading from the Yeongchuksanmun Gate and passing the Mupunggyo and Cheongnyugyo bridges along the Yangsancheon Stream until reaching Sammun (Chongnimmun) contains red pine trees that are old with curved branches that are reminiscent of dragon. Even today, other tree species are removed and tree pillars are installed as a means to preserve the pine tree forest, which Tongdosa Temple is famous for. Also, between Sammun and Iljumun gates, old zelkova, nettle and oriental oak trees as well as recently planted zelkova and maple trees form a tunnel of deciduous trees.
- Old zelkova tree growing on the wall
- Jeongbeopgyo of Tongdosa Temple
- One of the most notable trees in the area is the plum tree found before Yeonggak that is about 150 years old.
Legend has it that when Precepts Master Jajang (590-658) opened the Diamond Stairway and gave lectures on the Flower Garland scriptures, 52 fairies from the heavenly realms descended to the ground to listen to his lecture and planted a plum tree called “The Tree of Knowledge.”
The plum tree that is currently found in front of Yeonggak is said to be its descendant tree.
There are many other old and unique trees growing in the temple premises including the flowering cherry trees of Geungnagam, the umbrella pines of Ongnyeonam, the ginkgo and soapberry trees of Baengnyeonam, and zelkova trees of Anyangam.
- The plum tree in front of Yeonggak (The Tree of Knowledge)
- Ginkgo tree of Baengnyeonam