Ibike Korea People-to-People Program



Photo essay: Seomjin River - Ssanggye-sa

    Points of Interest: Hwagea Village, Tea Country, Ssanggye-sa
  Tea farms near Ssanggye-sa (temple), Gwangyang Province, Korea Road to Ssanggye-sa (temple), Gwangyang Province, KoreaAt the foot of the valley leading to Ssanggye-sa (temple) is Hwagea Village. It has far more restaurants and retail than the population in the immediate area would seem to be able to sustain. Its historical explanation is more complex, but the strongest argument for its current resurrection and vitality is its role as a stopping place for visitors to Ssanggye-sa (temple) (8km into the mountains), the Jirisan Mountains, and the beautiful nearby tea county.
  Hwagea Village, Gwangyang Province, Koea

Hwagea Village, Gwangyang Province, Koea

Hwagea Village, Gwangyang Province, KoeaIn the past, Hwagae Market ranked 7th in the country as a trade center since the 1770’s. It was revived and restored at the turn of the millennium, and was dedicated as a national arts market in 2016.

Historically, it served as a link between the traditional slash-and-burn famers of the Jirisan Mountains, coastal people of Yeosu and Namhae (50-80km down river) who traded their dried laver and anchovies, and landsmen of Deagu and Yeongcheon (150km NE, as the crow flies) who sold tobacco and cigarettes.

Part of its historical reputation rests on the romance, matchmaking, and marriage negotiations that took place here, for the young people of the region.  The flowers of the area for which it is also renowned bolster this facet.

Sculpture of muscian, Hwagea Village, Gwangyang Province, KoeaOn market days performances by singers, who sang love songs, and playful acts of clowns, supplemented the good-natured haggling and bustle of the market.

People long for Hwagae Market even when it was not open because of the fine foods such as good makgeolli (rice wine), grilled fish, as well as deodeok (root), doragi (bellflower) and shoots, that were served in the restaurants.

  Tea plants, Ssanggyesa Tea plants, SsanggyesaThe story of the local tea goes back to Daeryeom, a monk, who brought tea plants (related to the camellia) back from Tang China (828) to the slopes of Jirisan Mountain where it was first planted. The tea produced in the Hwagae region is said to be the best tea in the land and was offered to kings during the Goryeo and Joseon periods. There are still has a number of tea farms in the area and a tea museum -- but clearly the current social drink of preference now-a-days in South Korea is coffee.
  Ssanggyesa (temple) Bamboo forest and bridges, Ssanggye-sa (temple), KoreaSsanggye-sa (temple) was founded by two priest, Sambop and Daebi, in 723.  They brought the remains (or embalmed head) of Master Hyeneung, the Sixth Patriarch of the Zen sect, from China. Sambop had a dream in which an elderly monk instructed him to placed the remains "in a fragrant valley where the flowers of arrow root blooms under the snow."
  Iljumum, Ssanggyesa (temple) Iljumum, Ssanggyesa (temple)Iljumun, the first gateway between the earthly world and the world of Buddha, implies a precept to practice the right way with constancy and self-enlightenment. Preceding the gate is a stream and bridge, which is cleansing and part of the transition process.
  Geumgangmun, Ssanggyesa (temple) Geumgangmun, Ssanggyesa (temple)Geumgangmun, Ssanggyesa (temple)Continue along the path and you will reach Geumgangmun, the second gate, symbolizes the protection of Buddhism and the cleansing of passing people of the pollution of the mundane world.
  Chenwangmun, Ssanggyesa (temple) Gate, Ssanggyesa (temple)Chenwangmun, the third gate, honors the four Devas. As devotees of Buddha, these figures guard Buddhist cannons and are the protective deities over monks and the faithful.  The Jiguk Deva (lute) rules over the east, the Gwangmok Deva (dragon) over the west, the Jeungjang Deva (sword) over the south and the Damun Deva (pagoda) over the north.  Each has a different weapon and unique characteristics.  At the center of the four quarters is Sumisan.  Sumisan is where Buddha lives -- a temple is symbolic of Sumisan, therefore, if one passes this gate he or she is likely to enter the world of Buddha.
  Gate, Ssanggyesa (temple)  Jeungjang Deva (sword) over the south Jiguk Deva (lute) rules over the east Damun Deva (pagoda) over the north Gwangmok Deva (dragon) over the west
  Nine-story stone pagoda, Ssanggyesa Nine-story stone pagoda, SsanggyesaNine-story stone pagoda.  Enshrined in this pagoda are three Sarira (mineral pieces left in the ashes of the cremation of a Buddhist master) of Sakyamuni, which were brought from India by Priest Kosan on his pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sites. 
  Pallyeongnu, Ssanggyesa This pavilion, Pallyeongnu, was built by Jingamhyeso (774-850) in 840, the Unified Shilla Period.  It is noted as where the Buddhist music of Korea (Beompae) was born. Jingamhyseo watched fish swim in Seomjingang (river) and composed Eosan, a piece of Beompae composed of eight tones and rhythms, after which the pavilion was named. He entered nirvana in 850 at age 77.
  Stone lanterns, Ssanggyesa Ssanggyesa (temple)Stone lanterns illuminate the dark regions of a temple and its light symbolize the truth of Buddha which leads humanity down the path of good.  In addition, the flame represents Sumisian where Buddha resides, and the lantern oil represents the wide sea. The lantern, always representative of Buddha, is erected in front of Buddhist shrines, Daeungjon, together with the pagoda. Ssanggyesa (temple)
Myeongbujeon, Ssanggyesa (temple)



Myeongbujeon is where the ceremonies for the repose of the souls of the dead takes place. It is a shrineJijangbosal, Myeongbujeon, Ssanggyesa (temple) unique to Korean temples.  Ssanggyesa's buildings are arranged in order of rank beginning with Iljumun, Geumgangmun, Chenwangmum, Pallyeongnu and Daeungjeon.  Myeongbujeon is located on the same line with Daeungjeon and shares an almost equal level of importance. Such an arrangement is the results of mix of Othodox Buddhism with the traditional folk beliefs in Myeongbu and Yaksa.

At the center of Myeongbujeon, there is Jijangbosal, who is said to deliver creatures from the underworld.  To his left and right, there are ten kings who passed judgements on people's fate, befitting their deeds of good and evil.

Nahanjeon, Ssanggyesa


Nahanjeon, SsanggyesaNahanjeon, SsanggyesaNahanjeon is where 16 Nahan (arhats) are enshined.  Each reached Buddhahood by eliminating all their worldly desires and becoming enlightened to the principles of the world. A Buddha statue takes his seat at the center of the shrine and the Nahan are arrayed on either side of him.  The shrine was constructed in 840.
Ssanggyesa Ssanggyesa Ssanggyesa Ssanggyesa
Scenes and details from a side temple at Ssanggyesa.
  Buddha carved on the rock surface, Ssanggyesa Bamboo forest, Ssanggye-sa (temple), KoreaPresumed to have been built during the Goryeo Period, this statue of Buddha carved on the rock surface is noted for its peculiar look.  It has a big head, plump face, hands covered with the sacerdotal robe, and long ears hanging to his shoulders.  The overall look is benevolent and simple.

The backdrop and beauty of Ssanggye-sa comes from the towering bamboo forest on some of its edges.

  Cafe tables over stream, Ssanggyesa A cafe near Ssanggyesa where the tables are set out over a stream.  Presumably the arrangement is best on a hot summer day.  The outdoor seating was unoccupied on this rather cool, breezy and overcast day.

Seomjingang Trail


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