Sanbangsan: Jeju Island’s Most Beautiful Mountain Temple

Aug 30, 2011 by    Posted under: Photos, Travel

On one of my half days off from camp, I headed down to the south side of Jeju Island with a couple of friends to Sanbangsan. This was the second time I visited this sacred place and I felt just as in awe of it as I did the first time.

Sanbangsan literally means “Mountain Room Mountain” and is named after the temple cave within the mountain itself. I wrote an article about the fascinating legend behind Sanbangsan on Because of the mountain’s location on flat land and its strange shape, the folklore around how the mountain came to be adds to the magic of the temples.

Bodisattva Army

One of my favorite sites in the temple complex is, as my friend Jesse called it, The Bodhisattva Army. I love the image and the idea of hundreds of these little statues creating a line of peace, a line of prayer, a line of incredible meditation.


Although there are several traditional temples on the mountain, the one that most people come to see is Sanbangsa-gulsa – The Mountain Room Cave Temple. It is the only cave temple on Jeju Island and people have been praying in it since the Goreyo Dynasty (964~1053), starting with Monk Hye-II when he came to live in this cave, bringing a statue of Buddha with him.

The View

The views from just about everywhere on and around the Sanbangsan temples is spectacular. The day I went, the outer bands of typhoon Muifa were bringing high winds, charged air, rains and an eerie sky with it, which added to mystical quality of the mountain and temples. Sanbang-gulsa is about a 15 minute hike up the mountain and the views of the ocean and flat plains below are beautiful. Approaching the temple complex from the road is an equally impressive sight.

How To Get There

One of the great things about Korea is that it’s really easy to get around, once you get past the difficult task of finding reliable information in English. You can catch a bus from Jeju City’s main bus terminal that will stop at the bottom of Sanbangsan. Most people working the ticket counter there will speak enough English to help you but it’s always a good idea to have your destinations written in Korean as well to show those who don’t.

More Photos

To see more photos of Sanbangsan, visit Where in the World is Basha’s Facebook page

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