Mountain-spirit Shrines and Icons found on
the South Coast of South Jeolla Province, November 2002

This Page: the Goheung Peninsula
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The Goheung Peninsula is one of the remotest parts of Korea, rarely getting outside visitors.  It's like a huge island, only connected to the mainland by a narrow neck, hanging down off the Beolgyo Town area between the Kangjin/Haenam region and the Suncheon/Yeosu region.   There are three important temples here: Neungga-sa, Sudo-am and Geum-tap-sa, and four smaller ones.  At the stunning Pal-yeong-san [Eight Shadows/Echos/Influences Mountain], seen above at sunset (newly designated as a Provincial Park, great place for hiking), Neungga-sa is now being reconstructed to recapture its glory-days during the Koryeo Dynasty.  The old San-shin painting enshrined in a rear Buddha-Hall features a friendly Daoist-type "mountain-king" and an amusing folksy "crazy-eyed" tiger.

Cheon-deung-san Geum-tap-sa [Heavenly-lantern Mountain Golden-pagoda Temple], in the remote south-center of Goheung well below the town, is historically rich but enshrines a very ordinary San-shin painting.  But in the "Assembly of Spirits" in the Main Hall, San-shin is depicted wearing a "flying scarf" like an immortal-angel and holding a Daoist "peach of immortality", both of which are extremely rare (usually only features of his attendants).
Un-ram-san Sudo-am [Clouds-view Mountain Sincere-practice Hermitage], just north-east of tiny Goheung Town, is found WAY up a narrow steeply winding "road", in a deep pocket on a densely-forrested slope.  Driving up there is not for the faint-hearted, and hiking up is not for the weak-of-leg!  Its small simple San-shin-gak has good calligraphy on its signboard; inside are TWO paintings (no special meaning there, they just have two, but it's very unusual). In the larger one, the attendant holds the "fly-wisk" symbol of an enlightened Buddhist-meditation-master.
In an old San-shin-worshipping site off to the side, a small Buddha-statue has been set up (above right).  But the most notable feature of Sudo-am is its large and seperate Chil-seong-gak [Shrine for the Seven Stars of the Big Dipper] (top building in the top-right photo one sceen above), in which each star appears in a seperate painting (actually, four are paired-up, with one more for the Cheseok-bul / Indra-buddha, so there are six paintings total) (above left).  This was once more common in the Joseon Dynasty, when the Seven Stars was at least equal to San-shin in Korea's folk-pantheon, but has become extremely rare -- I only know of four of these -- as San-shin has gained supreme importance in folk-religon practice and iconography.
The San-shin and Deok-seong [Lonely Saint] paintings found in Seong-bul-sa [Enlightenment Temple], on the other side of Cheon-deung-san from Geum-tap-sa, are both quite old and attractive.  San-shin's tiger-companion is very Korean-folk-style, his hat is like a court-official's, he appears deep in thought, and there's a curious blankness behind him...
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Sorry, photo was lost.
Sorry, photo was lost.
Sorry, photo was lost.