|IL-WOL-SAN [Sun-Moon Mountain]
-- Korea's Haunted Slopes --
|ABOVE: Excellent calligraphy on the San-shin-gak signboard of Yong-wa-sa.
LEFT: The old, faded portrait of Hwang-ssi-buin enshrined in her own gak at Yong-wa-sa [Dragon-Flower Temple]. She holds a writing-brush.
|Il-wol-san is an important member of the Taebaek Mountain-range, rising to 1219 meters at the peak, within Yeong-yang County of North Kyeongsang Province. It is the second major mountain south of Taebaek-san (Provincial Park) itself, and lies just east of Cheong-nyang-san (Provincial Park). Access to the eastern and northern slopes is along National Highway #31 between Bonghwa Town and Yeong-yang Town. It's not very well-known and few people have visited it, being so remote.
The name "Sun-Moon" is a very sacred one, resulting from Daoist / nature-worship ideas of universal balance and harmony. It also invokes the Sun-holding Bodhisattva and Moon-holding Bodhisattva who flank the Che-seok Buddha in the Chil-seong icons found in Korean Buddhist temples (see pages 104-109 in the first edition of my book).
Il-wol-san is said to be haunted by the powerful ghost of Hwang-ssi-buin [wife of Mr. Hwang]. I was told that she was terribly mistreated by the Hwang family of the northern Andong area, two or three centuries ago. She fled one day to a valley deep within this mountain, and committed suicide. Her ghost could not rest due to her rage and sorrow, and so haunts the slopes to this day, bringing misfortune to those who are dishonest, greedy or abusive, but good fortune to those who are sincere, generous and benevolent. People found that if they built shrines to her and made offerings to console her ghost, that their prayers were mysteriously answered.
Hwang-ssi-buin is NOT a San-shin however, despite the similarities; she is just a ghost who haunts this holy mountain. Perhaps in the future she will become conflated with the Il-wol-san-shin, and be regarded as his spiritual wife.
|ABOVE: Inside the San-shin-gak, the painting is on the right; on the left is a very common sort of San-shin statue, with plastic lotus-flowers.
LEFT: The San-shin icon-painting of Yong-wa-sa. In a very rare case, it uses the face and hair of a real person -- the late founder and abbot of this temple. After his death in the early 1990's, he appeared to the new abbot in a dream, proclaiming that he had become San-shin of Il-wol-san. The monk I met there claimed several miracles have occured for layfolk who prayed to him in front of this icon.
|Three small temples can be found clustered on the eastern side of Il-wol-san, just south of the county border. Their photos are presented on these pages. Two of them have tried to take the same "Dragon Flower" name; there seems to be a dispute over which of them is the true heir to the famous temple of that name here, which was destroyed during the Korean War. Now the northern one (third page) spells it's name (correctly) as "Yong-hwa-sa", while the more southernly one (shown on this page) uses the variation "Yong-wa-sa". The smallest temple in this area (second page) is named Seon-nyeo-am.|