|The Mt. Rooster-Dragon
Mountain-Spirit Ceremonial Festival
Korea's Largest and Most Diverse Mountain-Respecting Event
In just the past five years, annual public Mountain-
Spirit-venerating ceremonies with the explicit themes
of national identity, protection, and re-unification
have begun to be held in South Korea. In April 1998
I attended the first Gyeryong-san San-shin-je
[Rooster-Dragon Mountain-Spirit Ceremony/Festival]
along with several hundred Koreans. It was held
from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, during
the Third Full Moon (in April), at and nearby the
Jung-ak-dan [Central Peak Altar] San-shin shrine
in Shinwon-sa Buddhist Temple. Very few other
non-Korean participants have ever been seen there.
My presence and participation drew curious but
welcoming reactions from the crowd, from the
monks of Shin-won-sa Temple and the ritual-leaders.
Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, northern-Shamanist and
southern-Shamanist ritual-ceremonies for the
Gyeryong San-shin (and the river which flows
around these mountains) were consecutively held
in full-dress splendor and with sincere religiosity.
This was all organized by Mr. Shim U-seong, a highly-respected
cultural leader in South Chung-cheong Province, and the founder-
curator of the Kong-ju City Folk Museum. He told me that he regards
all San-shin's as "Sons of Dan-gun" and thus ancestral spirits for all
Koreans. He said that the Kye-ryong San-shin is one of the most
powerful, and this large-scale, multi-religion, ritual-worship of it was
hoped to foster national unity, the solidarity of citizens, and Korea's
recovery from the 1997 economic crisis. He intends to hold this
festival annually on third full moons, and possibly also later on ninth full
moons. It has been successfully held so far in April 1998, 1999, 2000,
2001 and 2002, and I have fully attended all of them except the last; it
is my favorite annual event in Korea. I hope that it will continue, and come
to be imitated at all the other sacred mountains around the Korean peninsula.
Shim U-seong stated that he was only reviving an ancient custom
rather than starting something new, and that a Gyeryong-san
Sanshin-je was held there regularly during the Joseon Dynasty, but
had been halted by the authorities of the Japanese colonial occupation.
There was no Korean-Christian participation in this festival, for
obvious reasons, although they are invited every year. Mr. Shim
just laughed when I mentioned their absence from this event. There
has been some Christian-led local political opposition to the holding
of this event, but so far it has had no effect. I have been proud to
shake hands with City Mayors, Provincial Governors & officials
and National Assembly Representatives at this grand festival.
|This page: photos of
the Buddhist San-shin Ceremony
and text adapted from my book
My friend and info-source Myobong Seu-nim [the Venerable Monk
Mysterious Peak, a Meditation-Master] lecturing the crowd on the
importance of respecting Mountain-spirits, just before turning the
mike over to me to do the same (but in English).