Female San-shin were sometimes said to be "married" to male spirits enshrined nearby.  On the peak of Baegak-san [White-crags Mountain], the critically-important mountain of Seoul according to pungsu-jiri [feng-shui, or geomancy], stood "Baegak-sa" enshrining the Yeo-san-shin "Jeong-nyeo-buin" ['jeong-nyeo' means a sincere, virtuous, good character, virgin or chaste woman; 'buin' is a respectful term for a wife].   She was ritually spiritually "mated" every year with the male San-shin "Guk-to-shin" [National-Earth-spirit] enshrined on Mok-myo-san (now called Nam-san, South Mountain) directly south of her.  Together, they protected Seoul and the Joseon Dynasty from disasters.  There still can be seen a huge prominent boulder on her south-eastern slope; this was said to be a baby carried on her back Korean-style, and several pungsu-jiri adjustments were made in Seoul's place-names to keep it there in that position. 

One legend is told that a brash young Neo-Confucian fanatic named Kwon Pil, opposed to "old folk superstitions", insulted her and damaged her
taeng-hwa one day in 1591.  Jeong-nyeo-buin appeared to him in a dream, expressing her outrage and promising that he and all Korea would be punished.  The very next year, the disasterous Imjin Invasion destroyed much of Seoul and the rest of Joseon.   Kwon Pil himself faced a string of bad fortune, cumulating in his exile to Hamgyeong Province [remote northeastern Korea]; but on his way there, he had another dream of Jeong-nyeo-buin and died soon after awakening.
LEFT: a rare female San-shin, wearing white robes and sitting on her tiger (both more shamanic factors), while girl and boy-angel attendants offer medicine, peaches and bullo-cho sprigs.  From "Chanting Virtue Temple" on western "Grand Energy Mountain" in the remote reaches of Hoing-seong County, Gangwon Province.    
RIGHT: a more standard and male San-shin, but with a rare grey tiger, from Shilleuk-sa Temple on the banks of the South Han River in Yeoju City, Gyeonggi Province.
Some well-educated Joseon-dynasty officials did not take the San-shin too seriously and joked around with its image.  It is said that Samgak-san [Three Crags Mountain, a.k.a. Bugak-san or Northern Crags Mountain], the northern guardian of Seoul, is so picturesque that its valleys became recreational sites from early in Joseon.  During the 'Golden Age' of the 16th Century, a lot of secret cottages were built near a cave called Mil-deok on the northeastern slope, and men and women of loose morals gathered there to have illicit affairs (fore-runners to today's 'Love Motels'!).  Even women of the Yangban [noble] class came to have their fun. 

A young Neo-Confucian scholar named Yi Hang-bok heard of these notorious cottages, and disapproved.  On the First Full Moon he disguised himself as a San-shin by wearing a false long white beard and wig, and a royal red gown.  In the moon-lit evening he seated himself with a dignified air on a high rock near the cottages.  Women passed below him on their way to the cottages, having pretended to be going to offer customary worship to the
Bugak-San-shin.  Yi Hang-bok called out to them:  "I'm the San-shin here! I was so deeply moved the sincerity of your offerings that I've appeared here to forgive your misconduct.  Those who confess their sins shall be forgiven.  But those who conceal their misconduct shall be punished severely!"  So the startled, frightened women all confessed their illicit affairs in detail.  The next few days, Yi Hang-bok had a great time spreading the hot gossip all over Seoul, causing uproars in many noble and plain houses.   The corruption of morals became a matter of grave concern, and ultimately the king had the secret cottages and cave destroyed.
Back to Contents Page