|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
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
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
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.