Introduction to San-shin   (Korean Mountain-spirits)
This book fully introduces Korea's
native "Mountain Spirit", its ancient
traditions and deep, complex
connections to major religions.

This web-site not only offers my book for sale,
but will be constantly updated with new text
and photos that didn't make it into the three
editions -- 1999, 2002 and the 2003 Korean
version --so that they remain 'current' and
'living' volumes.  There are many fascinating
paintings, statues and events -- some
antique and some brand-new -- that I have
discovered since sending them to the printer.

I hope that anyone interested in this subject
will enjoy this site as a kind of supplement
to the main book, gaining wider and deeper
insight into Korean mountain-worship in all
its manifestations.

I have spent 25 years researching the
San-shin, Korea's native "Mountain Spirit,"
and exposing it to the world has become my
favorite activity.  This book is the result, and
the testament to my belief in the importance
and wider significance of this subject.  It is
the first book in English ever to be written on
San-shin, and even in Korean there are only
a few small ones covering limited aspects.  

It was awarded as "Best Book on Korean
Culture" in 2002 by the National Academy of
Sciences [
Han-guk Gungnip Gwahak-won],
and the resulting prize-money was used to
translate it into Korean for a paperback
edition with updates and a few new photos,
which came out in 2003.  
Korean Edition Info

Korea is home to some of the world's most
beautiful crags and gorges, and an ancient
tradition of respectfully, ritually acknowledging
the "spirits" they embody. For the past 400
years, the
San-shin has been depicted in
human form, intimately interacted with, and
worshipped as a Shamanic demigod.
As Buddhism, Daoism & Neo-Confucianism entered into Korea
from China, they exchanged and melded icons  with the native
Shamanism rather than just suppressing it.  San-shin became the
central figure of all Korean religious culture, the most common
deity, nearly universally revered.  This process is not just history,
but is still evolving and enjoying a widespread revival. Due to its
association with all of the major religions that Koreans subscribe
to, mountain-worship is flourishing in 21st-century industrialized
Korea, a unique and valuable phenomena in our world.

Elaborate paintings of San-shin have been created, which
incorporate Shamanic, Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, Daoist and
purely nationalistic symbols and motifs.  The best of them form
mandalas of the holiness implicit in the human inter-action with
Nature.  This book and website explain them in detail, and shows
hundreds of examples in full color, selected from the 10,000
photos I have taken in and around South Korea's  mountain
shrines --  the most popular ones, and the remotest ones.

My final chapter explores the still-evolving present and possible
future of Korea's San-shin, as a "green" symbol of ecological
preservation and wisdom, as an officially-supported icon of
cultural unity and national re-unification, and as a rich spiritual
path for individual seekers and global society.

I hope that all:

those who are interested in the history, culture and
destiny of Korea,

those who are fascinated by Shamanism & Eastern religions,

those who love mountains and have felt their sacredness,
caught some glimpse of their holy spirits,

-- will find this book very informative and worthwhile to
their deeper understanding. Please let me know your
reactions to this book and this website.

David A. Mason