The Exquisite Wisdom Mountains [Jiri-san] at the center of the southernmost reaches of the
Korean Penninsula are some of the grandest and holiest peaks of the nation; they host an
astonishing variety of religious activities. Nestled 23 km up a long narrow valley from the
nearest highway, at 800 meters above sea-level just below Three Spirits Peak
[Sam-shin-bong], the Azure (refined blue) Crane Village [Cheong-hak-dong] has long been
famous as a remote and unspoiled site favoring spiritual practices. Currently, two different
native-Korean religious cults make their home there. The less-known one (so far) occupies
the western side of the alpine valley, in an area also called the Spirit-immortal Valley
[Shin-seon-gol] or Daoist-people Village [Do-in-cheon].
They are led by a hereditary Daoist priest called Ham-pil Seon-sa, who claims that his family
has occupied that land for 400 years. He has led the construction of the earthly paradise they
call the Three Sages Palace [Sam-seong-gung], especially the hundreds of stone
pagoda-towers [dol-tap]. The group is devoted to martial arts, meditaion, Korean traditions
and cermonial worship of the "Three Sages" (see below) enshrined in the building shown
above. Serenely confident in their basic orientation of extreme Korean-cultural-nationalism,
they maintain a serious, dignified, religious atmosphere here. Their colorful semi-annual
festivals, however, are filled with joy, friendship, drink and dance. Casual "tourists" are not
welcome, but they admit all with a sincere desire for knowlege, readiness to participate and
respectful attitude -- a refreshing difference from most other "folk culture" sites in Korea.
Visiting the Sam-seong-gung is a privilege that leaves a lasting spiritual impression; it is my
choice for "the coolest place in Korea". More pictures will be posted here someday...
<--- myself standing with the "Cheon-wang
Hal-mae San-shin" statue of the
Sam-seong-gung, an uncut stone in
humanoid-bust form, found by Master Ham Pil
after a dream of her guided him to it. For
much more about her, see these pages.
Right--> my friend Frank Tedesco and his
daughter Serenity amid the towers; they were
with me and my wife on my fourth visit in
Spring 2001. The group requests that all
visitors wear their Korean-style robes while in
the compound, a nice atmospheric touch that
maintains a sober and sacred mood.
The "Three Sages" of Korea's Foundation-myth, as enshrined in the main hall:
In the center is Hwan-in, Lord of Heaven. On the left is his son Hwan-eung, who descended
to the peak of a sacred mountain long ago, to bring civilized government and thus "benefit
humanity". On the right is HIS son Dan-gun, half-human and half-divine, who founded the
first Korean Kingdom and ruled as Shaman-king for 1900 years before retiring as the
San-shin of Mysterious-Fragrance Mountain [Myo-hyang-san]. See pages 132-139 in my
book. These photos were all taken from an angle, as the paintings are covered by glass.
|The "Palace of the Three Sages" in Azure Crane Village