Supplementary Entries and Texts for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
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Gyeryong-san 계룡산 鷄龍山 would have been on page 270 Rooster-Dragon Mountain
One of Korea's most sacred mountains since ancient times. It was the central holy mountain of the Baekje Kingdom (百濟), the Western Peak of the O-ak (5 guardian mountains) system of the Unified Silla Dynasty (統一新羅) and the Goryeo Dynasty (高 麗), and the Central Peak of the Sam-ak (3 guardian mountains) system of the Joseon Dynasty (朝鮮). The summit is Cheonhwang-bong (天皇峯, Heavenly-King Peak) at 848 meters, standing out prominently on the West Coast flatlands where few mountains top 1000m. It has a dozen other main peaks, mostly with classical Buddhist names.
The name means "Rooster-Dragon Mountain", given because of the way it looks; the main ridge winds around like a dragon's body, and the 20 or so sharp peaks along it resemble a cockscomb when viewed from a distance. Both the Rooster and the Dragon are members of the ‘Twelve Symbolic Animals’ of the Oriental Zodiac, and thus the name has deeper resonant meanings. The Sansin (山神, Mountain-spirit) of these peaks and slopes, generally considered to be and sometimes depicted as female, is believed to be especially powerful.
Several dynasties have planned or attempted to build their capital on its southern side (the Sindo-an area, once a highly-sacred shamanic complex but now a gigantic Army headquarters base), and it has always attracted a wide variety of religious enthusiasm to its slopes. It once hosted five great ancient Buddhist monasteries in a circle around it, but the northern one, Guryong-sa (九龍寺, Nine Dragons Temple) was totally razed during the Imjin Waeran (壬辰倭亂, 1592-98 Japanese Invasion) and never rebuilt; only stone artifacts remain. On the far south Gaetae-sa Temple (開泰寺), once intended by Goryeo’s founding-king as his capital temple, suffered the same fate, but has been partially rebuilt to house three large stone Buddha statues found there.
The other three main temples flourish today: Gap-sa (甲寺, Foremost Temple), Sinwon- sa (新元寺) and Donghak-sa (東鶴寺, East Crane Temple). Sinwon-sa, founded by Master Bodeok (普德) in the late 7th century, contains the Jungak-dan, a Joseon royal Sansin-gak (山神閣, Mountain-spirit Shrine), largest antique one extant in the nation; Buddhist, Shamanic and Neo-Confucian ceremonies venerating the Sansin on the Third Full Moon have been revived as a public folklore festival. In addition, there are more than a dozen Buddhist hermitages on the slopes, of various ages, and several dozen colorful shamanic shrines, mostly dedicated to the Gyeryong Sansin. An especially famous treasure is the Brother-Sister Pagodas, called Onwi-tap or Nammae- tap (男妹搭) on a ridge in the northern center on the mountain; Gyemyeong-jeongsa Hermitage was there built in the 1980s to look after them after they were reconstructed by Buddhist archeologists. Also quite significant is Sinheung-am Hermitage (新興庵); see the Gap-sa entry.
Gyeryong-san is now the most-heavily-visited attraction in Chungcheongnam-do Province (忠淸南道), located just west of Daejeon City (a few km southwest of the famous Yuseong Hot Springs District) and easily accessible from the expressway. In 1968 it became Korea’s second National Park, with 61 square kilometers of territory.