Supplementary Entries and Texts for the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
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Jiri-san 지리산 智異山 would have been on page 365 Exquisite Wisdom Mountains
One of Korea's most sacred mountain-clusters since ancient times, and a heavily- visited attraction straddling the meeting-point of three provinces; it is the only mountain in Korea included in five different counties and cities. It has served as both the military and spiritual "guardian" mountain of the entire south-coast region between Jinju City (晉 州市) and Gwangju City (光州市), with several sites of former military fortresses on its slopes. It creates both the scenic Seomjin-gang River (蟾津江) that flows to the south coast, and the Imcheon-gang River (臨川江) to its north. It holds a primary position in what we might call the "sacred geography of Korea", and has always been a key center of Korean Buddhism.
Mt. Jiri-san was one of the main holy mountains of the Baekje Kingdom (百濟), the Southern Peak of the O-ak (五嶽, 5 guardian mountains) system of the Unified Silla Dynasty (統一新羅) and the Goryeo Dynasty (高麗), and the Southern Peak of the Sam- ak (三嶽, 3 guardian mountains) system of the Joseon Dynasty (朝鮮). The Joseon Namak-sa (南岳祠, South Peak Shrine) has been rebuilt by the Gurye-gun County (求禮 郡) government next to Hwaeom-sa Temple (華嚴寺), and ceremonies venerating the Sansin (山神) on the Third Full Moon have been revived.
The summit is Cheonwang-bong (天王峰, Heavenly-King Peak) at 1915 meters, the highest peak in mainland South Korea. It has a dozen other main peaks, mostly with names derived from Buddhist or Shamanic folklore. It is the terminus of the Baekdu- daegan Mountain system (白頭大幹), and for most trekkers the great trail begins here at the eastern slopes. In 1967 it became Korea’s first National Park, remaining the largest one in land-area with 470 square kilometers of territory.
The Jiri Mountains are a great national treasure, holding a vast natural, cultural and spiritual wealth. It is a cluster of connected mountains rather than just one, and its name means "the Exquisite Wisdom Mountains", given because it has been believed that by practicing here even a foolish person can attain the esoteric and precious banya (般若, prajna, wisdom) of Munsu-bosal (文殊菩薩, Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom); they are considered to be one of his three primary doryang (道場, daochang, bodhimanda, site of awakening, appearance or residence) in Korea, along with Mt. Odae-san (五臺山, Five Platforms Mountains) and Mt. Geumgang-san (金剛山, Diamond Mountain). The second major summit here is named Banya-bong (般若峰, Wisdom Peak). The several Sansin (山神, Mountain-spirits) of these peaks and slopes, generally female, are believed to be especially powerful.
Jiri-san has always attracted a wide variety of religious enthusiasm to its slopes. Twelve great Buddhist temples and more than 60 smaller temples, hermitages and Shamanic shrines are found around the slopes, with several Confucian shrines, Christian prayer-camps well-known folk-culture sites. Half of Korea's eight highest- altitude temples are found in these mountains. The 3 greatest ancient Buddhist temples of Jiri-san (all within South Korea's "Top-21 Monasteries", each with a cluster of Hermitages, are Nogo-dan Peak Hwaeom-sa (老姑壇 華嚴寺), Samsin-bong Ssanggye- sa (三神峰 雙磎寺) and Samjeong-bong Silsang-sa (三丁峰 實相寺).
The 25 other notable traditional (pre-modern) temples and hermitages encircling these mountains and their foothills are (listed counter-clockwise, starting from the southwest): Mt. Dongri-san Taean-sa (桐裏山 泰安寺), Gurye Mt. O-san Saseong-am Hermitage (鼇 山 四聖庵), Nogo-dan peak’s Cheoneun-sa (泉隱寺), Sudo-am (修道庵), Sangseon-am (上禪庵), Jijang-am (地藏庵), Geumjeong-am (金井庵) and Yeongi-am (緣起庵) ; Samdo-bong Yeongok-sa (三道峰 鳶谷寺), Toggi-bong Chilbul-sa (토끼봉 七佛寺), Samsin-bong (三神峯)’s Guksa-am (國師庵) and Bulil-am (佛日庵); Cheonwang-bong (天王峰)’s Beopgye-sa (法界寺), Naewon-sa (內院寺), Daewon-sa (大源寺) and Byeoksong-sa (碧松寺), Mt. Beophwa-san Beophwa-sa (法華山 法華寺), Samjeong- bong (三政峰)’s Yeongwon-sa (靈源寺), Godam-sa (古潭寺), Sangmuju-am (上無住庵), Dosol-am (兜率庵), Yaksu-am (藥水庵) and Seojin-am (瑞眞庵); Baekjang-am (百丈庵) and Yongdam-sa (龍潭寺). There are also dozens of new temples and major colorful Shamanic shrines, mostly dedicated to the Jiri Sansin.
Therefore, this mountain-cluster remains a major pilgrimage destination.