Jeju's Newest, most radical Temple
|A huge statue of Mireuk [Maitreya] Buddha stands before the front gate of this huge new temple on Halla-san's eastern slope. Inside is a 9-story white pagoda and a massive
2-story Main Hall. Several strange, note-worthy
|This is the most radical San-shin icon-set on Jeju-do, and one of the most unusual existing ones anywhere; I was thrilled to find it! The spirit of Halla-san is very well-drawn, with hands patiently folded. Boy and girl attendants offer tea and peaches-of-immortality, as usual. But San-shin is accompanied by a white deer instead of a tiger! Not just a common background-deer (symbol of longevity and spiritual grace), but a real companion-animal. This sort of substitution has never been seen before.
In the painting, the deer is "roaring" like a tiger does. There never were any tigers on Jeju-do, and the small crater-lake on the peak (the holiest site on the island) is named Baek-rok-dam [White Deer Pond]. More on it's significance to contemporary Koreans is here. The background of this painting is the Baek-rok-dam, and the trees are native Jeju alpine species (including the rare Black Pines). Very few San-shin icons in Korea contain any elements specific to the mountain they represent, or any particular famous mountain (a few show Baekdu-san in their background). I have long expected that motif to develop here
-- the paintings becoming "individualized" by showing some features of the mountain they honor, just as Korean lanscape paintings became less idealized and more recognizable portraits of local scenes -- but this is the first real case of it I have ever found. I hope that it signals the start of an exciting new trend!
|In that same Sam-seong-gak [Three Saints Shrine] (signboard at left, note the fishes, symbols of good fortune), really excellent Dok-seong and Yong-wang paintings are also enshrined. The regal Yong-wang is in the place of the usual Chil-seong [7 Stars] icon, now typical in coastal areas.
Below, from that shrine's outer wall, two enlightened sages cavort in spectacular natural beauty.
|Now comes the strange part. There is another shrine next to that Sam-seong-gak, same size. Its signboard (above) identifies it as a Dok-seong-gak [Lonely Saint Shrine]. But as we have seen, the Dok-seong is already enshrined in the Sam-seong-gak. This building contains the unusual painting at right, identified to me by a monk of this temple only as "Queen". It's probably the historical Seondeok-yeo-wang [Goodness-Virtue Queen] of the Shilla Kingdom (reigned 632-647); this temple is likely named after her. She was very important to the history of Korean Buddhism, as she strongly promoted the "new foreign religion" and sponsored the foundation of many great temples (in what are now the Gyeongsang and Gangwon Provinces).|
|More excellent paintings from Seon-deok-sa: the North-Star Spirit holds a sage's staff with a gourd-bottle attached; and an enlightened (or drunken?) monk dances in joyful ecstacy.|
|Enshrined next to her is only this excellent San-shin painting. In response to my informed questioning, the monk insisted that it is "Dok-seong".
It clearly is NOT a Dok-seong, and it clearly IS a San-shin.
It's not uncommon for me to meet younger monks who are ignorant and mistaken about these sorts of paintings. But this temple as a whole appears to be victim of some major icon-identity confusion...