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, and/or
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.