|The Mt. Rooster-Dragon
Mountain-Spirit Ceremonial Festival
Korea's Largest and Most Diverse Mountain-Respecting Event
|In just the past five years, annual public Mountain-Spirit-worshipping ceremonies with the explicit themes of national identity, protection, and re-unification have begun to be held in South Korea. In April 1998 I attended the first Gye-ryong-san San-shin-je [Rooster-Dragon Mountain-Spirit Ceremony/Festival] along with several hundred Koreans. It was held from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, during the Third Full Moon (in April), at and nearby the Jung-ak-dan [Central Peak Altar] San-shin shrine in Shinwon-sa Buddhist Temple. Very few other non-Korean participants have ever been seen there. My presence and participation drew curious but welcoming reactions from the crowd, from the monks of Shin-won-sa Temple and the ritual-leaders. Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, northern-Shamanist and southern-Shamanist ritual-ceremonies for the Gye-ryong San-shin (and the river which flows from those mountains) were consecutively held in full-dress splendor and with sincere religiosity.
|This was all organized by Mr. Shim U-seong, a highly-respected cultural leader in South Chung-cheong Province, and the founder-curator of the Kong-ju City Folk Museum. He told me that he regards all San-shin's as "Sons of Dan-gun" and thus ancestral spirits for all Koreans. He said that the Kye-ryong San-shin is one of the most powerful, and this large-scale, multi-religion, ritual-worship of it was hoped to foster national unity, the solidarity of citizens, and Korea's recovery from the 1997 economic crisis. He intends to hold this festival annually on third full moons, and possibly also later on ninth full moons. It has been successfully held so far in April 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, and I have fully attended all of them except the last; it is my favorite annual event in Korea. I hope that it will continue, and come to be imitated at all the other sacred mountains around the Korean peninsula.
|Shim U-seong stated that he was only reviving an ancient custom rather than starting something new, and that a Gye-ryong-san San-shin-je was held there regularly during the Joseon Dynasty, but had been halted by the authorities of the Japanese colonial occupation. There was no Korean-Christian participation in this festival, for obvious reasons, although they are invited every year. Mr. Shim just laughed when I mentioned their absence from this event. There has been some Christian-led local political opposition to the holding of this event, but so far it has had no effect. I have been proud to shake hands with City Mayors, Provincial Governors & officials and National Assembly Representatives at this grand festival.|
|This page: photos of
the Buddhist San-shin Ceremony
and text adapted from my book
|My friend and info-source Myo-bong Seu-nim [the Venerable Monk Mysterious Peak, a Meditation-Master] lecturing the crowd on the importance of respecting Mountain-spirits, just before turning the mike over to me to do the same (but in English).|