[Stone-Heaven Hermitage] 석천암
of Bulam-san in Eastern Seoul
Seokcheon-am is a charming hemitage in a spectacular setting, truly
a model of Heaven made of Stone... the "Realm of the Immortals"
[Shinseon]. It's a steep 20~30-minute climb above Bulam-sa to the
east, perhaps halfway to the summit. Its fine modern artworks, like
the main cliff-carved Amita Buddha here, continue the distinctive
overall themes of this mountain, that its spirit is an enlightened
incipient Buddha manifesting into our world for the benefit of all
beings, and is associated with the 16 Nahan [Disciples of Buddha].
just to the west of the temple, a locked-up Cave used
by heroic "Tiger-commandos" during the Korean War
'finally' after the steep hike, this display
marks the entrance to Seokcheon-am
The signboard on Seokcheon-am's
compact Spirit-hall proclaims it to be
a Chilseong-gak [Seven Stars (of the
big dipper) Shrine], although it also
enshrines San-shin in the center of
its altar and Dokseong on the left
(above). This is an old-fashioned
touch, recalling the pre-20th-century
prominence of the Chilseong in
Korean folk-shamanist practices.
the San-shin, Bukseong-shin (in
Chilseong) and Dokseong paintings
are quite standard modern images
-- but note that this Lonely Saint
the Main Hall features small statues of Sakyamuni Buddha flanked by the Bodhisattvas of
Compassion and Salvation, in front of an extraordinary cliff-carving of that triad (tho with positions
reversed, curiously) surronded by 16 individually-framed Nahan [Disciples of Buddha] -- and the
Dokseong (lower-right, with his own separate altar), two Guardians and two worshipful dongja
attendants. This set of carvings looks older than anything else in this temple, due to being
darkened by candle-smoke, and could possibly be pre-20th-century as the monks here claim...
but they were probably carved in 1973 along with the Amita-bul and the figures at Bulam-sa.
|close-up of the Left 8 Nahan with a Guardian-Officer (lower left) and a dongja (lower right)
Above: San-shin stands out due
to his royal red robe in the
upper-right of the Shinjung-
taenghwa, holding a bullocho
Right: close-up of the carved triad
the rocky trail up to it is a
Daoist fantasy of huge
boulders, twisted pine
trees and stone pagodas
|wears a faded version of San-shin's "king's" robe -- another clear
case of crossing of motifs, typical of Korea's folk-art traditions.
the old Main Hall above has been torn-down,
and the cheap standard statues removed. A
new Main Hall has just been built -- now three
meters away from the Nahan-carving-array,
leaving a worship-space, and with a window
facing to these carvings instead of a Main Altar.
The carvings have also been cleaned of
candle-smoke residue, so look "newer"...
|close-up of the Dokseong,
who holds a Peach of Immortality
|close-up of the Right 8 Nahan with a a dongja (bottom row, 1st on left), a
Guardian-Officer (bottom row, 3rd from left) and the Dokseong (far bottom-right).