|the "Seven Limbs Mountain":
pride of Cheongyang County,
Provincial Park of South Chungcheong
"chil" means seven which is an auspicious
number in traditional Korean culture, most
prominently in Buddhism -- there are the
"Chilbo" [Seven Treasures of Enlightenment]
(a stone-stairway-bridge of Bulguk-sa was made
with his theme), and "Chilbul" [Seven Great
Buddhas] (considered as a set, who sortta
supervise the universe) (refer also to Chilbul-sa,
one of Korea's most revered meditation-temples).
"gap" means the limbs of the human body;
we are classically said to have five of them (2
legs, 2 arms and 1 head). Looking at this map
we can clearly see five main branch-ridges
radiating out from the prominent 561-meter
peak. At least five sub-ridges branch off
from those; somehow the Buddhist monks
who settled here conceived of there being
seven significant ridges -- thus, Chilgap-san.
That this mountain is shaped somewhat like
a flower, with the ridges as petals, or like a
Chilgap-san was established as a Provincial Park of 32 sq.km. in 1973. It has been immortalized in a very popular
folk-pop-song in the modern era, and remains a national symbol of remote mountainous purity -- there is a traditional-
meat-dishes restaurant in my own urban-Seoul neighborhood named "Chilgapsan", and those are common. It and
Janggok-sa are the major treasures of quiet Cheongyang-gun County, which is very proud of them. Cheongyang's
farms produce 70% of the nation's Gugija (berries of the 'Chinese Matrimony Vine'), which promotes health in various
ways; it's long been popular as an herbal tea and is now being used to brew a mild and sweet rice-wine "Cheongyang
Gugija-sul" -- quite good, really -- being promoted as a characteristic product of Chilgap-san.
The 3-km hike up from the popular old Hanchi-gogae Pass trailhead (with restaurants and parking lots, now above the
Daechi Tunnel of National Highway 36) is quite easy as Korean mountains go, really just a dirt road. There is a nice
large modern pavilion halfway along the trail that offers a pleasant rest in the deep pine-forest; after that the trail gets a
little more difficult; the final ascent to the peak requires climbing about 100 wooden stairs. The bare peak (with a
military-helicopter-pad and modern San-shin Altar) offers excellent views all around -- the Yellow Sea can be glimpsed
on clear mornings. The trail up from / down to Janggok-sa (also about 3 km) is significantly rockier and steeper.
|the new public resting-pavilion on the northern ridge
my hiking-companions on 10 August 2006, at Hanchi-gogae Pass
trailhead, in front of the monument honoring patriots who died fighting
against the Japanese imperialists here. Nearby is a large statue of the
local Confucian scholar "Myeon-am" Choi Ik-hyeon (1833-1906) who
organized and led those brave but doomed local men who resisted
Korea's occupation in the early 1900s, at the cost of their lives.
star -- both auspicious shapes according to Pungsu-jiri -- certainly must have helped its reputation all
along. The ridges are extremely steep with beautiful but impenetrably-dense pine-forests on both sides,
easy to walk along top of but impossible to climb up on or down from on the sides -- this would have
religious significance, symbolizing the higher path that monks must follow without deviation to reach
their "peak" of Awakening. It is situated just to the west of the road in-between Gongju and Buyeo,
important cities of the the Baekje Kingdom (4th ~ 7th Cen.) that both served as capital in the kingdom's
later days -- this must have been another factor in its becoming regarded as a sacred mountain.
Janggok-sa [Guardian Valley Temple] was founded on the southwestern slope of its main western ridge
in 850, and a three-story granite pagoda is all that remains of another, smaller temple named Dorim-sa
[Dao-Forest Temple] on the northeastern side; it's rare and really a curious factor that there are no other
temples around this sacred mountain, no hermitages on the ridges above Janggok-sa.
On the Summit, 560.6 meters up -- there are two modern
stone monuments, the first a standing stone giving the
name in Chinese characters.
But the other was a granite-block Sanshin ritual-altar
established by the Cheongyang County government in
1995, under the name of its Mayor! Still 'rare', but defin-
itely a sign of the increasing higher status of Sanshin...