|One of Korea's Holiest Mountains
the mighty 1430-meter peak, seen from Wondang-am to its
SW. Haein-sa is in the deep valley to the right.
|a foggy morning, looking south from Haein-sa
|Right & below: the over-life-size "Teaching the Dharma" Buddha
carved on a free-standing stone, on the trail to Gaya's Peak
|my shots of Gaya's peaks, from my hike there at the end of December 1982
| Mt. Gaya-san is called one of the "Ten Refuges" meaning the best places for Koreans to take
shelter, in both physical and spiritual senses. It is remote from any population center, standing
off to the east of the Sobaek Mountain-Range (the Baekdu-daegan ridgeline), and is nearly a full
circle of high steep densely-forested mountains -- there is only one long narrow twisting gorge
leading in (or out) of it, making it ideal for defense (as was proven during the Imjin invasion by
the Japanese in 1592 98). The famous woodblocks for printing the Tripitaka Koreana collection
of Buddha scriptures, one of Korea's greatest national treasures, have found unblemished
refuge here for more than 500 years.
This 1430-meter summit is the highest peak in all of South Korea except for Gangwon Province
that is not on the Baekdu-daegan. There are six other peaks in the group above 1000 meters,
and plenty of slightly lower ones. The many trails through remote wilderness and offering
spectacular views make it a hiker's paradise as well as a spiritual center. The 77 km², mostly
within South Gyeongsang Province, became Korea's ninth National Park in 1972.
Gaya-san was once a powerful though remote center of shamanic practices, and it may have
been considered an important place by the early "Gaya" tribal-confederations on Korea's
southeast coast -- however, it is now thought that its name does not come from that "Gaya"
proto-kingdom but rather is a Buddhist name representing Bodhgaya, the place in northern India
where Sakyamuni Buddha attained his enlightenment.
It gained renowned as the Unified Shilla monk Goseung Suneung founded Haein-sa Temple in
its main valley in 802 CE. It has been said that when Suneung was studying doctrines in China
in his younger years, the great Chinese Master Jigong told him a prophecy that a great temple
would be established here. After the precious woodblocks were moved here for protection in
the 1400s, it became known as one of the Joseon Dynasty's "Eight Spiritual Mountains".
|a sanak-hoi [mountain-hiking association] performing a Sanshin-je [Mountain-spirit Ceremony]
just below one of Gaya'san's peaks, on New Year's Day 2003
|the "Pond of Reflection" near Haein-sa -- named
after the theme of that famous temple's name
|Gaya's Sanghwang-bong [Upper-Emperor Peak] from opposite sides in opposite seasons
|one of the 15 Hermitages (sub-temples, some quite large) that surround Haein-sa -- and another in the distance
|Gaya's Chilbul-bong [Seven Buddhas
Peak] in deep winter, from Wikimedia
|Hiking Map -- Haein-sa is the red oval in the center
Gaya's Summit in Winter, seen from Haein-sa area (from Wikimedia)