the Rooster-Dragon Mountain
Gyeryong-san's traditionally-most-sacred area, the large valley at the southern foot of
Heavenly-King Peak, was initially favored for the site of the capital city of the Goryeo
Dynasty in 935 CE (and so Gaetae-sa Temple was built just to the south) and was briefly chosen
by pungsu-jiri geomancers as the site of the capital city of the Joseon Dynasty in 1390 CE
(foundation stone were laid before Founding-King Taejo Yi changed his mind and made Hanyang/Seoul
his new capital, following the advice of geomancy-master-monk Muhak-daesa, who based it on the advice/
prophescy of Doseon-guksa). This holy southern valley was taken over as the headquarters
base of the Korean Army in the late 1970s, and is closed to the public. For that reason the
main peak, which has military and civilian communications-towers on it, is not usually open.
the modern monument on
of Compassion Peak],
at 816 meters
MAP of the Gyeryong-san Area:
Gyeryong-san has been one of Korea's most sacred mountains since ancient times.
It was the central holy mountain of the Baekje Kingdom, the Western Peak of the
O-ak of the Unified Shilla and Goryeo Dynasties, and the Central Peak of the
Sam-ak of the Joseon Dynasty. It's not very high at all -- the summit is
Cheon-hwang-bong [Heavenly-King Peak] at only 848 meters -- but it stands out
prominently on the West Coast flatlands where few mountains top 1000 m. It has
half-a-dozen other main peaks, mostly with classical Buddhist names.
The name means "Rooster-Dragon Mountain", given because of the way it looks --
the main ridge winds around like a dragon's body, and the 20 or so sharp peaks
along it resemble a cockscomb when viewed from a distance. Both the Rooster
and the Dragon are members of the Twelve Symbolic Animals of the Oriental
Zodiac, and thus the name has deeper resonant meanings.
Several dynasties have planned or attempted to build their capital here, and it has
always attracted a wide variety of religious enthusiasm to its slopes.
Gyeryong-san is now the most-heavily-visited attraction in South Chungcheong Province,
located just west of Daejeon City (a few km southwest of the famous Yuseong Hot Spings District) and
easily accessible from the expressway. In 1968 it became the second area designated as a
National Park, with 61 square kilometers of territory. It features three main ancient Buddhist
temples -- Gap-sa (one of the oldest existing temples in Korea), Donghak-sa (the main study-
temple for the nation's female monks) and Shinwon-sa (featuring the largest and fanciest pre-
modern San-shin-gak in Korea) -- and dozens of fascinating hermitages and shamanic shrines.
The rest of the park is crisscrossed with a dozen main hiking trails, often crowded. Three
fine waterfalls grace the valleys, one in the center, one in the south (closed to the public)
and the other on the Northwest. The scenery here, combined with profound cultural
treasures, make it one of the best places in Korea to explore. The regions surrounding the
park in every direction are unusually rich with traditional cultural sites for the traveler to enjoy.
The name "Gyeryong" may have been derived from the myth of Alyeong,
the first queen of the Shilla Kingdom, as told in the Samguk-yusa.
When Founding-King Bak Hyeok-geose was born (hatched from a giant
egg found next to the Na-jeong Well on sacred Mt. Nam-san, in Saro
village-valley that became Gyeongju), the elders decided that a suitable
wife needed to be found. On that day, in Saryang village there appeared
a strange creature that was a cross between a rooster and a dragon,
called a Gye-ryong [Korean pronunciation of chinese characters for
"chicken" and "dragon"). From its left side a girl was born (similar to the
myth of Sakyamuni Buddha being born from his mother's right side;
similar also th the Jewish myth of Eve?).
She was a beautiful child, but she had the beak of a chicken. When she
was taken to be bathed, however, the beak fell off. The child took her
name from the Alyeong well next to which she was born, and she was
married to Pak Hyeok-geose when she reached the age of thirteen.