the holy 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 & 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
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.
|At the 2000 Gyeryong-san Mountain-spirit Ritual-Festival, the famous shaman Manshin Lee Ae-ju
performs a veneration rite together with Buddhist monks, on the Third Full Moon.
|Large icon-painting of the female Sanshin Mountain-spirit of Gyeryong-san, used in that Festival.