The Nine Highest Temples
of South Korea
Which Buddhist monastery in South Korea enjoys the highest-altitude site?
There are actually nine temples and hermitages that compete for this
honor, and as far as I can tell by studying topo-maps, there are two tied at
about 1500 meters and then three others about 1200~1300 meters, and
four between 1000~1160m;  none others are above 1000m.  
It's notable that among these 9 highest, four of them are on Jiri-san, Korea's most-sacred
mountain.  Height is associated with sacredness, from Korea's deep
Shinseon [spirit-
immortal] traditions, and so this ranking is important to them.  They are all near auspicious
peaks of venerated mountains.  The Chinese commonly built Buddhist & Daoist temples
right on the summits of holy mountains, but Koreans never did so -- a striking difference
between these neighboring nations -- perhaps out of a deeper respect for the San-shin,
and caution against offending it by acting triumphantly arrogant & ostentatious.
Taebaek-san Cheonje-dan Manggyeong-sa  (1500m)  태백산 망경사

Jiri-san  Banya-bong  Myohyang-am    (1500m)   지리산 묘향암

Jiri-san Cheonhwang-bong   Beobgye-sa      (1300m)  지리산 법게사

Seorak-san Daecheong-bong  Bongjeong-am  (1250m)  설악산 봉정암

Jiri-san  Samjeong-bong    Sang-Muju-am    (1200m)                  

Jiri-san  Samjeong-bong    Dosol-am           (1160m)                  

Hambaek-san (Taebaek-san) Jeokjo-am       (1140m)  
{i haven't been there yet}

Chiak-san  Namdae-bong   Sangwon-sa        (1080m)  치악산 상원사

Unmun-san (W of Gaji-san)  Sam-am-sa (or Sam-ak-sa?)  (1000m)
{i haven't been there yet}
Note:  there is another temple of Hambaek-san indicated on my best 2005 1:50,000 map -- Eunjeok-am at 1260m,
just north of Hambaek's summit and about 1000m east from Jeokjo-am (on the other side of the main ridge from it).
It is not indicated on my other maps.  In October 2006 I attempted to find it, hiking all over that area on that side of the
ridge with a friend, but we found only heavily-forested wilderness.  A ski resort was under construction a little further
down in that valley, so the road up from that direction is currently blocked.  So, I don't know if this temple really exists or
not -- it could just be a mistake on the map, the symbol could be in the wrong location, or a Hermitage may once have
existed there but no longer does (fire or etc) -- we just don't know.  If anyone has any information about this supposed
high-altitude temple, please contact me.
Note:  some important traditional temples are sitting just under the
1000-meter line:  
Deogyu-san Hyangjeok-bong Baekryeon-sa   940m
Jiri-san
Samjeong-bong  Yeongwon-sa          900m
Jiri-san
Samjeong-bong  Muju-am                  860m
Jiri-san
Samjeong-bong  Sambul-sa               780m
Hambaek-san
(Taebaek-san) Jeong-am-sa    850m
(this last one is one of the most important of  
the highest-altitude ancient monasteries).