|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.
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
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).