large and important "Finger-Pointing Monastery"
one of Korea's "Top 21 Temples"
The most famous monk associated with this temple is Master Samyeong-daesa (1544-1610). He was
orphaned at an early age and ordained at Jikji-sa at the age of sixteen. He then studied under Great Master
Hyujeong Seosan (1520-1604) in the Geumgang-san Diamond Mountains and both of them led an army of
some 5,000 trained soldier-monks to fight off the Imjin Japanese invasion of 1592. Jikji-sa was sacked
and burned near the beginning of this war. As the invaders neared Seoul, King Sonjo (1567-1608) fled the
capital, leaving a poorly-trained, weak army to defend the country. In desperation he called for aid to Master
Seosan, who in spite being 73 years old and living in retreat at Myohyang-san managed to recruit an army
of 5,000 monk-soldiers. Samyeong, one of Seosan's main disciples, was put in charge of the main part of
the defense efforts in southern Korea. After the piratical invaders finally returned home were routed, Master
Samyeong was sent as an envoy to the Japanese court in 1604 and, after completing a peace treaty, he
returned home with 3,000 prisoners and a sampling of the plundered artworks. As part of the royal awards
for his patriotic merit this temple was partially rebuilt. Master Samyeong died in 1610 at the Hongje-am
Hermitage of Gaya-san Haein-sa and there remains today a separate memorial shrine to him at Jikji-sa,
with both religious and patriotic significance for the multitudes of pilgrims.
Hwang-ak-san [Yellow-Crags Mountain] stands 1111 meters tall on the west side of Gimcheon
City, which forms the southwest corner of North Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsang-bukdo). It
is a significant member of the Baekdu-daegan Range-line. It hosts the very important Buddhist
monastery Jikji-sa and several related hermitages; in modern times it has become famous for
its splendid scenery and as an excellent tourist destination, with many motels at its feet and
restaurants that serve wonderful courses of Sanchae-jeongshik [wild-mountain-vegetables meal].
|Main Hall and Twin Pagodas in the Central Courtyard
|Pre-dawn Chanting-Ceremony in the Main Hall
|View at dawn from the Main Hall doorway
|Hermitages of Jikji-sa on Hwangak-san:
Jikji-sa [Finger-Pointing Monastery] at the base of Mt. Hwangak-san is one of the Top-20 Temples of
South Korea, and one of the oldest existing temples in all of Korea. It is believed to have been originally
established in 418 during the reign of King Nulchi (r. 417-458) by Master Ado Hwasang, a legendary missionary
from the Goguryeo Kingdom who is sometimes credited with being the first to introduce Buddhism to the
Shamanist Shilla Kingdom (which formally accepted Buddhism in 527, and definite records of any temples or
other Buddhist activity before that do not exist). Originally it was probably quite small, but Jikji-sa was rebuilt
much larger, to about 40 buildings, by Master Jajang-yulsa in 645 during the reign of Queen Seondeok (r. 632-
647). It enjoyed a major renovation in the 10th Century, by recommendation of Geomantic Master Doseon-guksa.
The name of the temple is very unusual, "Direct Pointing Temple." There are three theories concerning the origin.
Master Ado is reputed to have pointed to Mt. Hwangak-san and said, "There is a good place for a great temple
to be built." Elsewhere it is recorded that Master Nungyo of the late Goryeo Dynasty measured the site with his
hand instead of a ruler. Finally, the name reflects the core of Korean Buddhism, the teaching that describes
Zen as "direct pointing to the human heart, not relying on words and letters."
After almost total destruction during the 1592 Hideyoshi Invasion / Imjin War, only 20 buildings were
rebuilt in 1602. Accidental destruction by fires and reconstructions succeeded each other throughout
the Joseon Era, with its total modern renovation (including repairing some damage sustained in the
Korean War) was accomplished with governmental support from 1966 to 1981. It stands proudly
today as one of the Jogye Order's District Headquarters Monasteries, with active and popular
Meditation, Sutra-Study, Devotional and Temple-Stay programs.
The San-shin Painting of Jikji-sa is a magnificent
20th-Cen copy of an antique masterwork that has
now been lost, but is fairly similar in motif-details
to this classic favorite of Zo Zayong's collection,
and may indeed have been based on that. It is
unusually tall compared to its width (which seems
squeezed, may have been trimmed), tho overall not
very big. The plain cap on the mountain-king's
head, his "Fu Manchu" whiskers, and hands
resting on his knees holding nothing are
distinctively unusual. There is no halo, unlike
Zo's antique. The folkish tiger seems a bit
sleepy. The single dongja boy-attendant holds a
Seon meditation-master's fly-wisk. Note the large
willow-leaf-mantle on his shoulders and belt of
paulowina leaves around his waist -- these motifs
signify connection with / descent from Korea's
mythical founder-king Dan-gun Wanggeom.
The face is unusually kindly
and wise, excellently rendered.
Note the over-long ears, a motif
used to indicate longevity and
wisdom in Buddhist iconography.
After the One-pillar Gate there is the huge Four Guardians' Gate. On entering the compound you can see two three-storey
pagodas which date from the Unified Shilla Period; one in front of the Main Hall (Treasure No. 606) and one in front of the
1,000 Buddhas Hall (Treasure No. 607). In the Main Hall, a building representative of Choson architecture, there are the
Three Jewels, a name for the triad of Sakyamuni, Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha. The painting behind the statues is
Treasure No. 608. To the west there is a second big monastery compound which contains monks' living quarters, the
head monk's house, the meditation hall and various other buildings. There are other shrines as well.
Attached to the Avalokitesvara Hall is a memorial shrine for Master Samyeong. Inside the 1,000 Buddhas Hall there are
small white Buddhas made of Kyongju jade dating from the Choson Period; the main statues date from 1852. They form
a triad of Vairocana, the Medicine Buddha and Sakyamuni. Among the little statues there is one of a naked baby and it is
believed that if you see it first, then you will have a son. The pictures of the guardians date from 1886.
To the right is the Judgement Hall in which the Ten Judges are set in two rows of five. Each judge is accompanied by
three servants and two guardians ward off evil by the door. There is a Disciples' Hall which contains some lovely images
of the Buddha's enlightened followers. The most valuable object in Jikji-sa is a statue of the Medicine Buddha, Treasure
No. 319. It dates from the Unified Shilla Period and, guessing from the form of the statue, scholars place it at the end of
the 9th century. It is 1.61 meters high and both statue and halo are made of granite. The right hand is on the right knee
and the fingers are in a position known as "making evil surrender." In the left hand there is a vessel for medicine.
Jikjisa also has a famous bell. It is 1.44 meters high and the diameter of the mouth of the bell is 1.13 meters. According
to the inscription on the bell it was cast in 1713. On the upper part of the bell the mantras for breaking the hells and "Om
Mani Padme Hum" are inscribed. The top and the decorative strip are characteristic of Chinese bells and commonly
found on Joseon bells. Only just over three hours from Seoul, Jikji-sa Temple is a wonderful day's outing.
Old ondol (heated-floor) chimney,
and the Ilchul-mun Front Gate with
signboard "Hwang-ak-san Jik-ji-sa.
|Diamond Mountains Painting, with the crags anthropomorpized into buddhist figures,
on the outer wall of Samyeong's Shrine.
|Bodhidarma crossing the Yellow River, from the outer wall of the Main Hall.
Sanshin, holding a white-crane
feather-fan and a basket of
healing herbs, stands front-and-
center in the Shinjung-taenghwa
of Jikji-sa's Main Hall