Jiri-san Nogo-dan  Cheoneun-sa
지리산 노고단  천은사
[Wisdom-Discernment Mountain Crone-Altar Peak  "Hidden Spring" Temple]
One of the 12 Great Temples of Jiri-san,  in its Southwestern Sector
At the foot of mighty and venerable Nogo-dan Peak,
Cheoneun-sa Temple was founded in 828
(the same year
that
green tea was first planted farther east in front of Ssangye-sa).
Its present configuration and some of the buildings are
from a reconstruction in the late 1700s.  Its main fame is as
an extremely charming place, with easy access for tourists
on their way driving up on the paved road to Nogo-dan, and
a 1776 Sakyamuni Buddha altar-painting
(Treasure #924).
The Korean term Cheon-eun 천은 usually
means "Heavenly Blessings", especially used
by Christians, and for years I thought that was
the name of this temple -- there are indeed
two other Buddhist temples named Cheoneun-sa
(an old one in Samcheok County, and a new
one in Wonju County) that use those Chinese
characters.  However, the characters for this
ancient monastery mean "spring" (source of
water) and "hidden" (not publicly known) --
reversed in order, which is strange but
sometimes happens with place-names here --
and so it means "Hidden Spring", perhaps
implying that this temple is a source of esoteric
but life-enriching spiritual wisdom.
the old Main Hall and new Stone Lantern
Following the ancient tradition,
before paintings and statues
began to be used in the late 1700s,
Cheoneun-sa's only San-shin icon
was this uncut stone set in a rock-
shrine behind the Main Hall, against
the temple's back wall.  Carved
Chinese characters read
"Monument of Mountain King".

There are two more examples of
these primitive crude-stone San-
shin icons nearby here
(on following
pages)
and a few more nationwide;
they are now rare.
When I visited in 2001, however, a new modern-style Samseong-gak [Three Saints Shrine] had been
built, and these excellent paintings were displayed.  Above is the San-shin with two superb
dongja.
Dok-seong and his boy-attendant -- note the unique ginseng-root-legs golden teapot!!!
the Chil-seong Painting, with a very Sanshin-style Bukseong-shin [North Star]