the Three Sages Palace
Korea's Daoist Utopia in the SW part of Cheonghak-dong
in the Far-South (Hadong, below Samshin-bong) Sector of Jiri-san
The "Palace of the Three Sages" in Azure Crane Village, 1998
As said on the previous page, there are two different native-Korean religious cults that make their home in the
legendary remote Azure (refined blue) Crane Village [
Cheonghak-dong].  The less-known (but more interesting,
in my opinion) one occupies the south-western side of the alpine valley, in an area also called the Spirit-immortal
Valley [
Shinseon-gol] or Daoist-Masters Village [Do-in-cheon].  They are led by a hereditary Daoist priest and
martial-arts teacher by the name of Ham Pil who is called by the title
Seon-sa [meditation-master], who claims
that his family-based Daoist lineage has occupied that land for 400 years.
<--- myself standing with the
"Cheonhwang Halmae San-shin"
statue of the Samseong-gung, an uncut
stone in humanoid-bust form, found
by Master Ham Pil after a dream of her
guided him to it.  For much more
about Her,
see these pages.
He has led the construction of the earthly-paradise they call the Three Sages Palace [Samseong-gung],
especially the hundreds of stone pagoda-towers [
dol-tap].  The group is devoted to martial arts,
meditation, Korean traditions and ceremonial worship of the "Three Sages" (see below) enshrined in the
building shown above.  Serenely confident in their basic orientation of extreme Korean-cultural-
nationalism, they maintain a serious, dignified, religious atmosphere here.  Their colorful semi-annual
festivals, however, are filled with joy, friendship, drink and dance.  Casual "tourists" are not welcome,
but they admit all with a sincere desire for knowledge, readiness to participate and respectful attitude --
a refreshing difference from most other "folk culture" sites in Korea.  Visiting the Samseong-gung is a
privilege that leaves a lasting spiritual impression; it is my choice for "the coolest place in Korea".   
My friend Frank Tedesco and
his daughter Serenity amid the
towers; they were with me and
my wife on my fourth visit in
Spring 2001.  The group
requests that all visitors wear
their Korean-style robes while
in the compound, a nice atmos-
pheric touch that maintains a
sober and sacred mood.
The "Three Sages" of Korea's Foundation-myth, as enshrined in the main hall:
In the center is Hwan-in, Lord of Heaven.  On the left is his son Hwan-eung, who descended
to the peak of a sacred mountain long ago, to bring civilized government and thus "benefit
humanity".  On the right is HIS son
Dan-gun, half-human and half-divine, who founded the first
Korean Kingdom and ruled as Shaman-king for some 1900 years before retiring as the San-shin
of either Myohyang-san or Guwol-san (now in North Korea).  See pages 132-139 in my book for
more info. These photos were all taken from an angle, as the paintings are covered by glass.

More Paintings of these Deities, and  "Dan-gun's Tomb" in NK
Another good 2001 shot of the Samseong-gung,
featuring their "jade-comma"-shaped pond
(or embryo,
cashew-nut, fetus or half-of-yin-yang -shaped; anyway, an
ancient Korean & Chinese jewel-form)
, performance area,
Main Shrine and the magnificent surrounding scenery
of Jiri-san's
Samshin-bong [Three Spirits Peak] area).
the compound with almost nobody around, Spring 1998
A patriotic young Korean woman in traditional hanbok dress kneels in respectful prayer at the original Cheon Gung
[Heavenly Palace] shrine for the Three National Founders (see below) in 1993. This building was replaced by the
larger convex-shaped shrine shown at top and above, in the late 1990s.  At right is a glance inside the 1993 shrine.
"Neo-Traditionalism Abounds Here" -- updated symbols of Korea's indigenous folk-religion near the entranceway;
that's my old friend Roger Windsor, on his first visit to Korea, between the
jangseung spirit-guardian poles
The simple wooden front-gate,  and a guard in traditional martial-arts uniform at the second gate (a passageway
between boulders -- he periodically announced in a loud voice that only sincere pilgrims of Korean culture may
enter this shrine; mere tourists are not welcome, and quiet respectful behavior is required of all who come to visit.
Cheonghak-dong resident
bridge over the beautiful pond near Samseong-gung's entrance
archers wait to begin their tournament, in 1993
Neo-Traditionalist Buddhist-themed stone towers built
by Master Ham Pil; the compound has hundreds of them.