the major new "Viewing Buddha Temple"
in the Inner-Northeast / Hamyang County Sector of Jiri-san
Gyeonbul-sa is a large and important newly-constructed Buddhist monastery of Jiri-san. It has been established
at about 500 m altitude in the Inner-Northeast Sector of these mountains, in southern Hamyang County, south of the
Eomcheon-gang River and in the northern foothills of Cheonhwang-bong Peak. Construction started around 2000,
and still has a long way to go, as this southeast-facing compound on an auspicious hyeol location is as large and
ambitious as it is beautiful. The photos above show its lower entranceway, with a huge stone turtle and a twisting
granite name-pillar beside the waterfall-gorge. Another stone shrine announces that the Samseong-gak [Three
Saints Shrine] Is located right here in the lower front of the compound -- quite unusual.
Gyeonbul-sa means "Viewing the Buddha Temple", and this name rooted in the Mahayana scriptures comes from the story of
its foundation. A senior and well-respected contemporary monk based in Seoul had a vivid dream during a period of intensive
meditation, in which he saw a great stone Buddha manifesting up from a ridge of the Jiri Mountains. It called to him to build a
temple within sight of it, so that it can be properly respected. The monk traveled to Jiri-san and searched all around, until he
found this site that has a view of the same crags that he saw in his dream -- they are right in-between a "male" peak to their
north and a "female" peak to their south. He found that the site was for sale, and immediately began raising money for purchase
and construction. My sun-washed photo of these crags from the upper-temple Is above -- you can see what seems to be the
Buddha's massive shoulders, with the head just beginning to manifest between them -- I'll try to get a better photo (in the a.m.)
later on. For a discussion of the Korean belief that prominent crags are Buddhas manifesting into this world, see this page.
Getting back to that Samseong-gak, its interior design is quite unique for Korea -- each of the two shrine-rooms has
a round red-lined door flanked by paintings of lotus-buds in a pond. Inside the first one, San-shin and Dok-seong are
enshrined as side-by-side statues in front of a Dok-seong painting, with two Dongja statues (see below).
On the side wall of that room is
a Zen/Daoist-flavored temple-
In the other shrine-room is an
altar for the Yong-wang, with
excellent colorful statue and
painting; on the side wall a
dragon dances in the clouds.
|Just behind those lower buildings including the Samseong-gak Is a rocky cliff that turned out, as I expected,
to contain an old niche-shrine where the San-shin was once worshiped by local shamans -- this is the origin
of this site's status as a holy area. It's 'cleaned out' now; that's my hiking-friend Shawn standing in it.
|The voluminously-gushing gorge that runs through
this site, and the brand-new large stone
monument they have erected in the center.
The pretty Shilsang Seonwon Is a separate Hermitage of Gwanbul-sa, just 50 m down-
stream from the lower buildings shown at the top of this page. It is specially devoted to Seon meditation, and is named after the
great Shilsang-sa Monastery, one of Korea's original 'Zen' temples, located just west of here. It has no San-shin icon of its own.
|It does, however, have a granite Chinese-style Maitreya-Buddha Statue in its garden-yard, And what looked to me like the
head of a dragon-turtle poking up through the waterfall that comes out from under the bridge... I named it yongdu-bawi.
We were invited to walk up and have tea at the upper Main Hall / Residence,
which had some unusual figures in its front yard ( with a grassy lawn, a queer
Western touch) -- including the Baby-Buddha on a white elephant ( an icon used
for commemorations of Buddha's birthday), stone infant monks & a stone cherub.
That Main Hall in the upper sector contains excellent modern San-shin and Dok-seong paintings along with its
Buddhas. The mountain-king merely holds a standard fan while his girl-dongja picks flowers behind him (almost
unique!), while the Lonely Saint is depicted with the rare starving-Sakyamuni-before-enlightenment motif.