Wisdom-Discernment Mountain's Crone-Altar Peak
in the Southwestern Sector of Jiri-san
Mighty and venerable Nogo-dan Peak reaches 1,507 meters at the western end of Jiri's long Main Ridge.
It's the third of Jiri's three main peaks, after Cheonhwang-bong and Banya-bong, and is famous for being so much more
easily accessible than them. A paved highway makes a 1100-m-high pass just 2 km to Nogo-dan's west, and a large
parking lot with restaurants and etc has been built beside it; it's always crowded on a good-weather weekend. A wide
flagstone-and-gravel road winds up to the peak, past a Ranger/Information Station and a hiker's hostel. Just above that
are evocative ruins of some stone-walled buildings that were built by American Protestant missionaries in the early 20th
century for their use as a summer retreat; during the Korean War, Communist partisan-guerrillas used them as a base,
they were destroyed in the fighting, and they were never rebuilt. The summit of Nogo-dan is famous for its huge stone
towers and stunning views over the western Jiri area. That actual summit has been closed (fenced off) for almost 15 years
now under the National Park Administration's ecological restoration project, but the trail has been rerouted over a
secondary summit on which there are also several stone towers for tourist to take pictures at.
I translate Nogo-dan as "Crone Altar", because Nogo is a native Korean word designating a wise and powerful
old woman, in a familiar way. This name refers to a female San-shin of Jiri-san, who is regarded as the mythical
Mother of the Founder-King of the Shilla Kingdom/Dynasty, Bak (Park) Hyeok-geose (himself regarded as the
Mountain-spirit of Gyeongju's Toham-san). She was revered as a guardian deity of the nation and memorial rites
to her were held at Nogo-dan every spring and autumn. There does not seem to be any evidence that this
San-shin was regarded as the same famous Mountain-goddess worshipped at Cheonhwang-bong; she seems
to be a different deity, giving Jiri-san as a whole a unique arrangement of three San-shins -- two female at the
east and west ends and a male in the "middle" (Banya-bong). For an artistic depiction of this arrangement, see
the great painting of Nogo-dan's Sudo-am.
The Hwarang, aristocratic-Buddhist-warrior youths of Shilla, are said to have used the peaks and slopes of this
area as a training ground for both body and mind after its capture from the Baekje Kingdom.
|Nogo-dan's summit in 1993, already fenced-off
My friend Roger at Nogo-dan's secondary summit in October 1993,
and a beautiful tall waterfall near the highway on Nogo's NW slope.