KOREA'S  SACRED  MATRIARCH
Jiri-san Cheonhwang-bong  Seongmo-halmae San-shin
[Exquisite-Wisdom Mountain Heavenly-King Peak Holy-Mother Grandma Mountain-spirit]
in the Inner-Southeast Sector of Jiri-san
There are a only few extant cases of female San-shin artworks, or a male-female pair, less
than ten-percent of my collection of 600.  Almost all of them were found at just three mountains:
Surak-san of Seoul, Gyeryong-san near Daejeon City, and on the slopes of the great Cheon-
hwang-bong on the eastern end of Jiri-san (see pages 37-40 of my First Edition).   The most
famous one is at
Sam-shin-bong Ssanggye-sa just south of Cheonhwang-bong where the
San-shin is depicted in a painting as a matronly woman
(shown on page 37 of my book and here).
Indeed, the Jiri-san Cheonhwang-bong Seong-mo-halmae San-shin
[Exquisite-Wisdom Mountain Heavenly-King Peak Holy Mother
Grandma Mountain-spirit] is the most important and influential female
San-shin in all of Korea, and has few superiors among all Korean deities.

She is regarded as the wife of the
Baekdu-san Sanshin, and therefore as
National Ancestral Matriarch -- the other peaks of the
Baekdu-daegan
MainRange running between them and defining the topograhpy of the
Korean Peninsula are their children, the Jimaek Ranges branching-off
from it are their grand-children, and so-on -- the family they form is "Korea".
This concept was utilized by Korea's Neo-Confucians to accept Sanshin
beliefs and ceremonies into their rationalist but family-oriented ideology.

A few other Shamanic believers regard Jiri-san as really manifesting two
San-shin, a mated couple: the
Cheon-hwang [Heavenly-King, name of a
major guardian] is the husband, and
Seong-mo-halmae [Holy Matriarch]
is his wife; another tradition posits Banya-bong as the patriarch-husband
here.  Some temples there now feature a San-shin-gak with a matched
pair of male & female San-shin
taenghwa paintings and/or statues.
Whichever the case, Jiri's San-shin is said to have seven or eight
daughters, enlightened shamanic women who are responsible for
the development of indigenous culture all over Korea (this motif is
shared by the Daoist deities
Okhwang-sangje or "Jade Upper
Emperor" of Heaven and the
Yong-wang or "Dragon King" of the
waters).  It has been respected, praised and supplicated
by common folk, aristocrats and kings from the early
Shilla Kingdom up until the present day.
the original statue of the Holy
Matriarch, now safely enshrined
at Cheon-hwang-sa Temple.
There was a shrine built on Cheonhwang-bong
[1915 meters, mainland South Korea's highest peak]
long ago, containing a simple granite statue of
Seongmo-halmae San-shin.  It is just less than one
meter tall, and depicts a broad-faced woman, seated
cross-legged in the Korean style with her hands
clasped (as if in prayer of respect) in front of her
heart.  Its age is unknown, but by looking at it I
guessed at least a thousand years.  The shrine was
torn down and the statue thrown off the peak to tumble
down into a wilderness valley, in the 1970's.  The
abbot of Cheonhwang-sa Temple at the southern foot
of Cheonhwang-bong (in an obscure side-valley of the
Beobgye-sa ipgu area, a major trailhead) says that this
was done by a group of Korean Christian fanatics.
He claims to have spent more than a decade searching the steep, thickly-forested gullies for it, finally
recovering it in 1987.  He cemented it into a boulder-base at his temple for security, and has built a large
prayer-area in front of it.  Provincial government officials investigated it and confirmed its authenticity.  
They designated it Gyeongsang-namdo Folklore Material #14, and set up a signboard reading:
" THE HOLY MOTHER OF MT. JIRI-SAN:

From Ancient times native folk beliefs have regarded this figure as a goddess who
could communicate with both Heaven and Earth.  It is the patron of Mt. Jiri-san.
There are references to the Holy Mother in many historic documents and literature;
for example, in the
Survey of the Geography of Korea [Tungguk Yoji-songnam]
compiled in the 15th century and Yi Nung-hwa's
History of Buddhism written in the
early 20th century.  Seo Ko-jong, a late 15th century scholar, noted in his
Anthology of Korean Literature that monk Toson (827-899) [this would be
Doseon-daesa, a great geomancer and meditation-master who assisted the
foundation of the Goryeo Dynasty
] prayed to the "Heavenly Queen Holy Mother,
the mistress of Mt. Jiri-san."  It is also recorded that Kim Jong-jik, an outstanding
Neo-Confucian scholar of the 15th century, visited the shrine of the Holy Mother
on top of
Cheonhwang-bong Peak and prayed for good weather."
{stylistic corrections made by myself}.
The San-shin taeng-hwa painting of Cheonhwang-sa Temple, new home of the Holy
Mother statue.  Having two tigers in it is fairly unusual (often indicating two equal
San-shin's), and having a Buddhist Bodhisattva standing on one of them is unique.  
The artist may have intended the two figure-groups here as representing a Buddhist-
Shamanist 'couple' representing this peak (the standard male Daoist San-shin here
as the Cheonhwang-bong San-shin) and also
Banya-bong (the Bodhisattva figure
representing the more Buddhist 'Wisdom-Peak San-shin') -- or it could be seen as a
male-female couple, the Cheonhwang-sanshin (husband) and the Seongmo-sanshin
(wife), both of this same summit.
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