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.   Some regard Jiri-san as manifesting one female San-shin,
but others hold that there are really two, 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; some
temples there now feature a San-shin-gak with a matched pair of
male & female San-shin taeng-hwa 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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