Just two years ago, in the year 2000, the Sancheong County government arranged the carving of
a new statue of the Jiri-san Cheon-hwang-bong Seong-mo-halmae San-shin, and enshrined it
within view of the main parking lots and restaurants of the Beobgye-sa-ipgu area (just across the
stream to the east). It is of the same style and posture as the original statue, albeit with a fatter
face. Citizens are encouraged to bow and pray to it for their personal bok [good fortune] and for
national reunification, peace and prosperity. When I discovered it in May 2001, a bus-load of
middle-aged women from Busan City (3 hour distant) were there for a day of supplication. This is
the first time I have ever seen such open government approval of and support for San-shin worship
-- truly revolutionary in modern Korea, where officialdom is typically dominated by Christians.
A large bi-seok [inscribed stone monument] stands next to the statue, with a very
interesting inscription in Korean (badly and partially translated into English at the
bottom) written by Choson Ilbo [Korea Daily-newspaper] editor Li Kyu-tae:
"STATUE of the HOLY MOTHER
In the period of the Three Kingdoms our ancestors
served this goddess, which connects the heavenly
heart [cheon-shim] to the human heart [in-shim], by
enshrining a statue similar to this one on the highest
peak of this huge, lofty and celebrated mountain.
Jiri-san is renown as one of the "Three Spiritual
Mountains", and this statue of the goddess called
the Holy Mother [seong-mo] or the Heaven-ruling
Grandmother [cheon-hwang-halmoni] has blessed
us with plenty of miracles.
Holy Mother, the primary goddess of our entire
nation, with its statue handed down through many
generations, has been worshiped in various ways
and under various names as time has gone by, but
has always fulfilled our people's wishes. It was
once worshiped as Ma-go, the Chinese (Daoist)
"Immortal" who was believed to offer eternal youth
[bullo-jangsu] and all-going-well [mansa-hyeong-
tong]. It also represents the same Holy Mother as
Queen Wisuk, mother of the founder of the Goryeo
Dynasty [Taejo Wang Geon], whose prayers were
believed to have made the re-unification of the Later
Three Kingdoms possible. Before King Taejo
ascended to the throne, he defeated a gang of
Japanese pirates that had penetrated deeply into
Jiri Mountain. A long time after that, some other
Japanese pirates took revenge by cutting into the
body of the Holy Mother. Because this Holy Mother
was thought by her grace to control the clouds and
mist, it was later granted an official government rank
entitled "Defender of the Nation" [Ho-guk-baek].
|The new statue of the Jiri-san Seong-mo Halmae
San-shin, installed under the auspices of Sancheong
County officials in Korean Year 4333 (2000 AD).
"The legends of Korean Shamanism say that
this Holy Mother is the ancestor of all Korean
folk- culture; she taught her 8 daughters the
military arts and then sent them out to the Eight
Provinces (of Korea), and thus she is believed
to be a sacred image for praying to for the
welfare of the people.
"During the Japanese annexation, this statue
was considered as an anti-Japan goddess. In
some case, it was abandoned down to a valley.
It suffered, and was found to be covered all over
with wounds and worn out. At the present time,
it is designated as Gyeongsang-namdo
Provincial Cultural Asset #14 and enshrined in
Heavenly-King Temple [Cheonhwang-sa] which
sits at the base of a ridge running down from
Heavenly-King Peak [Cheonhwang-bong].
|Jiri-san's Cheonhwang-bong summit
seen from the north (Hamyang County)