the Dokseong (left) and 49-star Chilseong (right)
paintings enshrined in that Samshin-gak (below)
the tiger manages to look crazy, ferocious
and catlike all at the same time; he is
strangely squashed into a small space.
|the excellent antique Dokseong and 49-star Chilseong paintings displayed in that Seongbo Museum.
the Lonely Saint has a cut-open melon next to him, its seeds symbolizing fertility.
The front Ilchul-mun Gate, and the cover of their latest brochure
They both name this monastery in Chinese characters as "Samshin-san Ssanggye-sa" [Three-Spirits
Mountain Twin-Streams Temple], indicating that Samshin was considered as a separate mountain,
although it is now considered to be one of the peaks of the Jiri-san Mountains, and thus is labeled as
"Samshin-bong" [Three-Spirits Peak] on contemporary maps. It reaches 1284 meters at the end of a
7-km-long ridge running south from Yeongshin-bong [Spirit Peak] (1652m), a subsidiary of the highest
peak of Jiri-san, the Cheonhwang-bong --- and then branches off into two very long ridges running
further south (thru Shiru-bong 1100m, Hyeongje-bong 1115m & Shinseon-bong 600m, and also Chilseong-bong
899m & Gujae-bong 768m) and southeast (thru Jusan-bong 831m & Hoindeom-bong 645m), creating a great
long valley that shelters the renowned spiritual center Cheonghak-dong [Blue Crane Village, featuring the
Jinju-am and Samseong-gung Shrines] at its top and all Cheongam-myeon District in its lower area, source
of the famously-clean Hoingcheon-gang River. So, Samshin-bong forms the apex of a mountain-
geographical triangle with extremely auspicious geomantic features according to the traditional theories
of Pungsu-jiri-seol codified by the great Buddhist master Doseon-guksa.
Three is the most sacred & auspicious number in all the schemes of Korean religions, and the Samshin
are a leading object of worship in Korean Shamanism, usually represented as triplet children in white
robes and regarded as a powerful fertility/conception deity. They are often regarded, and sometimes
depicted, as governed by the Samshin-halmoni [Three-Spirits Grandmother], an ultimate-matriarch
figure much beloved by my mentor the late Zo Zayong. He regarded her as the 'mother of humanity'
and of key importance to understanding traditional Korean culture. It can be no accident that the
highest peak of Jiri-san, the Cheonhwang-bong, was and is thought to be inhabited by the Seongmo-
halmae San-shin [Holy-Mother Grandma Mountain-spirit] (icon of her below), another ultimate-matriarch
known as "'mother of the (Korean) nation" -- so similar in concept to the Samshin-halmoni spirit -- and
that this prominent and geomantically auspicious peak rising south of it is then called Samshin-bong --
implying that the triangle it is apex of is her 'triplet children'.
the painting of the Jiri-san Cheonhwang-bong Seongmo-halmae San-shin [Exquisite- Wisdom
Mountain Heavenly-King Peak Holy-Mother Grandma Mountain-spirit] enshrined in the
Samshin-gak [Three Spirits Shrine] of Ssanggye-sa, probably the most celebrated female
Sanshin icon in Korea. She appears quite regal, tho with no headgear save a large gold
hairpin, and her attendants stand by with symbols of royalty. She holds a long-handled fly-wisk,
symbol of an enlightened meditation-master. The tiger is realistic and fiercely on-the-hunt,
waterfalls are abundant, and yeongji-beoseot (yin medicine good for women) grows behind her.
this excellent antique San-shin painting is displayed in Ssanggye-sa's Seongbo Museum, and has
several interesting features. He wears the leaf mantles around his shoulders and waist that echo
Korea's Founding-King Dan-gun (see discussions and other examples in my book), is sparse Taoist cloud-
cap flies fancifully off his bald head, a white cloth in the shape of a bird is tied to his staff, echoing
Korea's seottae folk-traditions, and he is sitting with one leg crossed and the other down, like a
Bodhisattva (in Korea, especially Mireuk-bosal the future Buddha). There are water and clouds at
his feet instead of just above them behind him as usual; the stream fits the name of this temple.
|Overall View of Ssanggye-sa, from the ESE corner