in the Upper-North / Samjeong-bong / west-Macheon Sector of Jiri-san
Yeongwon-sa is one of Jiri-san's twelve great ancient traditional temples, and one of the most remote.
It is said to have been founded in 650 CE during the reign of the Shilla Kingdom's Queen Jindeok, by
an otherwise- unknown monk named Yeongwon, but nothing remains here from those ancient days.
Five eminent monks were known to serve here in the late Goryeo through Early Joseon Dynasties,
and it is mentioned in the Joseon-anrok historical records. It was burned down and looted during
the Japanese Imjin invasion, then rebuilt in the 1700s; other than this nothing is known for sure.
It was destroyed again in 1948 in the conflicts leading up to the Korean War by South Korean
soldiers fighting leftist partisans hiding in remote areas, but again re-constructed in the 1960s.
Until the 21st Century it was only accessible by a long walk on a trail through thick forest, but now
there is a 7-km-long narrow cement road leading up to it. It remains an isolated temple ideal for
deep meditations or studies, 900 meters up, which puts it within the top-12 highest temples in South
Korea. Several trail-only hermitages (including the famous Sang-muju-am) can be climbed to from
here, all on the eastern face of Samjeong-bong, peak of a long major ridge running straight north
from Jiri-san's main ridgeline, in Macheon-myeon District's western side.
The sign marking the entrance of the road to Yeongwon-sa is carved on a boulder.
As said "Yeong-won" was the name of the founder, and it is other-wise an interesting puzzle. The
first character "yeong" means "spirit", and the second one is quite rare in Sino-Korean, but is the
same as used in the term "yeong-won" meaning "eternity, permanence, perpetuity or immortality",
but with a different initial character pronounced "yeong" -- these are unusual ideas for Buddhism
or Daoism, which generally emphasize fluid impermanence. So, we have "spirit", and the second
character of "immortality" -- very similar to the popular Korean-Daoist term shinseon [spirit-immortals],
semi-divine beings of high attainment, thought to live in remote areas of sacred mountains like
Jiri-san -- they are commonly painted on the walls of mountain-temples (below). Probably, this
unusual name is referring to them as a hononym, suggesting that this temple is a home for them.
Beneath lotus-flower-motif dancheong,
very well-done Shinseon paintings are
displayed on the outside walls of that
shrine -- one looking very much like a
San-shin wth a leaf-fan and staff, a
dongja offering a holy-peach (upper-left
and upper-right), one very Buddhist with
a bullocho, a yeomju and an incense-
burner (upper-center), and one very
Daoist, playing a komungo zither with
a dongja playing a long flute (left).
|A stone turtle overlooks a small
pond next to the Main Hall
The doorway and signboard of the relatively new San-seong-gak [Mountain Sage
Shrine], and the excellent modern Dokseong & San-shin paintings found inside
of it. The Lonely Saint is surrounded by 4 birds, a flowering plum-branch,
bullocho, holy books, clouds, a waterfall and a pine tree, and holding a
dragon's-head staff and a yeomju -- an unusually rich complex of Neo-Confucian,
Buddhist, Daoist and natural symbols -- while Sanshin on a notably arid (rare!)
landscape is holding a Daoist leaf-fan in his right hand and making a Buddhist
"teaching-the-dharma" mudra with his left -- nearly unique! Lamps with red
oil replace the usual candles in front of these remarkable paintings.