|Yeongwon-sa and Godam-sa 영원사 & 고담사
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).
Godam-sa [Ancient Story Temple, referring to Folklore] is a small Goryeo Dynasty
worship-site that lay in ruins for centuries (just a source of legends) on the north-eastern slope of
Samjeong-bong, on the western side of Macheon-myeon, just north of where the small road to
Yeongwon-sa begins. It may have been founded as early as 800 CE, but there is no clear evidence.
Only this makeshift-Main-Hall now serves to honor the Goryeo standing-Buddha relief-on-boulder
carving. The hall has a window looking to the Buddha over its altar rather than any icon.
A very nice Lotus Pond offers a view of Chang-am-san (923m),
while the overgrown Sanshin-gak of this temple is made of
stone walls in front of another boulder.
The San-shin icons inside are
very simple and cheap, like
the ones most shamans use.
This fine standing-Buddha
relief-on-boulder carving has
stood here since it was made
in the Goryeo Dynasty nearly a
thousand years ago, but was
"lost" for centuries. It was only
recently rediscovered and
cleaned off, and is now Korea's
Treasure #375. Godam-sa has
only recently appeared on
maps of this area. It would be
quite famous if it were almost
anywhere else -- it just goes to
show how culturally-rich Jiri-san
is, that an antique artwork like
this can be considered a minor
site of little note...
|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 relatively-arid 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