Sunday, June 11, 2017

Spirit of the Mountain, Inwangsan

David Mason, author of Spirit of the Mountain, gave a walking tour of Inwangsan (also euphemistically known as Witch Mountain) and Sajik-dan, the altar for prayers related to earth and grain.  Some of the highlights of the tour are:

Near Sajik-dan is the shrine to Dangun, founding father to the Korean nation as it is today. Dangun was the grandson of heaven and the son of a bear (see Korean creation myth).  He is said to be the one who brought the Bronze Age culture to Stone Age Korea. And being the grandson of a god, he is said to be immortal ... that is, he became the Sanshin, the Mountain Spirit (god), and his spiritual presence is still worshipped in Korea today. The shrine to Dangun is the largest shrine in the Korean peninsula, and in the shrine, unlike pictures of old venerated men with the gray-of-wisdom hair, Dangun is seated amidst red pine (the supreme tree of Korea) with white cranes (the messenger bird that carries messages to and from heaven) and having black-as-midnight hair. The hair symbolizes his immortality, just as the pine and cranes symbols his connection to heaven.

The Benevolent King emanating from the rocks on Mt. Inwang

The Benevolent King sitting cross-legged with the tiger rock to the right and a black bird, perhaps a magpie, slightly above the tiger. Of course the Benevolent King sits among red pine trees; he is robed in heavenly trees.
View from Seon-bawi, slightly below the Benevolent King.
Source: Dan-gun Shrine at the southern foot of Inwang-san, just above Sajik Altars Park
"Above, the craggy-peak on the left is the In-wang or Benevolent* King himself (in a seated position seen in left profile), or the San-shin if you will, overlooking downtown Seoul. To his right (the other rocky peak) is his accompanying Tiger (pet / servant / guardian / mount / enforcer / alter-ego) with a dark bird perched behind his head. These natural boulder-cliff-formations are among Korea's most significant sacred monuments, serving as masters over the nation's most active center of Shamanism and folk-religious traditions. They are both "manifesting" up out of this mountain in geological time. (Read more on this Korean concept of spirits manifesting upwards in stone is.)  Between and behind them is, most unfortunately, a military base, because this most sacred peak overlooks the Gyeongbok-gung Palace (main royal seat 1392-1910) and Korea's Presidential Mansion (Cheonwadae, the "Blue House").  
These unique rocky outcroppings on the southern cliff face of this mountain, along with other striking natural features such as the Seon-bawi (directly below the King) have attracted shamanic worship to this place since before recorded history. The main figure can be seen as a Benevolent King that will rule humankind (or at least Koreans) in a utopian state when he finally finishes manifesting, or as a kind of natural Buddha statue, or as Mireuk-bul (the Buddha who will come in the future for universal enlightenment and salvation), or the best interpretation (in my opinion), as the very powerful San-shin [Mountain-spirit] of these crags manifesting into the world in stone in his role as King of the Mountain (as he is usually painted, wearing distinctly royal clothing), extended to national significance (could even be seen as the return of Founding-King Dan-gun, who is sort of the San-shin of all Korea). The fact that he (or she?) is side-by-side with a crouching tiger certainly lends weight to the San-shin interpretation -- as that deity is always depicted in icons accompanied by a tiger (Korea's national animal). 
Seon-bawi - Originally meaning "immortal rocks" but now translation provided as "meditation rocks". David Mason thinks by translating the rocks as meditation instead of immortal, the rocks can better be explained by Buddhism, which how the area is now being referred to ... not as a place for shamanic traditions but as a Buddhism temple grounds.
*The Chinese character pronounced In is one of the most important in Oriental philosophy; it is often translated benevolence, or maybe human-hearted, or simply Good / goodness; it's a key Confucian and Neo-Confucian term, as the master himself repeatedly used it to describe how rulers ought to act towards those under them (if they do not they are not to be considered legitimate rulers).It is also heavily used by Buddhists due Inwang-gyeong [Benevolent King Sutra] which was very influential in the early centuries CE when Mahayana Buddhism became established in China and spread to the Korean Peninsula."  
[On the highly-sacred "Benevolent King" Mountain, Shamanic center of Korea's Capitalan important part of the Bukhan-san Sub-Range]

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