Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power

Sanshin: The Mountain Spirit

 Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Odae-san Woljeong-sa

Koreans still very strongly maintain traditions as old as their culture itself, that mountains are especially holy places of communication of energies between heaven and earth. The sacred aspects of these mountains and their relationships with the human communities around them are in body in the ideas and icons of Sanshin [Mountain-spirit]. These are patriarchal or matriarchal deities, usually depicted in royal clothing, sitting in high alpine splendor, and holding symbols of health, longevity and harmony with nature. They are always accompanied by a tiger, symbol of the powers of the wilderness. Paintings of them include Buddhist, Shamanic, Confucian, Daoist and nationalist motifs, making them uniquely multi-religious icons, and out of some 10,000 that have been painted on the peninsula for the past three centuries, no two are alike. No work of art better symbolizes and summarizes Korean culture and the intimate relationship Koreans have with their natural environment.

Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Taebaek-san Hyeonbul-sa


Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Taebaek-san Gakwon-sa


Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Seorak-san Shinheung-sa


Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Sobaek-san Buseok-sa


Sanshin the Mountain-spirit
Painting of Sanshin Mountain-spirit at Jiri-san Hwaeom-sa Monastery


For additional information by Professor David Mason, visit san-shin.org.

For information about traveling to Korean sacred sites, contact Roger Shepherd.
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