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From: Korea and her Neighbors

A narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country


by Isabella Bird Bishop


1898



CHAPTER XI 
 
DIAMOND MOUNTAIN MONASTERIES  (1894)
 
IT was a glorious day for the Pass of Tan-pa-Ryong (1,320 
feet above Ma-ri Kei), the western barrier of the Keum- 
Kang San region. Mr. Campbell, of H.B.M.'s Consular 
Service, one of the few Europeans who has crossed it, in his 
charming narrative mentions that it is impassable for laden ani- 
mals, and engaged porters for the ascent, but though the track 
is nothing better than a torrent bed abounding in great boul- 
ders, angular and shelving rocks, and slippery corrugations of 
entangled tree roots, I rode over the worst part, and my ponies 
made nothing of carrying the baggage up the rock ladders. 
The mountain-side is covered with luxuriant and odorous vege- 
tation, specially oak, chestnut, hawthorn, varieties of maple, 
pale pink azalea, and yellow clematis, interspersed with a few 
distorted pines, primulas and lilies of the valley covering the 
mossy ground. 
 
From the spirit shrine on the summit a lovely panorama un- 
folds itself, billows of hilly woodland, gleams of water, wavy 
outlines of hills, backed by a jagged mountain wall, attaining 
an altitude of over 6,000 feet in the loftiest pinnacle of the 
Keum-Kang San. A fair land of promise, truly ! But this 
pass is a rubicon to him who seeks the Diamond Mountain 
with the intention of immuring himself for life in one of its 
many monasteries. For its name. Tan-pa, “crop-hair,” was 
bestowed on it early in the history of Korean Buddhism for a 
reason which remains. There those who have chosen the 
cloister emphasize their abandonment of the world by cutting 
off the “Topknot” of married dignity, or the heavy braid of 
bachelorhood. 

134 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
The eastern descent of the Tan-pa-Ryong is by a series of 
zigzags, through woods and a profusion of varied and magnifi- 
cent ferns. A long day followed of ascents and descents, 
deep fords of turbulent streams, valley villages with terrace 
cultivation of buckwheat, and glimpses of gray rock needles 
through pine and persimmon groves, and in the late afternoon, 
after struggling through a rough ford in which the water was 
halfway up the sides of the ponies, we entered a gorge and 
struck a smooth, broad, well-made road, the work of the 
monks, which traverses a fine forest of pines and firs above a 
booming torrent. 
 
Towards evening “The hills swung open to the light”; 
through the parting branches there were glimpses of granite 
walls and peaks reddening into glory; red stems, glowing in 
the slant sunbeams, lighted up the blue gloom of the coniferae ; 
there were glints of foam from the loud-tongued torrent below; 
the dew fell heavily, laden with aromatic odors of pines, and 
as the valley narrowed again and the blue shadows fell the 
picture was as fair as one could hope to see. The monks, 
though road-makers, are not bridge-builders, and there were 
difficult fords to cross, through which the ponies were left to 
struggle by themselves, the mapu crossing on single logs. In 
the deep water I discovered that its temperature was almost 
icy. The worst ford is at the point where the first view of 
Chang-an Sa, the Temple of Eternal Rest, the oldest of the 
Keum-Kang San monasteries, is obtained, a great pile of tem- 
ple buildings with deep curved roofs, in a glorious situation, 
crowded upon a small grassy plateau in one of the narrowest 
parts of the gorge, where the mountains fall back a little and 
afford Buddhism a peaceful shelter, secluded from the outer 
world by snow for four months of the year. 
 
Crossing the torrent and passing under a lofty Hong-Sal- 
Mun or “red arrow gate,” significant in Korea of the patron- 
age of royalty, we were at once among the Chang-an Sa build- 
ings, which consist of temples large and small, a stage for 
 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 135 
 
religious dramas, bell and tablet houses, stables for the ponies 
of wayfarers, cells, dormitories, and a refectory for the abbot 
and monks, quarters for servants and neophytes, huge kitchens, 
a large guest hall, and a nunnery. Besides these there are 
quarters devoted to the lame, halt, blind, infirm, and solitary; 
to widows, orphans, and the destitute. 
 
These guests, numbering 100, seemed well treated. Be- 
tween monks, servants, and boys preparing for the priesthood 
there may be 100 more, and 20 nuns of all ages, from girlhood 
up to eighty-seven years. This large number of persons is 
supported by the rent and produce of Church lands outside 
the mountains, the contributions of pilgrims and guests, the 
moneys collected by the monks, who all go on mendicant 
expeditions, even up to the gates of Seoul, which at that time 
it was death for any priest to enter, and benefactions from the 
late Queen, which had become increasingly liberal. 
 
The first impression of the plateau was that it was a wood- 
yard on a large scale. Great logs and piles of planks were 
heaped under the stately pines and under a superb Salisburia 
adiantifolia, 17 feet in girth; 40 carpenters were sawing, 
planing, and hammering, and 40 or 50 laborers were hauling 
in logs to the music of a wild chant, for mendicant effort had 
been resorted to energetically, with the result that the great 
temple was undergoing repairs, almost amounting to a recon- 
struction. 
 
Of the forty-five monasteries and monastic shrines which 
exist in the Diamond Mountain, enhancing its picturesqueness 
and supplying it with a religious and human interest, Chang-an 
Sa may be taken as a fair specimen of the three largest, as it 
is undoubtedly the oldest, assuming the correctness of a his- 
torical record quoted by Mr. Campbell, which gives the date 
of its restoration by two monks, Yul-sa and Chin-h'yo, as A.D. 
515, in the reign of Pop-heung, a king of Silla, then the most 
important of the kingdoms, afterwards amalgamated as Korea. 
 
The large temple is a fine old building of the type adapted 

136 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
from Chinese Buddhist architecture, oblong, with a heavy tiled 
roof 48 feet in height, with wings, deep eaves protecting 
masses of richly-colored wood-carving. The lofty reticulated 
roof is internally supported on an arrangement of heavy 
beams, elaborately carved and painted in rich colors. The 
panels of the doors, which serve as windows, and let in a 
“dim religious light,” are bold fretwork, decorated in colors 
enriched with gold. 
 
The roofs of the actual shrines are supported on wooden 
pillars 3 feet in diameter, formed of single trees, and the 
panelled ceilings are embellished with intricate designs in col- 
ors and gold. In one Sakyamuni's image, with a distinctly 
Hindu cast of countenance, and a look of ineffable abstrac- 
tion, sits under a highly decorative reticulated wooden canopy, 
with an altar before it, on which are brass incense burners, 
books of prayer, and lists of those deceased persons for whose 
souls masses have been duly paid for. Much rich brocade, 
soiled and dusty, and many gonfalons, hang round this shrine. 
 
The “Hall of the Four Sages” contains three Buddhas in 
different attitudes of abstraction or meditation, a picture, 
wonderfully worked in gold and silks in Chinese embroidery, 
of Buddha and his disciples, for which the monks claim an 
antiquity of fourteen centuries, and sixteen Lohans, with their 
attendants. Along the side walls are a host of daemons and 
animals. Another striking shrine is that dedicated to the 
Lord of the Buddhistic Hell and his ten princes. The monks 
call it the “Temple of the Ten Judges.” This is a shrine of 
great resort, and is much blackened by the smoke of incense 
and candles, but the infernal torments depicted in the pictures 
at the back of each judge are only too conspicuous. They 
are horrible beyond conception, and show a diabolical genius 
in hellish art, akin to that which inspired the creation of the 
groups in the Inferno of the temple of Kwan-yin at Ting-hai 
on Chusan, familiar to some of my readers. 
 
Besides the ecclesiastical buildings and the common guest- 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 137 
 
room, there are Government buildings marked with the Korean 
national emblem, for the use of officials who go up to Chang- 
an Sa for pleasure. 
 
It was difficult for me to find accommodation, but eventually 
a very pleasing young priest of high rank gave up his cell to 
me. Unfortunately, it was next the guests' kitchen, and the 
flues from the fires passing under it, I was baked in a tempera- 
ture of 91°, although, in spite of warnings about tigers, the 
dangers from which are by no means imaginary, I kept both 
door and window open all night. The cell had for its furni- 
ture a shrine of Gautama and an image of Kwan-yin on a 
shelf, and a few books, which I learned were Buddhist classics, 
not volumes, as in a cell which I occupied later, full of pic- 
tures by no means inculcating holiness. In the next room, 
equally hot, and without a chink open for ventilation, thirty 
guests moaned and tossed all night, a single candle dimly 
lighting a picture of Buddha and the dusty and hideous orna- 
ments on the altar below. 
 
A 9 P.M., midnight, and again at 4 a.m., which is the hour 
at which the monks rise, bells were rung, cymbals and gongs 
were beaten, and the praises of Buddha were chanted in an 
unknown tongue. A feature at once cheerful and cheerless is 
the presence at Chang-an Sa of a number of bright, active, 
orphan boys from ten to thirteen years old, who are at present 
servitors, but who will one day become priests. 
 
It is an exercise of forbearance to abstain from writing much 
about the beauties of Chang-an Sa as seen in two days of per- 
fect heavenliness. It is a calm retreat, that small, green, 
semicircular plateau which the receding hills have left, walling 
in the back and sides with rocky precipices half clothed with 
forest, while the bridgeless torrent in front, raging and thun- 
dering among huge boulders of pink granite, secludes it from 
all but the adventurous. Alike in the rose of sunrise, in the 
red and gold of sunset, or gleaming steely blue in the prosaic 
glare of midday, the great rock peak on the left bank, one of 

138 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
the highest in the range, compels ceaseless admiration. The 
appearance of its huge vertical topmost ribs has been well 
compared to that of the “pipes of an organ,” this organ-pipe 
formation being common in the range ; seams and ledges half- 
way down give roothold to a few fantastic conifers and azaleas, 
and lower still all suggestion of form is lost among dense 
masses of magnificent forest. 
 
As I proposed to take a somewhat different route from Yu- 
chom Sa (the first temple on the eastern slope) from that trav- 
ersed by my predecessors, the Hon. G. W. Curzon and Mr. 
Campbell, I left the ponies and baggage at Chang-an Sa, the 
mapu, who were bent on ku-kyong, accompanying me for part 
of the distance, and took a five days' journey in the glorious 
Keum-Kang San in unrivalled weather, in air which was elixir, 
crossing the range to Yu-chom Sa by the An-mun-chai (Goose- 
Gate Terrace), 4,215 feet in altitude, and recrossing it by the 
Ki-cho, 3,570 feet. 
 
Taking two coolies to carry essentials, and a na-my'o or 
mountain chair with two bearers, for the whole journey, all 
supplied by the monks, I walked the first stage to the monas- 
teries of P'yo-un Sa and Chyang-yang Sa, the latter at an ele- 
vation of about 2,760 feet. From it the view, which passes 
for the grandest in Korea, is obtained of the “Twelve Thou- 
sand Peaks.” There is assuredly no single view that I have 
seen in Japan or even in Western China which equals it for 
beauty and grandeur. Across the grand gorge through which 
the Chang-an Sa torrent thunders, and above primaeval tiger- 
haunted forests with their infinity of green, rises the central 
ridge of the Keum-Kang San, jagged all along its summit, each 
yellow granite pinnacle being counted as a peak. 
 
On that enchanting May evening, when odors of paradise, 
the fragrant breath of a million flowering shrubs and trailers, 
of bursting buds, and unfolding ferns, rose into the cool dewy 
air, and the silence could be felt, I was not inclined to enter 
a protest against Korean exaggeration on the ground that the 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 139 
 
number of peaks is probably nearer 1,200 than 12,000. Their 
yellow granite pinnacles, weathered into silver gray, rose up 
cold, stern, and steely blue from the glorious forests which 
drape their lower heights — winter above and summer below — 
then purpled into red as the sun sank, and gleamed above the 
twilight, till each glowing summit died out as lamps which are 
extinguished one by one, and the whole took on the ashy hue 
of death. 
 
The situation of P'yo-un Sa is romantic, on the right bank 
of the torrent, and is approached by a bridge, and by passing 
under several roofed gateways. The monastery had been 
newly rebuilt, and is one mass of fretwork, carving, gilding, 
and color, the whole decoration being the work of the monks. 
 
The front of the “Temple of the Believing Mind” is a 
magnificent piece of bold wood-carving, the motif being the 
peony. Every part of the building which is not stone or tile 
is carved, and decorated in blue, red, white, green, and gold. 
It may be barbaric, but it is barbaric splendor. There too is 
a “Temple of Judgment,” with hideous representations of the 
Buddhist hells, one scene being the opening of the books in 
which the deeds of men's mortal lives are written. 
 
The fifty monks of P'yo-un Sa were very friendly, and not 
impecunious. One gave up to me his oven-like cell, but repaid 
himself for the sacrifice by indulging in ceaseless staring. The 
wind bells of the establishment and the big bell have a melody 
in their tones such as I have rarely heard, and when at 4 a. m. 
bells of all sizes and tones announced that “prayer is better 
than sleep,” there was nothing about the sounds to jar on the 
pure freshness of morning. The monks are well dressed and 
jolly, and have a well-to-do air which clashes with any pre- 
tensions to asceticism. The rule of these monasteries is a 
strict vegetarianism which allows neither milk nor eggs, and 
in the whole region there are neither fowls nor domestic ani- 
mals. Not to wound the prejudices of my hosts, I lived on 
tea, rice, honey water, edible pine nuts, and a most satisfying 

140 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
combination of pine nuts and honey. After a light breakfast 
on these delicacies, the sub-abbot, took me to see his grand- 
mother, a very bright pleasing woman of eighty, who came 
from Seoul thirteen years ago and built a house within the 
monastery grounds, in order to die in its quiet blessedness. 
There I had to eat a second ethereal meal, and the hospitable 
hostess forced on me a pot of exquisite honey and a bag of pine 
nuts. These, the product of the Pinus pinea, which grows 
profusely throughout the range, furnish an important and nu- 
tritious article of monkish diet, and are exported in quantities 
as a luxury. They are rich and very oily, and turn rancid 
soon after being shelled. The honey is also locally produced. 
The beehives, which usually stand two together in cavities in 
the rocks, are hollow logs with clay covers mounted on blocks 
of wood or stone. Leaving this friendly hostess and the seven 
nuns of the nunnery behind, the sub-abbot showed me the 
direction in which to climb, for road there is none, and at 
parting presented me with a fan. 
 
A visit to the Keum-Kang San elevates a Korean into the 
distinguished position of a traveller, and many a young resi- 
dent of Seoul gains this fashionable reputation. It is not as 
containing shrines of pilgrimage, for most Koreans despise 
Buddhism and its shaven mendicant priests, that these moun- 
tains are famous in Korea, but for their picturesque beauties, 
much celebrated in Korean poetry. The broad backbone of 
the peninsula which has trended near to the east coast from 
Puk-chong southwards has degenerated into tameness, when 
suddenly Keum-Kang San, or the Diamond Mountain, with its 
elongated mass of serrated, jagged, and inaccessible peaks, 
and magnificent primaeval forest, occupying an area of about 
32 miles in length by 22 in breadth, starts off from it near the 
39th parallel of latitude in the province of Kang-won. 

Buddhism, which, as in Japan, possesses itself of the fairest 
spots in Nature, fixed itself in this romantic seclusion as early 
as the sixth century a. d., and the venerable relics of the time 
 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 141 
 
when for 1,000 years it was the official as well as the popular 
cult of the country are chiefly to be found in the recesses of 
this mountain region, where the same faith, though now dis- 
credited, disestablished, and despised, still attracts a certain 
number of votaries, and a far larger number of visitors and 
so-called pilgrims, who resort to the shrines to indulge in ku- 
kyong, a Korean term which covers pleasure-seeking, sight- 
seeing, the indulgence of curiosity, and much else. 
 
So far as I have been able to learn, there are only two 
routes by which the Keum-Kang San can be penetrated, the 
one which, after following the bed of a singularly rough tor- 
rent, crosses the watershed at An-mun-chai, and on or near 
which the principal monasteries and shrines are situated, and 
the Ki-cho, a lower and less interesting pass. Both routes 
start from Chang-an Sa. The forty-two shrines are the head- 
quarters of about 400 monks and about 50 nuns, who add to 
their religious exercises the weaving of cotton and hempen cloth. 
The lay servitors possibly number 1,000. The four great mon- 
asteries, two on the eastern and two on the western slope, 
absorb more than 300 of the whole number. All except the 
high monastic officials beg through the country, alms-bowl in 
hand, the only distinctive features of their dress being a very 
peculiar hat and the rosary. They chant the litanies of 
Buddha from house to house, and there are few who deny them 
food and lodging and a few cash or a little rice. 
 
The monasteries are presided over by what we should call 
“abbots,” superiors of the first or second class according to 
the importance of the establishment. These Chong-sop and 
Son-tong are nominally elected annually, but actually continue 
in office for years, unless their conduct gives rise to dissatis- 
faction. Beyond the confirmation of the election of the 
Chong-sop of those monasteries which possess a “Red Arrow 
Gate “by the Board of Rites at Seoul, the disestablished 
Church appears to be quite free from State interference. In 
the case of restoring and rebuilding shrines, large sums are 
 

142 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
collected in Seoul and the southern provinces, though faith 
in Buddhism as a creed rarely exists. 
 
On making inquiries through Mr. Miller as to the way in 
which the number of monks is kept up, I learned that the ma- 
jority are either orphans or children whose parents have given 
them to the monasteries at a very early age owing to poverty. 
These are more or less educated and trained by the monks. 
It must be supposed that among the number there are a few 
who escape from the weariness and friction of secular life into 
a region in which seclusion and devotion are possible. Of 
this type was the pale and interesting young priest who gave up 
his room to me at Chang-an Sa, and two who accompanied us 
to Yu-chom Sa, one of whom chanted Na Mu Ami Tabu 
nearly the whole day as he journeyed, telling a bead on his 
rosary for each ten repetitions. Mr. Miller asked him what 
the words meant. “Just letters,” he replied ; “they have no 
meaning, but if you say them many times you will get to 
heaven better.” Then he gave Mr. Miller the rosary, and 
taught him the mystic syllables, saying, “Now, you keep the 
beads, say the words, and you will go to heaven.” Among 
the younger priests several seemed in earnest. Others make 
the monasteries (as is largely the case with the celebrated 
shrines of Kwan-yin on the Chinese island of Pu-tu) a refuge 
from justice or creditors, some remain desiring peaceful indo- 
lence, and not a few are vowed and tonsured who came simply 
to view the scenery of the Keum-Kang San and were too much 
enchanted to leave it. 
 
As to the moribund Buddhism which has found its most se- 
cluded retreat in these mountains, it is overlaid with daemonol- 
atry, and like that of China is smothered under a host of semi- 
deified heroes. Of the lofty aims and aspirations after right- 
eousness which distinguish the great reforming sects of Japan, 
such as the Monto, it knows nothing. 
 
The monks are grossly ignorant and superstitious. They 
know nearly nothing of the history and tenets of their own 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 143 
 
creed, or of the purport of their liturgies, which to most of 
them are just “letters,” the ceaseless repetition of which con- 
stitutes “merit.” Though some of them know Chinese, and 
this knowledge means “education” in Korea, worship consists 
in the mumbling or loud intoning of Sanscrit or Tibetan phrases, 
of the meaning of which they have no conception. My impres- 
sion of most of the monks was that their religious performances 
are absolutely without meaning to them, and that belief, except 
among a few, does not exist. The Koreans universally attrib- 
ute to them gross profligacy, of the existence of which at one 
of the large monasteries it was impossible not to become aware, 
but between their romantic and venerable surroundings, the 
order and quietness of their lives, their benevolence to the old 
and destitute, who find a peaceful asylum with them, and in 
the main their courtesy and hospitality, I am compelled to ad' 
mit that they exercise a certain fascination, and that I prefer 
to remember their virtues rather than their faults. My sympa- 
thies go out to them for their appreciation of the beautiful, and 
for the way in which religious art has assisted Nature by the 
exceeding picturesqueness of the positions and decoration of 
their shrines. 
 
The route from Chang-an Sa to Yu-chom Sa, about 11 miles, 
is mainly the rough beds of two great mountain torrents. Along 
this, in romantic positions, are three large monasteries P'yo-un 
Sa, Ma-ha-ly-an Sa, and Yu-chom Sa, besides a number of 
smaller shrines, with from two to five attendants each, one 
especially, Po-tok-am sa, dedicated to Kwan-yin, picturesque 
beyond description — a fantastic temple built out from the face 
of a cliff, at a height of 100 feet, and supported below the 
centre by a pillar, round which a blossoming white clematis, 
and an Ampelopsis Veitchiana, in the rose flush of its spring 
leafage, had entwined their lavish growth. 
 
No quadruped can travel this route farther than Chang-an 
Sa. Coolies, very lightly laden, and chair-bearers carrying a 
na-myo, two long poles with a slight seat in the middle, a noose 
 

144 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
of rope for the feet, and light uprights bound together with a 
wistaria rope to support the back, can be used, but the occu- 
pant of the chair has to walk much of the way. 
 
The torrent bed contracts above Chang-an Sa, opens out 
here and there, and above P'yo-un Sa narrows into a gash, only 
opening out again at the foot of the An-raun-chai. Surely the 
beauty of that 11 miles is not much exceeded anywhere on 
earth. Colossal cliffs, upbearing mountains, forests, and gray 
gleaming peaks, rifted to give roothold to pines and maples, 
ofttimes contracting till the blue heaven above is narrowed to 
a strip, boulders of pink granite 40 and 50 feet high, pines on 
their crests and ferns and lilies in their crevices, round which 
the clear waters swirl, before sliding down over smooth sur- 
faces of pink granite to rest awhile in deep pink pools where 
they take a more brilliant than an emerald green with the flash- 
ing lustre of a diamond — rocks and ledges over which the crys- 
tal stream dashes in drifts of foam, shelving rock surfaces on 
which the decorative Chinese characters, the laborious work 
of pilgrims, afford the only foothold, slides, steeper still, made 
passable for determined climbers by holes, drilled by the monks, 
and fitted with pegs and rails, rocks with bas-reliefs, or small 
shrines of Buddha draped with flowering trailers, a cliff with 
a bas-relief of Buddha, 45 feet high on a pedestal 30 feet broad, 
rocks carved into lanterns and altars, whose harsh outlines are 
softened by mosses and lichens, and above, huge timber and 
fantastic peaks rising into the summer heaven's delicious blue.
 
A description can be only a catalogue. The actuality was in- 
toxicating, a canyon on the grandest scale, with every element 
of beauty present. 
 
This route cannot be traversed in European shoes. In Korean 
string foot-gear, however, I never slipped once. There was 
much jumping from boulder to boulder, much winding round 
rocky projections, clinging to their irregularities with scarcely 
foothold, and one's back to the torrent far below, and much 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 145 
 
leaping over deep crevices and “walking tight-rope fashion” 
over rails. Wherever the traveller has to leave the difficulties 
of the torrent bed he encounters those of slippery sloping rocks, 
which he has to traverse by hanging on to tree trunks. 
 
Our two priestly companions were most polite to me, giving 
me a hand at the dangerous places, and beguiling the way by 
legends, chiefly Buddhistic, concerning every fantastic and ab- 
normal rock and pool, such as the Myo-kil Sang, the colossal 
figure of Buddha referred to before, a pothole in the granite 
bed of the stream, the wash-basin of some mythical Bodhi- 
sattva, the Fire Dragon Pool, and the bathing-places of dragons 
in the fantastic Man-pok-Tong (Grotto of Myriad Cascades), 
and the Lion Stone which repelled the advance of the Japa- 
nese invaders in 1592. 
 
Beyond the third monastery the gorge becomes wider and 
less fantastic, the forest thinner, allowing scattered glimpses of 
the sky, and finally some long zigzags take the traveller up to 
the open grassy summit of the An-mun-chai, on which plums, 
pears, cherries, blush azaleas, and pink rhododendrons, which 
had long ceased blooming below, were in their first flush of 
beauty. To the west the difficult country of the previous 
week's journey, gray granite, deep valleys, and tiger-haunted 
forest faded into a veil of blue, and in the east, over diminish- 
ing forest-covered ranges, gleamed the blue Sea of Japan, 
more than 4,000 feet below. 
 
On the eastern descent there are gigantic pines and firs, 
some of them ruthlessly barked, and the long dependent 
streamers of the gray-green Lycopodium Sieboldii with which 
they are festooned, give the forest a funereal aspect. Of this 
the peculiar fringed hats are made which are worn on occasion 
by both monks and nuns. After many downward zigzags, the 
track enters another rocky gorge with a fine torrent, in the 
bed of which are huge “potholes,” shown as the bathing- 
places of dragons, whose habits must have been much clean- 
lier than those of the present inhabitants of the land. 

146 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
The great monastery of Yu-chom Sa, with its many curved 
roofs and general look of newness and wealth, is approached 
by crossing a very tolerable bridge. The road, which passes 
through a well-kept burial-ground, where the ashes of the 
pious and learned abbots of several centuries repose under 
more or less stately monuments, was much encumbered near 
the monastery by great pine logs newly hewn for its restora- 
tion, which was being carried out on a very expensive scale. 
 
The monks made a difficulty about receiving us, and it was 
not till after some delay, and the production of my kwan-ja, 
that we were allotted rooms in the Government buildings for 
the two days of our halt. After this small difficulty, they were 
unusually kind and friendly, and one of the young priests, who 
came over the An-mun-chai with us, offered Mr. Miller the 
use of his cell on Sunday, saying that “it would be a quieter 
place than the great room to study his belief” ! 
 
I had hoped for rest and quiet on the following day, having 
had rather a hard week, but these were unattainable. Besides 
70 monks and 20 nuns, there were nearly 200 lay servitors 
and carpenters, and all were bent upon ku-kyong, the first 
European woman to visit the Keum-Kang San being regarded 
as a great sight, and from early morning till late at night there 
was no rest. The kang floor of my room being heated from 
the kitchen, it was too hot to exist with the paper front closed, 
and the crowds of monks, nuns, and servitors, finishing with 
the carpenters, who crowded in whenever it was opened, and 
hung there hour after hour, nearly suffocated me, the day 
being very warm. The abbot and several senior monks dis- 
cussed with Mr. Miller the merits of rival creeds, saying that 
the only difference between Buddhists and ourselves is that 
they don't kill even the smallest insect, while we disregard 
what we call “animal life,” and that we don't look upon 
monasticism and other forms of asceticism as means of salva- 
tion. They admitted that among their priests there are more 
who live in known sin than strivers after righteousness. 
 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 147 
 
There are many bright busy boys about Yu-chom Sa, most 
of whom had already had their heads shaved. To one who 
had not, Che on-i gave a piece of chicken, but he refused it 
because he was a Buddhist, on which an objectionable-looking 
old sneak of a priest told him that it was all right to eat it so 
long as no one saw him, but the boy persisted in his refusal. 
 
At midnight, being awakened by the boom of the great bell 
and the disorderly and jarring clang of innumerable small 
ones, I went, at the request of the friendly young priest, our 
fellow-traveller, to see him perform the devotions, which are 
taken in turn by the monks. 
 
The great bronze bell, an elaborate piece of casting of the 
fourteenth century, stands in a rude, wooden, clay-floored 
tower by itself. A dim paper lantern on a dusty rafter barely 
lighted up the white-robed figure of the devotee, as he circled 
the bell, chanting in a most musical voice a Sanscrit litany, of 
whose meaning he was ignorant, striking the bosses of the bell 
with a knot of wood as he did so. Half an hour passed thus. 
Then taking a heavy mallet, and passing to another chant, he 
circled the bell with a greater and ever-increasing passion of 
devotion, beating its bosses heavily and rhythmically, faster 
and faster, louder and louder, ending by producing a burst of 
frenzied sound, which left him for a moment exhausted. Then, 
seizing the swinging beam, the three full tones which end the 
worship, and which are produced by striking the bell on the 
rim, which is 8 inches thick, and on the middle, which is very 
thin, made the tower and the ground vibrate, and boomed up 
and down the valley with their unforgettable music. Of that 
young monk's sincerity, I have not one doubt. 
 
He led us to the great temple, a vast “chamber of imagery,” 
where a solitary monk chanted before an altar in the light 
from a solitary lamp in an alabaster bowl, accompanying his 
chant by striking a small bell with a deer horn. The dim 
light left cavernous depths of shadow in the temple, from 
which eyes and teeth, weapons, and arms and legs of other- 

148 Korea and Her Neighbors 
 
wise invisible gods and devils showed uncannily. Behind the 
altar is a rude and monstrous piece of wood-carving represent- 
ing the upturned roots of a tree, among which fifty-three idols 
are sitting and standing. As well by daylight as in the dim- 
ness of midnight, there are an uncouthness and power about 
this gigantic representation which are very impressive. Below 
the carving are three frightful dragons, on whose faces the artist 
has contrived to impress an expression of torture and defeat. 
 
The legend of the altar-piece runs thus. When fifty-three 
priests come to Korea from India to introduce Buddhism, they 
reached this place, and being weary, sat down by a well under 
a spreading tree. Presently three dragons came up from the 
well and began a combat with the Buddhists, in the course of 
which they called up a great wind which tore up the tree. 
Not to be out-manoeuvred, each priest placed an image of Bud- 
dha on a root of the tree, turning it into an altar. Finally, 
the priests overcome the dragons, forced them into the well, 
and piled great rocks on the top of it to keep them there, 
founded the monastery, and built this temple over the dragons' 
grave. On either side of this unique altar-piece is a bouquet 
of peonies 4 feet wide by 10 feet high. 
 
The “private apartments “ of this and the other monasteries 
consist of a living room, and very small single cells, each with 
the shrine of its occupant, and all very clean. It must be re- 
membered, however, that this easy, peaceful, luxurious life 
only lasts for a part of the year, and that all but a few of the 
monks must make an annual tramp, wallet and begging-bowl 
in hand, over rough, miry, or dusty Korean roads, put up 
with vile and dirty accommodation, beg for their living from 
those who scorn their tonsure and their creed, and receive 
“low talk “ from the lowest in the land. 
 
Just before we left, the old abbot invited us into his very 
charming suite of rooms, and with graceful hospitality pre- 
pared a repast for us with his own hands — square cakes of rich 
oily pine nuts glued together with honey, thin cakes of 

Diamond Mountain Monasteries 149 
 
“popped” rice and honey, sweet cake, Chinese sweetmeat, 
honey, and bowls of honey water with pine nuts floating on its 
surface. The oil of these nuts certainly supplied the place of 
animal food during my enforced abstinence from it, but rich 
vegetable oil and honey soon pall on the palate, and the abbot 
was concerned that we did not do justice to our entertainment. 
The general culture produced by Buddhism at these monaster- 
ies, and the hospitality, consideration, and gentleness of de- 
portment, contrast very favorably with the arrogance, super- 
ciliousness, insolence, and conceit which I have seen elsewhere 
in Korea among the so-called followers of Confucius. 
 
When we departed all the monks and laborers bade us a 
courteous farewell, some of the older priests accompanying us 
for a short distance. 
 
After descending the slope by the well-made road which 
leads down to the large monastery of Sin-kyei Sa, at the 
northeast foot of the Keum-Kang San, we left it for a rough 
and difficult westerly track, which, after affording some bright 
gleams of the Sea of Japan, enters dense forest full of great 
boulders and magnificent specimens of the Filix mas and 
Osmumda regalis. A severe climb up and down an irregular, 
broken staircase of rock took us over the Ki-cho Pass, 3,700 
feet in altitude, after which there is a tedious march of some 
hours along bare and unpicturesque mountain-sides before 
reaching the well-made path which leads through pine woods 
to the beautiful plateau of Chang-an Sa. The young priest 
had kept our baggage carefully, but the heat of his floor had 
melted the candles in the boxes and had turned candy into 
molasses, making havoc among photographic materials at the 
same time !