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The visit of Isabella Bird Bishop to the Diamond Mountains (Geumgang-san) in 1894

Funeral monuments at Yu-Chom-sa, a photograph by Isabella Bird in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh

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


(Korea and Her Neighbors 133-149)


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 animals, and engaged porters for the ascent, but though the track is nothing better than a torrent bed abounding in great boulders, 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 vegetation, 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 unfolds 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.


The eastern descent of the Tan-pa-Ryong is by a series of zigzags, through woods and a profusion of varied and magnificent 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 temple 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 patronage of royalty, we were at once among the Chang-an Sa buildings, which consist of temples large and small, a stage for 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 reconstruction.


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 historical 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 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 colors and gold. In one Sakyamuni's image, with a distinctly Hindu cast of countenance, and a look of ineffable abstraction, 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 guestroom, there are Government buildings marked with the Korean national emblem, for the use of officials who go up to Changan 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 temperature 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 furniture 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 pictures 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 ornaments 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 perfect 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 thundering 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  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 halfway 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 Yuchom Sa (the first temple on the eastern slope) from that traversed 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 (GooseGate 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 monasteries of P'yo-un Sa and Chyang-yang Sa, the latter at an elevation of about 2,760 feet. From it the view, which passes for the grandest in Korea, is obtained of the “Twelve Thousand 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 tigerhaunted 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 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 pretensions 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 animals. Not to wound the prejudices of my hosts, I lived on tea, rice, honey water, edible pine nuts, and a most satisfying combination of pine nuts and honey. After a light breakfast on these delicacies, the sub-abbot, took me to see his grandmother, 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 nutritious 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 resident 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 mountains 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 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 discredited, 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 kukyong, a Korean term which covers pleasure-seeking, sightseeing, 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 torrent, 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 headquarters 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 monasteries, 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 dissatisfaction. 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 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 majority 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 indolence, 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 secluded retreat in these mountains, it is overlaid with daemonolatry, and like that of China is smothered under a host of semideified heroes. Of the lofty aims and aspirations after righteousness 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 creed, or of the purport of their liturgies, which to most of them are just “letters,” the ceaseless repetition of which constitutes “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 impression 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 attribute 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 sympathies 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 of rope for the feet, and light uprights bound together with a wistaria rope to support the back, can be used, but the occupant 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 surfaces of pink granite to rest awhile in deep pink pools where they take a more brilliant than an emerald green with the flashing lustre of a diamond — rocks and ledges over which the crystal 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 intoxicating, 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 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 abnormal 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 Bodhisattva, 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 Japanese 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 diminishing 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 bathingplaces of dragons, whose habits must have been much cleanlier than those of the present inhabitants of the land.


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 restoration, 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 discussed 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 salvation. They admitted that among their priests there are more who live in known sin than strivers after righteousness.


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 otherwise invisible gods and devils showed uncannily. Behind the altar is a rude and monstrous piece of wood-carving representing the upturned roots of a tree, among which fifty-three idols are sitting and standing. As well by daylight as in the dimness 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 Buddha 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 remembered, 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 prepared a repast for us with his own hands — square cakes of rich oily pine nuts glued together with honey, thin cakes of “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 monasteries, and the hospitality, consideration, and gentleness of deportment, contrast very favorably with the arrogance, superciliousness, 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 !