A TRIP TO THE DIAMOND MOUNTAINS IN 1489 A. D.
by Yi Wun (李雄)
(Before America was discovered, and while Copernicus, Sir Thomas More and Michael Angelo were still boys).
(Biographical Note:— Yi Wun’s father had eight sons, of whom Wun was the third. On the night of his marriage, he dreamed that an old man came to him and said, “My eight sons are under arrest and will all die because of you.” Yi awoke and asked his wife what she thought this dream could mean. She said she had no idea unless it might refer to eight turtles that she had caught and put into a crock ready for to-morrow’s feast. He at once went out and set all the turtles free. In doing so, however, he unfortunately let one fall and put its eye out
Like the number of turtles he had eight sons, and the third, Wun, had only one eye. He it was who visited the Diamond Mountains and recorded the impressions that he caught so clearly. He was a man of special rectitute of life and high motive. Nam Hyo-on speaking of him says, “He was favourably recommended as the King’s adopted son.”
In the year 1498 he proposed an honorary title for Kim Chong-jik one of Korea’s greatest scholars. The king, not liking Kim, regarded this as an offense and had Yi Wun sent into exile to Kwak-san. Three years later he was taken to Na-joo and beheaded.
A servant, knowing the danger that his master was exposed to, attempted to take him on his back and carry him off by force, but Yi refused saying, “I shall not run away from the commands of the King.”
“But,” replied the servant in tears, “Yi Chang-kon escaped and lived, why not Your Excellency?” But he refused.
When he died he showed no fear, but to the last spoke words that were strong and full of fire. King Yun-san, hearing of this, was furiously angry, and sent his father and all his brothers into exile.
Yi Wun was a great scholar, a renowned poet, and though he suffered much hardship and injustice, no mention of it appears in his writings, sorrow and murmurings he recorded not.
What he wrote he scattered to the winds with no thought of ever gathering again.
Kim Il-son in speaking of his Journey to the Diamond Mountains says nothing could be finer.
J. S. G.)
The Diamond Mountains.
This spring I became Secretary to the Office of Ceremony, but because of a slip I made, lost my place. In heart, I was glad, as it opened up the way for my going east and seeing the Diamond Mountains. I decided upon a day and made all ready. Setting out I directed my steps eastward and finally reached Ko-sung. There I met the magistrate, Kim Che-tong, who is the youngest son of Prince Moon-jung; also his son Keun, who had formerly been a playmate of mine. They treated me with the most lavish kindness.
On the day following, along with the Director of Education, my friend Keun and I crossed the river that flows from the Diamond ridge. This stream passes Yoo-jum-sa, turns east, and south, and then by many windings enters the sea to the north.
About noon we reached the entrance to the hills, where we found a number of high buildings and pavilions. We were told that these were the store-houses of Yoo-jum-sa, that had been built by King Se-jo. Here the yearly supply of grain is kept for the service of the Buddha.
From Sook-ko we turned south to where the mountain streams rush down with great velocity. Trees cover all the landscape. For ten li we could scarcely see the sky, while the cool refreshing air revived the inner man to the marrow of his bones. At the side of the road I noticed a stone pagoda, and, on asking its name, learned that it was the seat of the Moon-soo Bodisat, (Moon Soo Pong).
To the south-west is a mountain range called the Dog Hills (Kai-jun Hyun). The overhanging cliffs seemed ready to fall upon us. The rushing streams, with their impact on the rocks, shook the earth. The road zig-zagged up, up. It was like a great dragon snaking off into the heights, or like a wild horse galloping across the sky. A hundred times it wound back and forth hardly wider than a strip of cotton. A single slip of step and like a stone flung from the heights, away would go body and soul to the bottom, metamorphosed into dust and ashes.
Some five li before we reached the top of the pass, we came to a rock called the Priestess’ Outlook, with the ground cleared and a platform of stones in front of it, as though it had been used as a resting place for priests on their way by.
Half way up we came to a small spring called No Ch’oon’s Well. Not more than four or five people at a time could possibly quench their thirst from its limited supply.
We reached the top and rested for a little. On three sides were hills, and on one side the sea. No sound of human habitation, only the stream rushing by to the call of the birds.
Toward evening we crossed the Deer Neck Pass, and following the stream south west reached the entrance to Yoo-jum-sa. The hills vied with each other in stately grandeur, and a hundred valleys sang to us along our way. Peaks and cliffs walled up the torrent’s face till there seemed no entrance and no exit They were like scholars and warriors dressed in ceremonial robes, kneeling as they meet, with lofty dignity written on their countenances. Surely another world is this than ours.
On the north side of the stream is a hill called Happy Ridge (Whan-heui Ryung) over which one can walk but not ride. We crossed it in the dark and finally reached the temple of Yoo-jum-sa.
Two priests called Ch’ook-jam (Buried in India) and Ke-yul (Rejoicing in the Law) met me and led me into the gate. Towers and pavilions stand out like the fantastic horns of the hills, or pheasants flying through the grove. Carved railings and eaves dazzled my wondering eyes.
Some of the buildings would measure as much as twenty paces on a side, chief among them being the Main Hall with eight great windows to it. It encloses an odd carving of trees and hills, gilded and ornamented with many colours, rich gems and jewels. Throughout these are to be found scattered the 53 Buddhas.
The name-board has on it Heung-in Chi-jun (The Hall of Love). Its size, as well as its special decorations, mark it as one of the noted buildings of the East.
On the east side of the compound there is a little temple that sits with its back to the north and face to the south. It has in it a picture worked on silk of a gentleman with a cap on his head, a black coat, a belt, and a sceptre in his hand. Before this picture, sacrifice is offered every spring and autumn, and on the 1st and 15th days of the moon. On the tablet is written, “The Tablet of the Magistrate of Ko-sung, No Ch’oon.”
I said to the priest, “It was custom in olden days when an official won favour for his people to erect a stone in his honour, but what special good did this man No Ch’oon ever do that he should be remembered thus?”
The priest in reply brought me a book and asked me to look it through.
He said, “This is a history of these hills.” It read, “In ancient days 53 Buddhas, made of metal, come on board a floating bell all the way from India to the port of Ko-sung. They landed and dragged the bell up to this place. The magistrate attempted to follow, but lost touch with them. When he reached the Moon-Soo Terrace he met the Moon-Soo Bodisat, and when he reached the Dog Pass he met a dog. By the Priestess’ Rock he met a priestess, and at Deer’s Neck he met a deer. In each case he asked where the Buddhas had gone and they all pointed him the way. Thus he gave names to the places just as he had met the different ones. He was overtaKen by thirst and drove his staff into the ground from which a spring of clear water gushed forth. This he scooped up with his hands and drank. Arriving finally in front of the temple, and hearing the sound of a bell, he was filled with wonder so that he danced for joy. This place he called the Hill of Joy (Whan-heui Ryung). He came and found that the Buddhas had hung the bell on the limb of a keyaki tree while they themselves were seated on the small twigs. Here he had a temple erected with a pagoda in front of it in which he placed these Buddhas and called it Keyaki Rest Temple (Yoo-jum-sa).”
What nonsense! Metal and stone are not given to floating, and beasts of the field bear no such relation to man as is here represented. Any fool knows this. Could metal Buddhas possibly make such a journey, or deer point the way ? Such stuff, who would believe it ?
Looking at the close of the book I find that it is written by a scholar of Koryu, named Min Chi (1248-1326 A.D).
Now this Min Chi was a Confucianist, who had no occasion whatever to exalt the Buddha. To write all this with his own pen can hardly be regarded as other than a great offence. As a deceiver of the people he is indeed a No Han (Old Rascal)
The next day I decided to go on to the Inner Hills.
Toward evening we reached Ma-ha-yun where we found some eight or nine priests sitting as the Buddha sits facing the wall. Each had a short board, a foot or so in length, on his head to warn him against falling asleep. If he nods and it drops, the teacher gives him a sharp blow with a flat stick. All day long they sit thus as though they were really thinking in their hearts.
I asked, “What are you thinking of?”
The teacher said, “They are meditating on vacuity.” I said again. “How can such unsophisticated louts as I behold here understand these things? Why do you not first of all teach them something easy, and then, little by little, lead them on to what is more difficult. As it is now, it is like inviting them into your house and then shutting the door in their faces.”
At first the priest made no reply, but a little later he said to me. “Do you see creation with the eyes, or does creation come in to you through your eyes?”
I replied, “Creation comes within my vision when I look upon it, and when I think of it again it returns in memory. We say in regard to this, Studying things leads to knowledge. Knowledge enters my soul and I become informed.”
The priest made no further reply.
The next day we intended going to Chung-yang-sa to see the general outline of the Inner Hills. Chung-yang stands on the highest ridge and takes in the whole circle of the enclosure.
Our supplies had given out and the man who accompanied me wore an anxious, troubled look.
I said to him, “Adversity, as well as prosperity, depends on God, hunger and satiety are according to His decrees. If a man is prosperous, his stomach is well filled, if he is poor he is hungry. Would you say that our hunger to-day was not of God’s appointment ?”
About noon we reached the Lion Rock (Sa-ja Pong). Here we bathed in the Fire Dragon Pool (Wha-ryong Tam) and walked slowly down the Myriad Cascade Valley (Man-p’ok Tong) The angry waters rushed by us; the blue rocks shot up their multitudinous shapes; the passing clouds reflected deep their hurrying forms. No sound was heard of man, or bird, or beast. I wrote a song as I sat within the mystic canyon.
To the south of this valley is a small temple called Po-tuk. High it stands, supported by a brazen pillar, and with tiles upon its roof. Thus it hangs over the yawning abyss. Chains too, are fastened to its beams and pillars by holes drilled in the rocks. A slight swing to one side and all the structure trembles beneath you with a creaking noise. The stones have been hollowed out to make a possible way up with guards fastened to aid the climber. My ancestor wrote a verse about this temple and I take the same rhyme character and write as well:
The white cloud rolls the valley full,
The gray peaks touch the distant stars
The flying waters leap like hounds
Loosed of their leash, past rocks and bars.
Along with the priests we followed down the gorge. One of them said to me, “On the north side is a peak called Keum-kang Tai. Two cranes make their nest there. When they are called they come forth, and when they are dismissed they go away. They have been taught by the priests.”
I did not believe this at first but seeing it done I had to accept it.
I remarked, “This bird has a blue back, a white breast, a long neck, a red bill, long red legs, and a sharp red tuft on its brow. In general appearance it is like the ordinary crane though rather smaller. In the account given of the crane by Im Po I find a few similarities, but many differences. It is like a crane, and yet, evidently, not a crane.
“You are right” said the priest, “for if it were only an ordinary crane how could it understand so well all that is said to it ?
I made answer, “Fowls and dogs are inferior creatures and yet when they are called, they come, and if they are driven off they go away. They are perfectly under the control of man. This bird has grown up here and lived so long under man’s influence, that when it is called in the morning, and dismissed in the evening, it responds. Why should it differ specially from fowls, or dogs?”
Alas, the priests in their ignorance of nature have thought this creature a fairy. The bird too, in giving its confidence to the priest had no idea that it was being treated as something supernatural.
In the evening we arrived at Pyo-hoon-sa. The abbot hearing that I was coming, prepared my room and came out to meet me. He sent me tea and cake and greatly refreshed me after my journey. He inquired, also, as to my name and place of residence.
Later I went to Chung-yang Temple. The abbot, Cho In, I had met before in Seoul. He had me seated in the pavilion on the south side of the temple where all the view is free and open. There was no wind and the air was perfect. Nature sparkled with glorious light. The rocks and mountain peaks looked to me more wonderful than ever. Each was a mystery in itself. Great masses of masonry threw up their arms and left deep chasms disclosed to view. Off to the east was the highest peak of all, Mount Pi-ro. Next was Kwan-eum, then Mang-ko Tai, then II Wul, and Chi-jang, and Tal-ma. On all sides were these great walls smooth as though faced by steel, their turrets and battlements tipped with white.
Some of the peaks that stand shoulder to shoulder and wall up the valleys, are sharp like spears, some blunt and ill defined; some alive like roaring lions; some like glaring tigers; some seem to burst with rage; some have paws uplifted; some again like Hang-oo, hold a knife driven deep into the throat; some, like Pun K’wai grip a swine’s leg in the teeth; some, like the armies of Poo Kyun and Sa Hyun, muster face to face on the banks of the Pi-soo, a thousand spears and battle-axes. Girded soldiers are they with steel clad horsemen ready for the fray. These hills are indeed the warriors of the world.
When the Creator made them He employed His greatest skill.
As evening fell we returned to Pyo-hoon-sa. Here I found a young priest eighteen years of age, who had just come from Yoo-jum-sa, his eye-brows softly pencilled, and his face full of sunny smiles. He had a considerable knowledge of the character, so that he could converse intelligently, and was evidently of a very good family. I asked him his name, and he said Haing-tam was his Buddhist name, but that his lay name was Hyo-jung. I inquired as to his family and he said he was a relative of Ha Ryoon on the mother’s side, and that Pak Choong-ch’oo was his grand-father. So interested was I in his intelligence and gentle manner, that I kept him with me, and asked why he had become a priest, but he held down his head and did not answer.
The next day we intended going on to Chang-an-sa, so the abbot, hearing that I was out of supplies, gave me one measure of rice.
We went slowly down the Paik-ch’un Gorge. Here again the views are very fine, the trees and shrubs so green, mingled with grottos and deep pools. It is like Man-p’ok Tong for depth and solitude but even more wonderful.
The priest said to me “There is a peculiar being seen at times in these hills who came here some sixty years ago. He appears as the flowers come out and the moon shines. His face has grown no older in all that time and his hair remains still as black as lacquer. I had understood that he was a hermit refugee, and yet I wonder if he may not after all be one of the genii.”
On hearing this I wrote a poem:
He rides his windy chariot o’er the earth;
He walks, a fairy with a shining face.
The pigeons call him to the *Western Queen
[* Chief goddess of Taoism who dwells on the Kuenlun mountains of Tibet. ]
He drinks him deep, and wraps him in the clouds,
When morning comes he digs the hill for herbs;
And with the eve he ploughs the sky for gems.
When work is o’er he sits among the rocks,
And blows his pipe till moon and hills respond.
By evening time we arrived at Chang-an-sa, and entered the inner hall where we found 1200 Buddhas assembled together according to the 1200 peaks of the hills. In halls and pavilions, this temple is much like Yoo-jum-sa, but the hills and rocks and rushing streams about it are far superior.
The day following we returned on our tracks to Ma-ha-yun where once again all our supplies gave out. We asked the priest to help us in our need, but he replied, “l wonder what is the reason that we have so many folk passing this year who are out of rice ?”
I replied by the question, “Are there others besides myself?”
He made answer, “Yesterday, one gentleman by the name of Yang Pyo, from Seoul, slept here. He asked for supplies before he started off for Pal-pun.” Though the priest had said this as a joke still I felt and realized afresh my poverty.
To the north of the inner Water Pass is a ragged peak that holds up its hands to heaven, like a father to Pi-ro, an older brother to Mang-go and a son to Chi-jang and Tal-ma. The grass and shrubs on its face, touched by the north wind, are all shrivelled and dry.
By noon we reached Tai-chang Rock, and leaving Pine Field Temple (Song-chun Am) behind we went on to Pal-yun. Already the day was descending to its close. It is 80 li from Ma-ha-yun to this place. The wonder of the rocks, the streams, the woods along the way, are beyond my pen to describe. I found the man Yang Pyo, and he turned out to be an old friend whom I had known ten years before under a different name, Yang Choon.
In the early morning we went with the priests to the waterfall, which is about 40 feet high. Here they gave us an exhibition of swimming. The bed of the stream is very slippery. They tumbled about so that sometimes heads only were seen and sometimes feet. Sideways, endways they went flat on the face, or gazing upward at the sky. Down they flew like a flash over the smooth face of the rock. Not a full sail, or galloping horse could equal the speed by which they shot by. The rocks had no angry corners and were smooth as though rubbed with oil No one was hurt though they spent the whole day at these sports.
When evening came we arrived at Ko-sung. (End of trip made in 1489 A. D.)