Maisan (Horse Ears Mountain) and Yi Gap Yong (1860–1957)

There were more than 6,500 Buddhist temples in South Korea according to an article in the Korea Times of November 1987. Most are in the mountains, made of wood and reconstructed after being destroyed in wars, fires, etc. One very special one that is somewhat different is located next to Maisan, twin peaks ascending to almost 700 meters. There is a legend that they were fairies who did not quite make it up to heaven. Strange is that they are composed of different material than other mountains in the surrounding area.

Getting there was a bit off the beaten track at the time, and we saw this man dressed as a Confucian scholar (perhaps he was one) in the bus station where we got transport to Maisan.

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A hiking trail has apparently been constructed up one of the mountains, but it didn’t exist when we visited. The sides of the two peaks are characterized by tafoni, small recesses in the rock that look like they have been carved out of it but are the result of weather (temperature fluctuations between freezing and thawing) and salt.

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However, the real reason for visiting them was the adjacent Tapsa Temple, where a Buddhist hermit layman Yi Gap Yong (1860–1957) had lived, arriving there in 1885. He was 25 years old and he built up to 120 conical natural stone pagodas over the next 30 years without using any materials (e.g., mortar) to keep them in place. Most stones came from the area, but he also used other that he collected from other mountains in Korea. Approx. 80 of his stone pagodas are still standing, and it is a mystery how they have survived the wind and weather without collapsing. He lived to the ripe age of 97.

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Yi Gap Yong was later ordained as a monk, and a temple was constructed at the site. There is a statue of him there. The site apparently attracts many visitors today, but we were alone when we visited in 1987.

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4 thoughts on “Maisan (Horse Ears Mountain) and Yi Gap Yong (1860–1957)

    1. Lots to see there if you ever get a chance, although it is not always easy to see things below the surface (e.g., my post on a shaman; it was only possible to experience a real one in action after much cajoling).


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