Start of Geumgangsan (Mt.),
First temple of the 12,000 peaks of Geumgangsan (Mt.),
Geumgsangsan Hwaamsa Temple
“The 12,000 peaks of Geumgangsan (Mt.) and 80,000 stones behind the Yujeomsa Temple is the Chilseongdan. Here we prayed for three months and ten days for a son and daughter”
These are the lyrics of the Gangwon-do Arirang, which everyone probably heard of sometime during their life.
These ancient lyrics that state the start of Geumgangsan (Mt.) refers to the Geumgangsan Hwaamsa Temple.
Among the 12,000 peaks, Shinseonbong next to the Misiryeong Hill is the first peak of the 12,000 peaks of Geumgangsan. Geumgangsan Hwaamsa Temple located below Shinseongbong from the 80,000 stones is the first temple from the south. There are few that know this.
When passing the Misiryeong Hill from Inje, the Ulsan Stone on the end of the right part of Seoraksan (Mt.) stands stern showing the magnificence of Seoraksan. To the left is the Shinseonbong that shows the start of Geumgangsan (Mt.) and the Geumgangsan Hwaamsa Temple that is located at its mountain foot uses the stones as its guardians.
The Geumgangsan Hwaamsa Temple that is located at Shinpyeong-ri, Toseong-myeon, Goseong-gun was built right below Shinseonbong, which is the first peak of the 12,000 peaks where the Geumgsansan (Mt.) starts when looking from the southern edge of Geumgangsan. This is where it got its name.
All temples in Geumgangsan (Mt.) have the word ‘Geumgangsan’ in front of their names, and thus, Hwaamsa was expressed as ‘Geumgangsan Hwaamsa’ in ancient books. It is said that the Buddhist Priest Jinpyo Yulsa constructed the Balyeonsa Temple to the east of Geumgangsan, Jangansa Temple to the west, and Hwaamsa to the east in order to establish a Buddhist nation centered at Geumgangsan (Mt.).
From Hwaeomsa to Geumgang
This temple was built on the southern foot of Geumgangsa by the Buddhist Priest Jinpyo Yulsa in 769 (5th year of the Silla King Hyegong). Here, Jinpyo Yulsa taught the ‘Hwaeomgyeong’ to many people. It is said that of the 100 students that learned this, 31 flew up into the heavens and the other 69 attained enlightenment. Due to this, the temple was also called Hwaeomsa.
Like the turbulent history of Korea, Hwaeomsa was also destroyed by fire many times. According to the ‘Suseongji’, it is recorded that it was burnt to ashes in the 15th year of Gwanghaegun (1622) and 11th year of Cheoljong (1860).
In 1625 (3rd year of King Injo) it was reconstructed and in 1794 (18th year of King Jeongjo) it was enlarged, and in 1864 (first year of King Gojong), it was moved below the stone called Subawi. Its name was then changed to Suamsa Temple following the name of this stone.
Finally in 1912, it was given its current name of Hwaamsa.
It looks like a crown or an elephant lying down. Also, because of the legend that if a cane is waved at the hole of the stone, rice would come out, it was named Hwaamsa in which ‘hwa’ means rice and ‘am’ means a stone.
In 1915 it was reconstructed due to being burned down by fire and then again reconstructed after being destroyed during the Korean War. Like this, it was repeatedly burned down and the reconstructed.
The enlargement in 1794 (18th year of King Jeongjo) turned into a very grand temple that proves the status of Hwaeomsa Temple. This Buddhist Temple was achieved by the prayers of Priest Dohan. It was said that the priest prayed 37 days for the peace of the nation, and soon after the prayers, a light was emitted that spread as far out to the palace.
A public officer named Choi was dispatched to this temple and he brought Priest Dohan to the palace. King Jeongjo was so impressed by this that he made the Hwaeomsa the main temple of the Gasungung Palace, and built a building called the Yosachae as a reward. Two years later, the Hwaeungjeon of the Mitaam (stone) was designated as Jeongjo’s main temple, and a statue of Buddha and an eight-fold wall painting by Jeongjo was given as a gift.
Like this, Hwaamsa was a very famous temple being designated as the main temple of the king.
The name of Hwaamsa was changed to Hwaamsa in 1912 during the Japanese Occupation of Korea.
To the back of the temple is a structure called Samseonggak. On the inner walls it shows the scenery of Geumgangsan (Mt.) such as Cheonseondae, Sangpaldal, Sejeonbong, and Samseondae, which proves that the first peak is Shinseonbong and the first temple is the Geumgangsan Temple starting from the south among the 12,000 peaks and 89,000 stones.