Odae-san   五臺山 오대산
one of Korea's most-sacred mountain-clusters
National Park of Gangwon-do
the holy Buddhist Five Platforms Mountains,
Korean Home of Munsu the Bodhisattva of Wisdom
Host of Woljeong-sa, Sangwon-sa, a Jeokmyeol-bogung Shrine,
Sogeumgang-gyegok Gorge, a key section of the
Baekdu-daegan,
grand forests, spring-waters, great trails and Gangneung City!
Sacred Sites of Odae-san Pages:

Introduction and parallels to China's Wutai-shan -- this page

Guksa-Seonghwang and San-shin Shrines of Daegwan-ryeong Pass

Gulsan-saji Temple Site in Gangneung

Woljeong-sa Monastery

Yuksu-am Hermitage of Avalotesvara

Sangwon-sa Temple

Central Chungdae-Biro-bong Peak, Jeokmul-bogung Shrine and Saja-am Hermitage

Northern Bukdae-bong Peak and Mireuk-am Hermitage

Eastern Dongdae-bong Peak and Gwaneum-am Hermitage

Western Seodae-bong Peak and Yeombul-am Hermitage

Southern Namdae-bong Peak and Jijang-am Hermitage

Yeonggam-sa Temple

Sago-ji Joseon Dynasty Archives Site

Sogeumgang-gyegok, the famous "Little Diamond Mountains" Scenic-Valley

Gangneung Hyanggyo
Odae-san, Korea's Five-Platforms Mountain-cluster and National Park, has been highly sacred to
Korean Buddhism ever since great Master Jajang (慈藏, 608-686) named and consecrated them
after returning from China during the reign of Queen Seondeok [善德女王, r. 632-47] of the Shilla
Kingdom.  They are located on the east coast of Gangwon-do Province, mostly in Pyeongchang
County and Gangneung City, within the central sector of the
Baekdu-daegan Mountain System.

According to the
Samguk Yusa [三國遺事, Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms, c. 1280],
Jajang-yulsa went to Tang around 636 AD because he had a great wish to meet
Munsu-bosal
(文殊菩薩, Mañjuśrī, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom) in north China's Mt. Wutai-shan [五臺山, Five
Platforms Mountains], the Chinese
doryang of that deity.  When he encountered Munsu-bosal
there in a series of mystical visions, he was told to return to his homeland Silla and search for a
remote set of mountains that closely resembled Wutai-shan, assured that he could again meet
Munsu-bosal who was also residing there.  Wutai-shan has five great peaks with flat or rounded
tops, less craggy and more forested than other holy mountains, surrounding a central valley.
These five peaks were conceived to be like “platforms” that cosmic Buddhist deities can sit on
to preach to this world, of the sort that Buddha statues and lecturing masters sit on in temples.
Jajang found this mountain-cluster that indeed has five great peaks surrounding a central valley,
and resembles Wutai-shan although is only half as tall.  He named those mountains with the
same Chinese characters as the famously holy Chinese peaks, called by their Korean
pronunciation Odae-san;  therefore these mountains can be called “Korea’s Wutai-shan.”

Jajang enshrined
sari (舍利, sarira, crystal post-cremation relics) of Sakyamuni Buddha that had
been mystically given to him at Wutai-shan, deeper back in the mountains on a south-facing slope
of their 1563-meter-high central summit (which he named Biro-bong 毘盧峰 after
Birojana-bul
[毘盧遮那佛, Vairocana the Buddha of Cosmic Light].  The site is now above Saja-am (Lion
Hermitage), and is known as one of the original five
Jeokmyeol-bogung temples, containing a
sacred mound enshrining the relics and a hall in front of it with a window on its back wall instead
of a Buddha statue. He then founded
Woljeong-sa Temple near the entrance to the valley to
serve as a great scholastic monastery devoted to achieving the esoteric and precious
banya
[般若, wisdom, prajñā] of Munsu-bosal.  

Half a century later
Sangwon-sa Temple was built at the end of the great valley between the five
peaks where the steep trail up to Saja-am begins, by the princes Bo-cheon and Hyo-myeong,
the younger sons of
King Shinmun (681-92) in the Unified Shilla Dynasty, having been inspired
by Jajang’s holy accomplishments and their own vision of Munsu-bosal there.

All this was an important step in the Koreanization of Buddhism, and in the Buddha sacralization
of Korea's mountains; by this entire process Korea was upgraded to a “Buddhist Holy-land”
roughly equivalent to China, making the foreign religion more acceptable to indigenous nationalist
minds.  Odae-san is considered to be one of his three primary
doryang of Munsu-bosal in Korea,
along with
Jiri-san and Geumgang-san.

The
Sanshin [山神, Mountain-spirits] of these peaks and slopes, generally male, are believed to
be especially powerful and benevolent hosts of Buddhism.  One tradition of Korean spiritual-
nationalists holds that the Queen of
Dan-gun Wanggeom became the Sanshin of all Odae-san.

Master
Jinpyo is said to have encountered Munsu-bosal while hiking on the slopes of Odae-san
in 740 CE.  The great Korean
Seon Master Naong Hyegeun Wangsa [懶翁慧勤; 1320–76] became
abbot of Odae-san Woljeong-sa in 1360, after his return to Goryeo from studies at Wutai-shan,
and also had a mystical experience of Munsu-bosal in these mountains.

The Odae-san National Park (五臺山國立公園) was designated in 1975, over a total area of
304 ㎢, including the five main mountains and also Duro-bong (1422m), Sangwang-bong (1491m)
Horyeong-bong (1561m) and Sogyebang-san (1577m) off to the south and west, and Noin-bong
[Old Man Peak, 1,338m] and the famously beautiful
Sogeumgang-Gyegok [Little Diamond
Mountains Scenic-Gorge] to the east.  The whole area is very popular with hikers enthralled
with the famously luxuriant ancient forests and clean mineral-waters, and Buddhist pilgrims.
"The Cradle of (Korean) Buddhism", a meditation website labels it.
Temples of Odae-san within the national park: