inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #0 of 234: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 15 May 02 11:49
    
 David A. Mason grew up in Michigan during the '60s & '70s, and then
 furthered his education in and around  San Francisco for six years.  He
 has lived in South Korea for eighteen years as of 2002, exploring it and
 writing about its history and culture.  He earned his second M.A. (in the
 History of Korean Religions) at Yonsei University in Seoul.  He now works
 as a  consultant for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

 _Spirit of the Mountains_ is David's fourth book about Korean history,
 culture and tourism.  It describes Korea's ancient and pervasive
 traditions of ritually respecting the spirits of its beautiful peaks,
 with  Shamanic, Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, Daoist and purely nationalistic
 themes all intertwined.  It is filled  with hundreds of David's
 photographs of the Mountain-Spirit paintings and shrines from all over Korea,
 demonstrating how mountain-worship is flourishing and evolving in
 21st-century high-tech Korea.

 Leading the discussion is Mitsu Hadeishi, who has practiced and studied
 Buddhist, Taoist, and other Eastern philosophical and spiritual
 traditions for twenty years, with a particular focus on Chinese and
 Japanese Chan/Zen Buddhism, Chinese Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, and some
 small familiarity with Tibetan as well as Japanese shamanic practices
 found in Bon and Shintoism, as well as Confucianism.
 He graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics in 1987, and currently
 works as a multimedia and internet software architect, doing both commercial
 and artistic projects with a focus on integrating design and technology.

 Please join me in welcoming David and Mitsu to inkwell.vue!
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #1 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Wed 15 May 02 14:21
    
Hello, David.  As I was reading your book it struck me that you must have
visited a dizzying array of different Korean temples and mountain redoubts,
and along the way you must have encountered a large number of interesting
people.  I am quite interested, in particular, in the personal interactions
you might have had with some of the practicing Man-shin shamans you came
across in your journeys.  Were there any particular personal encounters with
shamans or other Koreans living in remote areas which stand out in your
mind?  What were these people like?
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #2 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Wed 15 May 02 21:10
    
Hello, Mitsu and everyone.  Glad to be here.

Yeah, good question-- in visiting nearly a thousand Buddhist temples
& Hermitages and Shamanic shrines, during my 18 years here, I've 
encounted a whole wide range of strange characters.  South Korea is
still a fairly socially-conformist, personally-repressed place, but 
it is exactly in these mountain/religious places that you find the 
real non-conformists, the dropout "bohiemians" if you like, of this
society -- and the really strange, weird and disturbed!

Actually, the most common reaction i've gotten in the remote places
-- where it may be that i'm the first non-Korean ever seen there --
is just to ignore me. It's a Korean thing.  People have a surprised
expression, like "what is HE doing here??" but then they just turn
away, keep watching me from the corner of their eye, probably hoping
that i'll just go away soon and they won't have to try to speak 
English to me.  If i speak some Korean, they're further shocked and
have to re-assess the situation.  

That attitude of just ignoring me actually works out pretty well 
many times, because i can take my photos without being restricted, 
and then move on to the next place (i can cover anywhere from 1 to 
20 sites in a good day of hiking) without having to answer a lot of
elementary questions while having tea for an hour or more.  Some of
the folks are good to talk with and i can learn some things, of
course, but some may just waste the daylight hours...  and sometimes
i'm just not in the mood to chat or explain myself.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #3 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Wed 15 May 02 21:42
    
When i have interacted with the monks or shamans (and there is a 
large grey area between those two types!) at these sites, well, it
has been interesting.  Some shamans have sharply cursed me for 
taking their photo while they are pray-chanting to the San-shin
[Mountain-spirit] from a distance. Some have made it clear that they
don't mind, and have even offered to pose for me to get a better shot.
 Quite a few have submitted to short on-the-spot interviews
about their beliefs & practices, giving material for my book.

Once an elderly Buddhist nun caught me photographing the San-shin 
painting in the Main Hall of her temple (which is a public place),
started angrily shouting at me and demanded the film from my camera!
I wasn't gonna give her that, and she chased me out downhill for 
awhile, waving her hiking-staff...  i got away all right, but didn't
ever publish that photo anywhere, since their non-permission was 
obvious.    Sometimes i had to "sneak" photos, spy-like... but such
problems have been rare.

Many times, Zen monks and Abbots of Monestaries have invited me in 
for Korean-style green tea or a vegetarian meal in their quarters 
or out on the wooden porch (which i gladly accept), or even to spend
the night (which i almost always decline).   We've had fascinating 
chats.  They're usually excited (and a bit shocked) to find that i'm
interested and already knowlegable about their traditions.  They're
pleased with my subject of study, even regretful that no Korean has
yet done such a book.  They tell me stories and info about San-shin
from their own point of view.  Some of them buy a book  :-)   Some 
give me cool gifts (and get a book in return).  Some try to recruit
me into monkhood, or at least membership in Buddhism.  Most've been
fully supportive of my research.  I've made a few lasting friends.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #4 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Thu 16 May 02 00:30
    
I notice that you on a couple occasions make brief reference to your own
meditative attempts to attain a vision of a San-shin, etc.  I am curious to
what extent you explored this in your travels and conversations and studies,
and in what way this might have influenced you personally?  I don't mean
necessarily just with respect to the San-shin but also with respect to
Korean Shamanism more generally, or Korean Buddhism or Daoism, etc.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #5 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Thu 16 May 02 04:13
    
I've always been interested in religions and spiritual practices, but
have always been a skeptic, even atheist, about every sort of deity.  A
lot of Koreans are afraid of shamans and Shamanic deities and have
warned me not to do what I do, fearing curses and bad fortunes.  But I
don't believe that gods and spirits and ghosts "really" exist, I think
they are creations of our mind as it interacts with the greater Mind of
the biosphere (cf: the works of Gregory Bateson).  So I don't fear
them, but just feel free to play with them, let them influence my
subconscious.  Just thought I should get that out of the way at the
beginning….

When I have visited San-shin shrines, I usually do a Korean-style
bowing and chanting to the icon, after I take a photo of it.  Sometimes
I state a prayer during that, of a pretty standard form, seeking the
wisdom, clarity and strength that the San-shin represents.  This is to
show respect for what I am photographing, and also as a spiritual
practice of my own.  I don't know that anybody in the world has ever
prostrated and prayed at more different Mountain-spirit shrines than I
have…

One time in June 1998, the Abbot of a Zen temple nearby where I was
living (a friend) held a three-day-long session with me of continuously
bowing and chanting to the San-shin (in shrine of his temple).  We
were hoping that I would have an authentic vision of the mountain
spirit, to better inform my research, either on the spot or in a dream…
but no vision came, sad to say.   I'd still love to have one.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #6 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Thu 16 May 02 07:46
    
The notion of deities-as-metaphor isn't far removed from the interpretation
present in many varieties of Buddhism, at least of the varieties that
I have studied (which hasn't included very much Korean forms, except for
some study of Korean Zen --- something I hope to rectify), as I'm sure
you know.  What they are metaphors for, exactly, isn't completely spelled
out --- many of these same Buddhists tend to take an empirical attitude
towards this question, i.e., to what extent they refer to psychological or
perhaps transpersonal principles is a question left mostly unanswered.
In particular many of the so-called "higher" teachings explicitly eschew
metaphysics (a la Nagarjuna) --- though I suspect most Asian Buddhists believe
in some sort of transpersonal reality beyond that which is obviously visible,
at the same time the notion of "deity" is nevertheless still considered to be
a kind of metaphor, not to be taken literally.

I wonder what sense you got from different peopole you encountered as to
their attitudes of the metaphysical status of these entities.  Did their
attitudes vary based on whether they approached the San-shin notion from
a Buddhist, say, or a shamanistic standpoint?  A priori I would imagine that
perhaps the shamans tended to take the idea more literally --- or has
Korean shamanism adopted the metaphysical skepticism found in some
strains of Buddhism (as has, for example, the Bon tradition in Tibet ---
which at this point is difficult to distinguish from Tibetan Buddhism?)
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #7 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Thu 16 May 02 17:58
    
Your intuition is correct -- Shamans and Shamanic-monks, and less-
educated countryside lay worshippers, always clain that San-shin is
a "real" entity, they believe it has a personality and can affect/
afflict their lives & fortunes (sorta like a greek god), perhaps 
they have "seen" it.  Those who claim to have encountered it often 
describe it as manifested as a tiger, often a sacred white tiger; 
they produce no photographs (there are, actually, no tigers left in
Korea; they're extinct since 1935 or so).  They worship San-shin to
avoid misfortunes and gain real-world benefits.

Better-educated urban-origin monks & layfolk see it as a metaphor or
sacred symbol, in the Zen-Buddhist style; Neo-Confucians and some 
monks include a vague collective-ancestor identity to the patriarchal
grandfather-figure -- tying it in with National Founder King Dan-gun
(as discussed in my book pgs 132-138).  They see ritual respect of
San-shin as a "spiritual practice" for themselves, as i do.

Very few Koreans i've encountered regard San-shin as i outlined in 
my last Chapter -- as symbol of traditional Korean culture, as eco-
symbol, as icon of national *cultural* re-unification.  Yet.

For me personally -- it's good to have found a deity i can love,
can bow & chant & pray to sincerely, can meditate on, can even 
proselytize a bit  ;-)   -- hey, everybody should have at least one.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #8 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Thu 16 May 02 19:55
    
>there are, actually, no tigers left in Korea

Yes, I noticed that in one of your footnotes; a terrible aftereffect of the
Japanese militarist occupation (although I am Japanese-American and was not
born in Japan, I still find myself ashamed at the Japanese militarists'
crimes --- in defense of Japanese culture I can only say that such behavior
was and is utterly antithetical to the original samurai ethics --- my own
family, an old samurai family, was so opposed to the militarists that my
great-grandfather sent his children to America to avoid dying for those
idiots.  Which is why I am here.)

One thing I found somewhat puzzling about your account of the San-shin's
status in Korea is the fact that it seems to be simultaneously so popular
that Buddhists felt a need to reintroduce the San-shin to temples where
it had been removed, and yet you also allude to the relatively low level
of awareness of San-shin among other parts of the Korean population.
Is there a big divide in terms of awareness of San-shin between urban and
rural populations?  Who is aware of it, and who isn't?
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #9 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Thu 16 May 02 21:25
    
well, on the extinction of tigers -- I wouldn't really blame 
"Japanese militarist occupation" for that.  True, it happened due 
to the Japanese bringing in modern guns to use for more-efficient 
over-hunting.  But if the Japanese hadn't been running Korea, the 
Koreans themselves would have aquired the guns and done the same 
thing; it just would've taken a little longer.  The Koreans have 
virtually extincted the black bears, mule deer and every other wild
animal larger than a rabbit, post-Korean-War, all by themselves.  
Until quite recently they've never shown much interest in ecological
preservation or protection at all (unless it was the US Army caught
polluting something!).  We're trying to turn that around, but it's 
way slow.  So... one LESS thing for Japanese to feel guilty about or
be blamed for...
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #10 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Thu 16 May 02 22:07
    
Awareness and popularity of San-shin:
yeah, that's a tricky thing to describe.  Almost any Korean knows 
what the term means.  Christians (20% of the pop?) know that they 
don't like it, or at least are supposed to oppose it.  Buddhists, 
Confucians, new-nationalist-religionists and atheists know that it
fits into the traditional-culture matrix somehow, and accept it.

A few Buddhist monks oppose its worship in Zen temples, as I tell on
pg 184.  Millions of people "believe in" San-shin enough to peform
the rituals and donate cash at the shrines; enough that new bigger 
fancier San-shin shrines keep being built.  But very few can tell ya
much info on it, or identify the symbolism in San-shin icons.  

Quite a few urban folks will tell you that it's "just an old super-
stition" that they never think about.  More than a few of those are
just avoiding embarrassment by "acting modern" in front of the 
Westerner.  Just like how MANY young Koreans still visit fortune-
tellers, but most won't admit it openly.  It's complex.  And a tough
thing to "research".

Certainly, official and scholarly recognition lag way behind actual
popularity.  The government still doesn't recognise San-shin as key
to Korean culture, as a symbol of Korea, as a draw for tourism or a
good image for promotion, etc.  I'm working to change that, but 
there's a lot of resistance.

As my book shows, San-shin is truly central to traditional Korean 
culture, as such a wide range of other religious and folk-custom 
factors are linked to it.  However, my book was the 1st book ever 
in English on it, and there had been no *major* work on it in Korean
at all -- this always surprised me.  

Koreans, too.  So many professor-types have leafed through the book,
amazed at the range of the subject, recognising the importance, and
seemingly stunned that it hadn't been "done" before. The most common
reaction i get to the book & web-site from scholars, journalists etc
is expicit shame-at-sin-of-ommission.   It's uncomfortable to be 
causing so much shame!  I was embarrassed when presenting on a panel
at a major academic conference in Daegu City last Sept, and the 
Korean prof introducing me waved my book, thundering "This foreigner
has done what WE did NOT do!  He did what we OUGHT to have done!".
Really.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #11 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Thu 16 May 02 23:01
    
Very interesting.  I am curious about this because although Japanese have
also left behind a lot of their heritage in the rush towards modernization,
I don't get the sense that Japanese have this sense of embarrassment about
their old traditions and nature religions.  They are not nearly as central
to Japanese life as they once were, but at the same time they're still
seen as quite "normal" even if somewhat quaint, nothing to be embarrassed
about, still a source of tourism, etc.  I wonder why you think that some
urban Koreans may feel this sense of embarrassment regarding their
national religious/cultural heritage?

On another subject, there is one thing which I have often wondered about,
which is the special use of color in Korean culture.  Color in Korean
paintings and traditional clothing strikes me as quite beautiful and also
different from, say, color as it is used in China or Japan.  Do you have
any thoughts about the Korean traditional use of color, how it might have
evolved, and/or the meaning of this use of color?
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #12 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Fri 17 May 02 05:05
    
It's a fact that many urban Koreans feel a sense of embarrassment 
regarding their national religious/cultural heritage, particularly 
those who came of age in the '70s - '80s.  The dominant meme then 
was "we should be modern, and throw away all the old-fashioned 
superstitious crap that held our ancestors back, and adopt The 
American Package instead -- blue jeans, coffee, Hollywood, sports,
chemical medicines, computers, English Lit, consumerism, classical 
music, sex-oriented comercialism and Protestant Christianity".  Just
a natural -- and maybe necessary -- part of the industrialization /
modernization thang.  Which the (south) Koreans have been extremely
successful at, far more than most of the 2nd or 3rd World.

The 88 Olympics started an "Our Culture" backlash.  My late teacher/
mentor Zo Zayong (see website) was a big part of getting that going.
It's progressing pretty well, i guess -- knowledge of and pride in 
and display of what is "really Korean" -- very much selected -- is
growing.  I'm doin' what i can to encourage that along...
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #13 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Fri 17 May 02 05:17
    
The traditional Korean use of color seems rooted in their strong
Shamanic heratige.  It's one of the things that first attracted me
to Korea.  The Japanese use of plain unfinished wood is cool for its
simplicity and naturalism, but just gets TOO stark after awhile. 
The Chinese (and Japanese Shinto) over-use of Fire-Engine-Red trimed
with gold is exciting but just SO tastelessly garish after awhile.

The Koreans get it just right, in-between -- rich colors but earth-
tones, deep dull red with forest-green, cobalt-blue and imperial 
yellow, intertwined complexly making a rich harmony.  Temple/shrine
buildings painted this way rest prominently but perfectly harmon-
iously amidst the pine & maple forests and gray granite cliffs.  I
never get tired of seeing them.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #14 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Fri 17 May 02 09:51
    
I'd agree with your assessment of Korean use of color.  Especially when
watching traditional Korean dancing, I find it quite spectacular.  Korean
traditional dress is very appealing in its use of color, in my opinion.

Another question I have regards the nature of Korean mountain worship
itself.  As you describe, the San-shin is sometimes regarded as an actual
human being who eventually reached a level of spiritual realization
which allowed him or her to become a San-shin.  In other places, however,
you discuss the San-shin as a sort of personification of the spirit of
the mountain itself.  To what extent are San-shin seen to be in some sense
coextensive with the mountain (i.e., is San-shin worship seen to be
worship of a spirit who just happens to live on a mountain, or worship of
the spirit of the mountain itself?)
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #15 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Fri 17 May 02 23:40
    
Well, it can be both.  The nature of all Shamanism is that it's very
inclusive, ambiguous and tolerant of contradiction.  Or maybe we
should say that the potentially mind-bending transcendence of either
/or dualities is the nature of religion?  "Jesus was both fully 
human and fully divine", that sortta thing...  Saying that it's one
way and also simultaneously is another contradictory way doesn't 
seem to bother the general Korean religious mind one bit. 

Most all of the thousands of San-shin in Korea are the spirit of the
mountain itself, manifest in in human (and/or tiger) form.  A few of
the greatest and most famous mountains have sort of additional San-
shin spirits that were once people.  Could be a legendary person, 
like "Holy-bone General", ancestor of the founder-king of the Koryeo
Dynasty (918-1390) who was married and sortta absorbed by the female
San-shin of Pine-crags Mountain north of Kaesong City (which became
the Koryeo capital) (book pg 36).  Or Korea's original founder-king
Dan-gun at Mysterious-Fragrance Mountain (pages 132-138).
 
Or could be real people, like murdered King Dan-jong whose ghost 
rode a few dozen miles on a white horse to become the "supplementary
spirit" of the already famous & powerful Grand White Mountain.  Like
Yi Songgye, general and then founder-king of the Joseon Dynasty 
(1392-1910) who is seen as San-shin of the bizzare-shaped Horse-Ears
Mountain (book pg. 34 and http://www.san-shin.org/newdis2.html ).
Like the twin-brother Buddhist monks who became extra San-shin after
their deaths for the protection of the temples at Meditation-Clouds
Mountain in the same province (page 35).  This is right now in the
process of happening with a recently deceased old monk who lived out
his days on South Mountain in the ancient Shilla capital Kyeongju
<http://www.san-shin.org/newdis4.html>

I won't be a bit surprised if it happens with my late teacher/mentor
Zo, "the tiger of Sogni-san" <http://www.san-shin.org/Zo-01.html> --
there were signs of that at his funeral (like, his funerary-portrait
was set up in front of a San-shin painting of his by the officiating
Shamaness, and they were ritually-respected together).
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #16 of 234: Gerald Feeney (gerry) Sat 18 May 02 09:16
    <scribbled by gerry Sat 18 May 02 09:19>
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #17 of 234: Gerald Feeney (gerry) Sat 18 May 02 09:19
    <scribbled by gerry Tue 21 May 02 20:14>
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #18 of 234: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sat 18 May 02 11:50
    
Along the same vein as my last question: in addition to the portraits of the
San-shin spirits, to what extent is there present in Korean art a tendency
to make paintings or drawings of the physical mountains themselves?  I am
thinking, of course, of the many pictures of Fujisan in Japan, which is
a central national symbol --- is there a similar tradition in Korea, or
do San-shin portraits take the place of this?

On a different subject, I am curious about the extent to which you might
feel Korean shamanism and/or the San-shin tradition can be found influencing
everyday Korean customs and culture.  That is to say, not so much the
conscious awareness of this, but rather unconscious habits of interaction
or ways of thinking or perceiving.  In what ways does it show up in language
and/or customs and/or societal structures, as you have observed?
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #19 of 234: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sat 18 May 02 12:01
    
My humble review, for what is's worth:


The new book, _Spirit of the Mountains: Korea's SAN-SHIN and
Traditions of Mountain-Worship_, by David A. Mason, is at first
striking because of its physical appearance.  The luxurious thick
glossy stock and abundance of beautiful, full-color photographs enable
it to easily pass for an elegant "coffee-table book."  But don't let
its looks fool you.  The text is substantial and informative.  What's
more, it informs on a subject that is certainly obscure for most
non-Koreans, and perhaps for many Koreans, as well.  

Writing in an easy-going, first-person narrative style, David Mason
treats the reader to a comprehensive survey of Korean _San-shin_
imagery, together with a thorough analysis of its composition, history,
development, influences, etc.  While Mason's writing is casual in
style, it is at the same time, quite scholarly, given its numerous
references, notes, and a substantial bibliography.  

San-shin means "Mountain-spirit, Mountain God, or Spirit of the
Mountains," he tells us.  It refers to the belief that each mountain is
the home of a spirit or mountain-god that can grant protection,
healing, and even spiritual gifts.  The iconography associated with
San-shin is amazingly diverse and rich in symbolism.  The essence,
though, is nearly always a grandfatherly figure, a tiger, and a gnarly
pine tree in the background.  The book contains several hundred
photographs of various San-shin icons (as well as of other subjects),
and Mason offers the reader explanations and analyses of the underlying
meanings of the symbols. 

Mason explains that moutain worship is both primordial and universal
in origin, but at the same time, San-shin has been assimilated and
syncretized with other traditions that make it uniquely Korean. For
instance, he writes that nearly a century ago, a Christian missionary
observed that Korean mountain worship had certain similarities to
worship practices he'd found on mountains in the Middle East.  Indeed,
those instances as well others found in the Himalayas, Greece, among
natives of North and South America, and elsewhere, allude to the
mythological construct that Joseph Campbell referred to as "the central
mountain of the earth."  But Mason also shows how San-shin evolved
from ancient shamanism and over time blended with Taoism, Confucianism,
Buddhism, and Korean nationalism to form part of the core of the
collective Korean psyche.  

It's interesting that the mountain worship practices have survived and
flourished to a far greater extent in Korea than anywhere else on
earth.  Given that "Seventy-five-percent of the Korean Peninsula is
nearly-uninhabitable moutainous terrain," it should come as no surprise
that a "Mountain Spirit" or "Mountain God" became a central feature of
Korean self-identity.  Perhaps what is surprising is how well San-shin
has assimilated with other religious and cultural traditions.  From
the book, it appears that the only serious clash has been with certain
Christians - both Korean and foreign - who regard San-shin as devil
worship and have worked hard to surpress it.  Sadly, Mason informs us,
there have even been cases where Christians have vandalized San-shin
shrines and relics.  The silver lining of that dark cloud, according to
Mason, is that some Korean Christians have actually adopted certain
San-shin practices, even as they deny doing so.

_Spirit of the Mountains_ is visually dazzling, a worthwhile read, and
a fascinating pilgrimage to Korea's sacred sites - one that very few
people could ever hope to make in person.

  Gerald Feeney
  Host of "cross", the WELL's Christianity Conference
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #20 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Sat 18 May 02 18:25
    
Welcome to the conversation, Gerald.  Thanks for the good review.
I think you got it right...

> The luxurious thick glossy stock and abundance of beautiful, 
> full-color photographs enable it to easily pass for an elegant 
> "coffee-table book." 
> Mason's writing is casual in style, it is at the same time, 
> quite scholarly, given its numerous references, notes, and a 
> substantial bibliography.

When deciding with my publisher how to pitch this book -- tourist /
coffee-table or academic market -- they decided to try for both.  
(Koreans often try to compromise the Hard Questions).  Of course, we
ended up not satisfying either audience.  Tourist-types have said 
it's a bit dry and too detailed, while professorly reviewers find 
that it's too juicy, too much author in there, too much speculation
and advocacy, and my statistics are "insufficiently scientifically 
rigorous in presentation".   Yeeesh.    I don't have a PhD, so...

But everybody loves the photos, and a dozen Korean-studies profs 
have privately told me that it's great, even if i'm "unqualified".

If you can believe it, the first actual review it got (on the Korean
-Studies e-mail list) claimed that it's not a scholarly work at all,
and can't be taken seriously, because it has no footnotes!  I had to
post a rebutal (which is generally "not done" in academia) pointing
out that it has 330 ENDnotes, and WHAT does he think all those 
"little numbers" throughout the text ARE...?  He lamely posted back
that he hadn't seen them because they were too small, and he had 
read the book (3 times, he claimed) without his glasses on, and that
hey, it's impolite to challenge a scholarly review.   After some 
debate, the list-miesters deleted his "review" from the archives and
asked a saner prof to re-review it.  Can you believe it?  True Story.
That's the kind of luck i've had in the Hallowed Halls...

We are now preparing an edition translated into Korean, which might
make a small splash here (as even my English ed. got plenty of media
attention in Korean).  My publisher wants to move it in the popular
direction -- more Me, more stories & myths, paperback & less photos,
cheaper paper -- try to SELL some.  So, i've re-worked the text and
drasticly chopped the footnotes... we'll see if this pays off.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #21 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Sat 18 May 02 18:40
    
> a fascinating pilgrimage to Korea's sacred sites - one that very 
> few people could ever hope to make in person.

As currently an Officer of the State encouraging Tourism to Korea, i
am obligated to say:  many of these places are fully accessible, tix
are cheap these days, Korea is not as far away as you think it is 
(David Letterman recently joked that it's 29 hours by air, which 
just pissed us off), language-barriers are being overcome, prices 
are reasonable, Koreans are in a hospitable mood, it is again "Visit
Korea Year" -- come over and see it all for yourself   :-)
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #22 of 234: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sat 18 May 02 19:12
    
Thank you, David.  I guess academia is a tough place, generally, and
I'm guessing that Korean academia is even tougher.  But I'm inclined to
agree with your publisher as far as going in the popular direction.

Though you did describe the process of your collection and research in
the first chapter, I would think that your *experiences* along the way
(such as the example you gave to Mitsu above) could be expanded upon
greatly and would be very interesting to readers who enjoy travel
tales.  What an adventure!  Someone wanting to retrace your steps
during a vacation to Korea would only be able cover a small fraction of
the ground you've covered.

I've always wanted to visit Korea, and I hope to be able to do so in
the near future.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #23 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Sat 18 May 02 19:26
    
Well friends, it's the morning of Sunday May 19th here.  This year
that's the 8th Day of the 4th Moon, oriental Lunar Calendar.  
Sakyamuni Buddha's Birthday, big National Holiday here since 1975 
(set to be parallel with Jesus's Birthday Dec 25th, also a holiday,
for equality of religions).  In Korea, the big public stadium-rally
followed by street-festival and huge lantern-parade down Main Street
was held last Sunday 5/12.  So that they wouldn't interfere with the
ceremony-festivals at each individual temple today.

Which i'm off for.  I'm a tour-guide today, for the Royal Asiatic 
Society; we're bringing two bus-loads of "foreigners" to three big
temples in northern Seoul, to see the rituals, dances, etc (incl,
i'm sure, a bit of mountain-worship).  Gotta leave now.  I'll be 
back to the conversation tonight when i return.

To you all: *Seong-bul hapshida!*  [let's go achieve enlightenment!]
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #24 of 234: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sat 18 May 02 19:39
    
Enjoy, David.  I look forward to hearing all about it when you return.
  
inkwell.vue.150 : David Mason: Spirit of the Mountains
permalink #25 of 234: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Sun 19 May 02 07:10
    
And i'm back.  The crowds were heavy, the music & dance were good,
the lectures were boring, the Lotus-Lanterns were colorful.  Every-
body on my tour seemed to have a good time.  I sold 3 books  :-)
And since we went to a half-dozen temples & hermitages, most of
which i had never yet visited, and i was quick with my camera while
guiding the group thru each set of shrines, i picked up photos of 6
new-to-me San-shin paintings!  Including 2 real antiques and a great
statue.  Great weather for it all.   a Buddha's Birthday well-spent!
  

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