Artwork

Chilseong-gak – The Seven Stars Hall: 칠성각

Chilseong at Dongnimsa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Another popular shaman deity that you can find at a Korean Buddhist temple is Chilseong, or “The Seven Stars,” in English. Chilseong is Taoist in origins. Originally, Chilseong governed human affairs and fortunes. Unlike Sanshin who has maintained its shamanic independence, Chilseong has been thoroughly absorbed into Buddhism as each of the seven stars in the constellation have ascended to Bodhisattva status. Even Bukseong, “The North Star,” in English, the figure with the large elongated head that’s usually situated in the top corner of the Chilseong mural, is a Bodhisattva, as well.

Chilseong at Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Chilseong at Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Chilseong at Beopjusa Temple in Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do.

You can find Chilseong in a few locations at a Korean Buddhist temple. Most commonly, you can find Chilseong inside the Samseong-gak Hall alongside other popular shaman deities like Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and/or Yongwang (The Dragon King). Because Chilseong is a celestial deity, Chilseong takes up the central location on the main altar inside a Samseong-gak Hall, which is elevated above the earthly deities like Sanshin and Yongwang. Other places that you can find Chilseong is inside a Chilseong-gak Hall all by itself.

Specifically, Chilseong is prayed to for the birth of a baby, passing a school exam, wealth, long life, and/or the protection of young children. In appearance, Chilseong is known for the magnificent light that radiates forth from every part of its body. Even though it’s one deity, Chilseong appears as seven individual figures. Chilseong’s appearance depends on the artistic goal of the painter, so Chilseong can look shamanic, Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian. In the centre of the Chilseong mural, you’ll see Jaeseok-cheon, or the “Heaven King Deity,” in English. Jaeseok-cheon is the manager of heaven. Jaeseok-cheon appears surrounded by the seven star figures. And on either side of Jaeseok-cheon you’ll find Ilgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Sun) and Wolgwang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Moon). Ilgwang-bosal holds a red orb in its hands, while Wolgwang-bosal holds a white orb in its hands.

The Bukgeuk-jeon Hall at Anyangam Hermitage at Tongdosa Temple in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do.
The signboard and Gwimyeon above the entry of the Bukgeuk-jeon Hall at Anyangam Hermitage.
Inside the amazing Bukgeuk-jeon Hall at Anyangam Hermitage.

A great example of Chilseong can be found at Anyangam Hermitage on the Tongdosa Temple grounds. The Chilseong-gak Hall at Anyangam Hermitage was originally the only building at the hermitage when it was first constructed in 1295. At that time it was called the Bukgeuk-jeon Hall. It was only later that Anyangam Hermitage was reconstructed in 1865. During this time, the Geukrak-jeon Hall, the Sanshin/Dokseong-gak Hall and monks’ dorms were built. As for the Chilseong-gak Hall, it has a fierce Gwimyeon (Monster Mask) over the front door scaring off evil spirits. Stepping inside the hall, and above the main altar, you’ll find intricate dragon murals, painted Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities) singing the praises of Chilseong, and even more Gwimyeon. But the main highlight of this hall are the modern murals depicting the seven distinct stars of Chilseong. There’s a beautiful juxtaposition between the modern paintings of Chilseong contrasted by the historic hall and the murals that adorn its interior walls.

Other great examples of Chilseong can be found at Beopjusa Temple in Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do; Dongnimsa Temple in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do; Gunwi Grotto in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do; Hwaeomsa Temple in Gurye, Jeollanam-do; Jikjisa Temple in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do; Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do; Uigoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do; and Woljeongsa Temple in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do.

So if you want to live a long life or to have a child, you should try to find Chilseong at a Korean Buddhist temple. This shaman deity is very popular, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the seven ornate images of the Seven Stars.

Chilseong at Gunwi Grotto in Gunwi, Gyeongsangbuk-do.
Chilseong at Hwaeomsa Temple in Gurye, Jeollanam-do.
Chilseong at Uigoksa Temple in Jinju, Gyeongsangnam-do.
Chilseong at Woljeongsa Temple in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do.

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