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Restricted path filled with legend and sorrowThe myths that surround 500 Generals Oreum, are almost as beautiful as Oreum itself
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승인 2009.11.12  13:33:01
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The story contained within the 500 Generals Oreum still to this day enthralls, haunts and inspires day trippers to scale the Yeeongshil trail with hopes of gazing upon not only one of the holiest regions of Jeju, but to be reminded of the beautiful mythology it inspired. Photo by Kim Hong-gu

500 Generals Oreum is located on the Yeongshil trail of Mt. Halla near 1100 meter Road. Along with Baeknokdam and Muljangori Oreum, the beautiful and imposing 500 Generals Oreum is one of the three holy sites of Jeju. Located 1,639.3m above sea level the Oreum is surrounded by approximately 2,000 unique rocks that seem to reach towards the sky and marks the mythical roots of the Grandmother Seolmundae stories; the founding Goddess of Jeju.

Legend has it that Grandmother Seolmundae created Mt. Halla from mounds of earth she had carried in her skirt. It is said that when sleeping, she used Mt. Halla as a pillow, rested her bottom on Mt. Gogeun of Seogwipo City, and straddled her legs on the Beom Isle.

Grandmother Seolmundae had 500 sons and as like mother she was always concerned about having enough food for all of them. One day, while cooking rice soup in a big pot, she accidently fell in and drowned. The 500 sons, upon returning home, couldn’t find their mother anywhere, and after waiting for some time, they all grew very hungry and they decided to eat the boiling soup; all except the youngest son who was determined to wait for his mother to return. The sons devoured the soup very quickly as their youngest brother watch and they found it exceptionally delicious. However, the youngest son discovered a large bone at the bottom of the pot and knew at once what had happened.

Top left: Flora along the Yeongshil trail. Bottom left: Jeju mythology enthusiast Kim Hong-gu. Right: the spectacular view of Oreums where, it is said, that Grandmother Seolmundae would lay her self to sleep. Photos by Kim Hong-gu

The brothers who ate the flesh of their mother repented thoroughly and cried out for months and eventually turned into rocks from grief. It is said that their bloody tears become royal azalea blossoms on Mt. Halla that bloom in the spring. In Buddhism, they are called 500 Buddha’s Disciples, due to their appearance like ascetics who seek truth from the agony of human beings. Meanwhile, the legend says the youngest son ran far away crying out for the death of his mother and became the General rock to protect Jeju on the Isle of Chagwi.

Climbing along the Yeongshil trail towards the peak of 500 Generals, one can see the plethora of oreums that sound the site. Bolle Oreum, Isreong Oreum, and Eosreong Oreum, and Mt. Sanbang, Three Brothers Oreum, Chetmang Oreum, and Sajebi Hill far away. The beauty of Yeongshil Valley and the panorama it affords is unique and can’t be found anywhere else on the island.

On a fine day, the sound of water, flowing through the rock pillars and cliffs, and the birdsong which winds itself around the Oreums creates a magical harmony. 500 General Oreum is on the old Yeongshil trail, though it is managed by Mt. Halla National Park making it inaccessible to the public.

On the east of Yeongshil Valley, more than 500 unique rock formations stand high in the thick forest. On the western wall, there are approximately 1,000 rock pillars called the folding screen rocks. However, the sudden fog that often rolls across this area, whether it be the sorrow of Grandmother Seolmundae, or the tears of the 500 Generals, creates a haunting and majestic reminder of the scarifies that made the beautiful landscape of Jeju.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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