▲ The Jeju Weekly team takes a tour of Sanbangsan's hidden energy - Photo by Matt Collison
Despite their outward inanimate appearance, rocks have throughout history been believed to harbor energetic properties.
Not only that, such believers say the positive energy flowing from them can provide healing properties, bring wealth to families or even fortune to entire villages.
Whatever your view, it is difficult to deny the often fascinating tales connected with some of Jeju's popular, and lesser known, rocks.
The Jeju Weekly met with Dr Shin Young Dae, a professor at Jeju Tourism University, for a tour of the Sanbangsan area, thought to be one of Jeju's most concentrated sites of energy-emanating rocks.
▲ Sanbangsa - Photo by Matt Collison
Sanbangsan and the Sanbanggulsa Cave
Sanbangsan is particularly rich in good energy, we are informed by Dr Shin, a Chinese language and literature professor as well as an expert on each of Jeju’s 368 oreums.
It’s not surprising then that folks have wanted to tap in to that positive force, perhaps by burying their loved ones here.
Tombs, however, are strictly forbidden on the paths leading to the mountain’s peak, Dr Shin tells our tour. While they could bring great riches to one family, it could also bring ill fortune to an entire village, he warns.
The mountains most trodden pathway leads on a steep climb to Sanbanggulsa cave, 150 meters up Sanbangsan's south face.
Here water drips almost ceaselessly from the cave's ceiling into the shrine's pool, drinking from which is believed to proffer good health while praying at the shrine is said to bring eternal love. Regardless, it's certainly true that a sip from this clear spring offers a refreshing respite after the steep but picturesque climb.
According to legend, the water drops are tears of Sanbangdeogi, goddess of Sanbang, who fell in love with a mortal, a village boy named Goseong. A jealous official who also sought the goddess' affections banished Goseong from the village and threw away all his possessions. Missing her true love, Sanbangdeongi turned to rock after retreating to the cave where her tears watered a nearby tree of love.
The grotto itself offers excellent views of the Sagye-ri harbor, the coastline towards Songaksan, Marado Island and the 'two brother' islands of Hyeongjeseom.
▲ Oreum expert Dr Shin Young Dae reveals Jeju's hidden energy spots - Photo by Matt Collison
During the Goryeo Dynasty of 918-1392 the shrine became a shelter for Buddhist monk Hye-Il. Monks brought a Buddha statue here and have studied here after the Goryeo Dynasty.
Taking the climb down more splendid views can be seen of the two brother islets and Hendrick Hamel ship at Dragon's Head rock.
Hamel is the Dutchman credited with introducing Joseon-era Korea to the west. He and his crewmates were onboard the De Sperwer ship when it was caught in a storm and wrecked off the Jeju coast in 1653 en-route to Japan. As foreigners, he and his men spent 13 years in captivity before fleeing to Nagasaki where he wrote of his experience in Korea.
Today a monument to Hamel is sited a short walk from the ship exhibition center by the Yongmeori Coast.
The Yongmeori Coast
Here the rock rises sharply from the ocean to resemble a dragon. The coastal walkway is popular among visitors who come to marvel at the jagged rock structures and strata.
The area is closed during high tides and poor weather conditions - as it was on our visit - but that did not stop Professor Shin revealing the story behind this site.
He says the rock is high in positive energy. According to legend, says Dr Shin, the leviathan's head was severed from the body by a band of men dispatched by the Chinese Emperor Jin who feared the positive flow of energy would create a new ruler who could dethrone the Chinese ruler. Legend has it that the lava that poured from severed rock creating the rock formations we see today was blood spilling from the decapitated beast.
▲ Sageundari's serene coastal scene belies a constant energy battle with a nearby mountain - Photo by Matt Collison
While many folks flock to Hwasun beach in the summer months it can be easy to miss the spectacular coastal views enjoyed from the nearby Sageundari oreum.
A short climb takes you to the top of this outcrop where you can enjoy views of the island’s southern coast with Sangbangsan looming in the foreground.
The area is, again, rich in energy but this time, Dr Shin informs us, the positive flow is caught in a constant clash of energy emanating from the nearby Wolnabong oreum to the east.
Caught in the middle of the power struggle between the two oreums are villagers in Hwasun-ri.
The perceived battle between the two forces has at times led to human intervention, Dr Shin tells us. He tells us a boulder from the top of Sageundari has been toppled from the peak perhaps in the hope of lessening its power over Wolnabong.
Another example of the environment locked in a struggle with the Earth’s energy can be found at Dansan, says Dr Shin.
Resembling a bat spreading its wings, the oreum takes on a coarse and jagged shape to the north side where it is believed by some to have brought a supply of bad energy to the area. So much so, in fact, that villagers, have taken to building structures to appease the negative force believed to flow from the peak.
▲ One of four Bangsataps of Inseong-ri - Photo by Matt Collison
Four Bangsatap towers - stone figures sat atop rock mounds - are sited in nearby Inseong-ri village. The towers, measuring just over 2 meters high, are sited in albaengdui, areas chosen as offering the best protection against negative energy flows. The towers derive from Joseon times and about 30 of them are dotted around Jeju. Frequent fires and loss of cattle due to disease inflicted on Inseong-ri villagers are said to have stopped soon after the towers were built.
Daejeong Hyanggyo Confucian School
Positioned in the middle of Dansan’s west facing slopes, this Confucian shrine and institute is perhaps proof that not all energy from Dansan oreum is of the negative type.
Dr Shin informs us that the Joseon dynasty temple and school is sited directly in the middle of the mountain’s four buttresses to harbour the maximum draw of positive energy from the rock.
The Confucian scholar and calligrapher Kim Jeung-hui, who was exiled to Jeju during the Yi dynasty, is said to have taught here - perhaps drawn by its positive energy flow.
▲ Hyanggyo Confucian School - Photo by Matt Collison
The school is also said to draw extra energy by facing Songaksan on the western horizon.
To test this seeming abundance of ‘good vibes’ our group was invited by Dr Shin to take a meditative rest outside the temple walls.
Adopting a seated, cross legged position, hands resting upon knees and in a cupped upright position, we sat in quiet reflection for some moments.
Feeling a sense of relaxation and revitalised we stretched out our arms as if to invite the energy towards us. I, for one, felt my energy levels improve from this brief session. Although my sense of well-being proved short-lived after bumping my head on a temple gateway, built intentionally low for a humble bow.
Dr Shin’s tour ended with lunch at Andeok Valley, famous for its rock formations and another of the site’s where Kim Jeung-hi visited. Flanked on both sides by forest containing caves, hundreds of plant varieties and ferns, the spot - designated as Natural Monument 377 - is an ideal resting place to recoup lost energy - and bruised foreheads.
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