There is an imposing, solitary mountain along the ocean next to Hwasun Village called Sanbangsan. Legend has it that Sanbang Mountain used to be the peak of Halla Mountain, since if you compare their size and appearance, it looks as though the top of the mountain had been taken off and moved to the coast.
A long time ago, a certain hunter climbed Halla Mountain to look for deer. With his bow and arrow at the ready, he searched all over without catching any prey. He eventually climbed all the way up to the peak. People say that Halla Mountain is so tall that you can touch the sky from its summit.
When the hunter finally spotted a deer, he quickly raised his bow and chased after it. His shot missed the deer and ended up striking the Jade Emperor of Heaven. His arrow had struck the god in his behind. Roaring out in anger, the god tore off the peak of Halla Mountain and flung it to the southwest. The hill it formed at the spot where it landed is what we call Sanbangsan. It also left a crater at the top of Halla Mountain, which is home to White Deer Lake.
There has long been a prohibition against conducting funerals and burying the dead at Sanbangsan. The restriction applies most strongly to the place on the mountain called Jilmaetok. It is said that if a grave is dug there it causes severe droughts, causing great suffering for the islanders.
On occasions when drought did strike the island in the past, people suspected that someone had been buried at Jilmaetok. They would go and look for the gravesite and dig it up, after which the rain would soon fall again. People disobeyed the prohibition because it had been said for generations that the land there was a particularly auspicious place for a gravesite. The descendants of those buried there were believed to gain prosperity thanks to the special energy of the place.
Sometime in the past, a certain extraordinary person traveled through the area and said that the topography had the appearance of a jade colored candle protruding upwards into the sky, and that it was a Site of Kings and Noblemen. Ambitious people would secretly bury their dead there without making the customary burial mound, so as to evade detection. It was also believed that a drought would be caused if someone were to cultivate the land at the top of the mountain.
There was a drought in the early 1900s, and people suspected that somebody had buried their loved one at Jilmaetok. The local villagers climbed up the mountain to look for the gravesite, but found no signs of a secret burial. They did, however, discover that someone had planted millet at the summit of the mountain, having somehow cultivated the soil without being noticed and leaving any traces. The villagers pulled out all the millet and tossed it to the side. A heavy rain immediately began to fall. The culprit turned out to be a certain individual from Sagye Village to the west of Sanbang Mountain.
Based on the accounts given on October 5, 1960, by Mr. Im Tae-Heung (82) of Daejeong Village, and on March 4, 1975, by Mr. An Seong-Pil (77) of Hwasun-ri, Andeok-myeon.
From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on the work of Professor Hyun Yong-Joon.
The Chinese characters in the name are pronounced han and ra (or na) separately, but in combination the pronunciation is ‘Halla’. Han (한: 漢) means Milky Way, and ra/na (라/나: 拏) means grasp, seize, hold, take or pull. San (산: 山) means mountain. The name Hallasan (한라산 : 漢拏山) is said to mean either mountain so tall that you can reach up and grab the Milky Way, or mountain so tall it touches (pulls) the Milky Way.
Jade Emperor of Heaven
The Jade Emperor of Heaven (Okhwangsangje: 옥황상제: 玉皇上帝) is the highest of the heavenly gods of the Taoist mythology, adopted into Jeju’s eclectic mix of deities from different traditions.
Jilmaetok : 질매톡
Sanbang Mountain : Sanbangsan : 산방산 : 山房山
There is a well-known cave about halfway up the south side of the mountain that offers spectacular views of the coast. The water dripping from the roof is collected and consumed for its medicinal properties. The name Sanbang, meaning mountain room, refers to this cave.
Site of Kings and Noblemen : wang-hu-ji-ji : 왕후지지 : 王侯之地
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