Soldier Mountain and the Son of the Dragon King

99 Legends of Jeju Island / Soldier Mountain / Gunsan / Dragon King of the Eastern Sea / Yongwang / Gollyun Mountain / Changgo Stream / 군산 / 동해용왕 / 곤륜산 / 창고내 / 창고천

16. Soldier Mountain and the Son of the Dragon King

There is a small mountain next to Changcheon Village that was named Gunsan, or Soldier Mountain, because people thought it looked like a soldier’s tent. While today it is an impressive, prominent sight for miles around, the mountain was not there in the distant past. Nor was there a large village like the present-day Changcheon. 

There used to be just a small hamlet of merely ten or so houses in a large flat area near where the mountain now lies. In those days, a teacher with the last name Kang lived in the hamlet. Master Kang was a great scholar whose name was widely known and respected. He taught groups of students how to read and write Chinese characters, and people came from far away to learn from the renowned teacher.  

One day, Master Kang had begun giving a lesson when something very strange happened. Having told some students to repeat the meaning and pronunciation of the character for sky (天), saying “This character means sky, and it is pronounced cheon,” they heard an echo of the students’ response coming from outdoors. “Sky, cheon.” Thinking it quite odd, the teacher searched around outside, but there was nobody there. 

He came back in and began to speak to another group of students, beginning with “Confucius says…” when again they heard his words repeated from somewhere outside. “Now, that really is strange,” he said, and went back out to see who was there. Again, there was nobody to be seen, and he could not figure out where the sounds were coming from.  

Things continued in this way for three years. Every day, some untraceable voice participated in Master Kang’s lessons. Once, in the middle of the night, the voice called out, “Teacher, are you sleeping?” “Why? Who’s there?” Master Kang replied, half asleep. “I’m the son of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. For three years I’ve been learning how to read and write Chinese characters from you. I must take my leave and return home now, but before I do, if there is anything you would like from me, just ask. I will do my utmost to bestow some blessing upon you in return for your teaching.”

The teacher thought for a while before replying,”I eat food given to me by others, I wear clothes received as gifts, and people provide me with tobacco. I lack nothing at all. What more could I possibly want?” “In that case,” said the son of the Dragon King, “how about I get rid of the sound of the stream you always complain about?”  

The stream, known today as Changgo Stream, used to flow directly to the east of Master Kang’s house, and when it rained heavily, it overflowed its banks. The sound of the rushing water in the background made it difficult for the students to hear his lessons. 

“Of course, that would be wonderful, but can you really do that?” asked Master Kang. The son of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea promised that he would take care of it. “After I leave, there will be a great divine disturbance of the wind and clouds for seven days. No matter what happens, keep the doors to your room tightly shut, and do not look outside,” he said firmly. “Otherwise, you will be greatly harmed.” Then he bid farewell to the teacher and departed.

Not long after, thunder and lightning began to rage across the sky and shake the ground. It seemed as though heaven and earth were being slammed against each other. The teacher shut the door tight and threw himself flat on the floor. The great storm continued for seven days straight, until finally the thunder slowly started to die down, and the sky, which had been pitch black the whole time, began to brighten up.

After lying face down on the floor for seven long days, Master Kang’s joints were incredibly stiff. He couldn’t endure it any longer. “I think it’s safe to get up and take a look around outside now,” he thought. He pulled himself up and peeked through a chink in the door. At that moment, a spark came whizzing towards the house. It hit Master Kang directly in one eye, leaving him half blind. On the eighth day, there was no more thunder to be heard, and the thick fog had lifted. The heavens and earth had finally quieted down. 

This was in the time of King Mok-Jong of the Goryeo Dynasty. When news of the great natural calamity on Jeju reached the palace, the king sent a government official to investigate. He learned that a mountain had appeared in Changcheon Village during the seven days of turmoil in which the wind and clouds had displayed such power. But the official was not able to discern the direct cause of this mountain’s sudden appearance.

Then Grandmother Mago, the goddess of Cheontae Mountain, appeared and told him, “This mountain you wonder about is the left peak of Gollyun Mountain in China. It got torn off and carried over here in a cyclone during the great calamity.” The mountain landed in such a way that the course of Changgo Stream changed; it started flowing around the far side of the mountain, away from Master Kang’s house. He never again had to put up with the noisy sound of rushing water.

According to a different account, Soldier Mountain is actually Seo Mountain, which got moved over to Jeju. The mountain was originally in China, but one day it suddenly vanished. Sometime later, someone from China happened to visit Jeju, and when he passed by Changcheon Village, he saw Soldier Mountain and exclaimed, “Seo Mountain, which disappeared from China, is right here!”

Based on the accounts given on March 4, 1975 by Gang Mun-Ho (강문호) of Anseong-ri and  August 23, 1972 by Gang Tae-Ok (강태옥, 75) of Changcheon-ri. 

Changcheon Village : Changcheon-ri : 창천리 : 倉川里

Changgo Stream : Changgonae : 창고내 or Changgocheon : 창고천

Cheontae Mountain : Cheontaesan : 천태산 : 天台山

Cheon rhymes with sun, tae rhymes with day. There are several mountains in Korea called Cheontae Mountain, and a mountain in Zhejiang Province in China has the same Chinese characters in its name: 天台山, romanized as Tiantai Mountain.

Chinese characters : hanja : 한자 : 漢字 

Korean was written solely using Chinese characters until the creation of the native Korean alphabet, hangeul, under the direction of King Sejong in 1443.

Dragon King of the Eastern Sea : Donghae Yongwang : 동해용왕 : 東海龍王

The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea is one of the four divine rulers of the oceans in Chinese mythology, and is also found in Korean folk traditions. The dragon kings are thought to have power over bodies of water, including springs, ponds, rivers and lakes. They can also manipulate the weather and cause rain to fall. The dragon kings are able to shapeshift into human form and have underwater crystal palaces. Jeju is located at the edge of the East China Sea, and there has traditionally been a strong belief in the existence and power of the Dragon King, or Yongwang, on the island.

Gollyun Mountain : Gollyunsan : 곤륜산 : 崑崙山

Gollyun Mountain is a mythological mountain in the Taoist belief system.

King Mok-Jong : 목종 : 穆宗

King Mok-Jong was the seventh king of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). He ruled from 997 to 1009. Volcanic activity took place on Jeju during his reign.

Seosan : 서산 : 瑞山

The seo in Seosan means lucky or auspicious. San means mountain.

Soldier Mountain : Gunsan : 군산 : 軍山

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