Jeju Island's Stone Park
Jeju a volcanic island, located south of the Korean peninsula, is an enormous rock. Halla Mountain is the main cone. There are several secondary cones. Not unexpectedly stone played an important part in the island's culture both in everyday affairs and religion. The Jeju Island Stone Park, expected to be completed in 2020, is being built to celebrate this culture. To enter, is to enter a relm that is partly history, partly myth.
So on a chilly Novembers day, after paying the 4000 Won entrance fee, I enter this stone land of history and and myth. Entering a path bordered on both sides by stone slabs I walk towards a stone that looks like an abstract representation of the human face. There are many stones like this on Jeju, maybe they are source of much of the island's mythology.
Stones were used for housing, fishing, stock raising, millstones for grinding grain, containers used for water and food storage and for gate posts. A gate post consisting of three of four holes where placed alongside house entrances. Wooden crossbars were then threaded though the holes, preventing animals from entering dwellings.
Stones used to mark prehistoric burial sites were called dolmans. Some marked specific graves while others marked common burial sites. On Jeju they were classified on the basis of where the bodies were placed and the number of supporting stones.
Stone objects were worshipped and used to define boundaries. Reality and myth combine in the dolnarubang. Stone statues 1.82 metres in height they were placed face to face at the sides of castle gates as guardian dieties to offer protection and prosperity. They were also believed to keep the areas they watched free from evil spirits and misfortune. They defined castle boundaries and acted as guides to entrance and exit points.
Reality totally gives way to myth with the legand of Grandma Seolmundae. She was a large lady, so large the she used Mt Hallan as a pillow and her feet rested on ......... She was very fertile to, giving birth to five hundred sons.When famine ravished the land she send out her sons to find food. While they were away she began to prepare a large meal of porride using the caldera of Mount Halla as a pot. During the preparation she sliiped, fell into the porridge and drowned. The sons upon they return partook of the porridge. It was the most delicious porridge they had ever tasted.
The youngest son, who came home last, disovered bones in the pot which he immediately realised were his mothers. Struck with grief, he severely admonished his brother and ran out of the rooom crying. He ran, ran as far as he could go but eventually turned into stone. His bothers racked with guilt eventually turn to stone. Now they stand on the side of Mt Hallan, the five hundres generals. A replica of some of the five hundred generals is displayed in the Stone Park.
At the time of my visit the museum was closed and the stone houses had no artifacts inside them. But I think it will be worth a revisit at some future date.