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Cheju Do

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Jeju, South Korea.

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Sixty miles off the southern tip of Korea stands the small island of Cheju Do, dominated by the extinct volcano peak of Halla San (5850 feet). Neither myths nor anthropology indicate the origins of the ancestral stock of Cheju Do and its people are probably a mix of indigenous Koreans, Chinese, Malayans and Japanese. During Neolithic times a unique culture developed on the island and legends speak of the volcanic peak as the dwelling place of spirits and giants. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, Cheju Do had entered the realm of Chinese mythology as one of the islands of Samshinsan, or Islands of the Blest. One of these holy islands was known as Yongju San, meaning ‘Mountain of the Blessed Isle,’ and was believed by the ancient Chinese to form a bridge between heaven and earth.

At a later date Yongju San became Halla San, ‘The Peak That Pulls Down the Milky Way,’ and this image of heavenly energy flowing down upon Cheju Do offers an explanation for the supernatural phenomena mentioned in the ancient myths of the island. In the middle of the volcanic crater atop Halla San lies a small lake called Paekrokdam, or White Deer Lake. Legends mention this lake as the abode of angelic presences. Further down the mountain, near the southwest coast, is the cave temple of Sanbangsa, once a pagan shrine but now a Buddhist temple and pilgrimage site. Inside the cave is a pool of water formed by drops falling from the ceiling. Various legends are told about this place and the water is believed to have a healing and prayer-granting power. Near the cave is a temple with many old Buddha statues, these having been brought to Cheju Do by pilgrims from different parts of Southeast Asia during the past one thousand years.

Photo: Buddha statues, cave temple complex of Sanbangsa, Cheju Do

Sacred Sites on Cheju Do.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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