March 13, 2019, Jeju, South Korea-
There are new discoveries, in this life, constantly-and there are re-discoveries. Today, the three of us headed down to Jeju, a burgeoning resort island, off Korea’s southwest coast. From 1986-92, Penny and I were part of Jeju, serving as Visiting Professors of English, in two departments of Cheju National University. Aram became part of the community, in 1988, being one of two American children born on the island, up to that point.
During that time, Mr. Paek Un-cheol, a spiritual gem of a man, was waging a small but concerted effort to preserve Jeju’s unique traditional culture. He found an amazing variety of figures, made naturally by water and wind, among the volcanic rocks and driftwood that dotted various points along the island’s shores and on the mountain slopes of its interior.
His first effort, Tamna Mokseokwon, was a constant haven for us to visit and regain a natural semblance of order and serenity. With his mother’s passing, and with development in the name of tourism becoming a growing threat to Jeju’s traditional culture, Mr. Paek found an ally in the same officials who were a driving force in that very tourism development, the Board of Supervisors of North Jeju County, the area comprising the northern half of the island outside Jeju City proper. Jeju-shi, as it is known in Korean, has since subsumed the county, with Seogwip’o-shi (So-gi-PO) having subsumed the southern half of the island.
In 1999, the two sides found common ground in establishing Jeju Stone Park, and in 2005, the new park opened to the public. We took in the eastern part of the park, and its museum, in the two hours we had. Another visit, or two, looms in the future. In this post, I will share those scenes captured, before my hard-working camera’s battery ran low. In a second post, scenes captured by my son’s camera will be featured.
So, here are seventeen scenes to be found at Jeju Stone Park, a place that could easily enchant me for a full day, at minimum.
We found ourselves among the few remaining visitors, as this was a cold, brisk afternoon.
These arrangements leave much to the imagination. What do you suppose this rock resembles?
Here are some traditional Jeju thatched roof houses. One may stay in such a home, for W40,000 per night.
Here, I envisioned a standing bear and a pair of witches.
These nineteen steps commemorate Mr. Paek’s agreement with the County Board of Supervisors, in 1999.
These are some of the figures I recognize from Tamna Mokseokwon.
The legend of Grandmother Seolmundae is the impetus for the preservation of Jeju’s stone heritage.
Here are more figures, transported from Mokseokwon.
My precious ones are captivated.
These stone “wishing towers” are meant to honour the spirits that are said to inhabit the countryside of Jeju.
Perhaps this is a likeness of such a spirit.
Mr. Paek and a team of engineers created Sky Pond, to set the mood for a visit to the Park’s museum, and to honour the element of water.
The museum itself contains many examples of both stone and tree root art. This is stone depiction of the island of Jeju and its tributary isles.
Reach out to the stones, but do not touch!
Perhaps this bird is wanting freedom from its tether.
I see duck, or perhaps a platypus.
Here might stand a Hadrosaur, or horn-billed dinosaur.
In the next post, my son’s new camera will provide more magic, both in the museum and beyond. What he found has convinced me to return to Jeju Stone Park, most likely during my envisioned lengthy travels, a few years hence. Then, I will wish to stay in one of those traditional Jeju houses.