Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jeju-do (Volcanic Island) - South Korea

Jeju-do (transliterated Korean for Jeju Province, short form of Jeju Special Autonomous Province or Cheju Island) is the only special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on and coterminous with the country's largest island. Jeju-do lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946. Its capital is the city of Jeju.
Jeju, on 1 July 2006, was made into the first and only special autonomous province of South Korea. The island contains the Natural World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.
According to legend, three demi-gods emerged from Samsung-hyeol which is said to have been on the northern slopes of Mt. Halla and became the progenitors of the Jeju people who founded the Kingdom of Tamna.
It has also been claimed that three brothers including Ko-hu who were the 15th descendants of Koulla, one of the Progenitors of the Jeju people, were received by the court of Silla at which time the name Tamna was officially recognized, while the official government posts of Commander, Prince and Governor were conferred by the court upon the three.
However, there is no concrete evidence of when the "Three Names" (Samseong-Ko, Yang and Pu) appeared nor for the exact date of when Ko-hu and his brothers were received by Silla. It may be supposed that the founding Period by the "Three Names" occurred during the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla) period on the mainland of Korea.
Jeju Island is a volcanic island, dominated by Halla-san (Halla Mountain): a volcano 1,950 meters high and the highest mountain in South Korea.
The island was created entirely from volcanic eruptions approximately 2 million years ago, during the time period from the Tertiary to the beginning of the Quaternary period, and consists chiefly of basalt and lava. The eruptions took place in the Cenozoic era. It has a humid subtropical climate, warmer than that of the rest of Korea, with four distinct seasons. Winters are cool and dry while summers are hot, humid, and sometimes rainy. There is a crater lake which is the only crater lake in South Korea.
An area covering about 12% (224 square kilometers) of Jeju is known as Gotjawal Forest. This area had remained untouched until the 21st century, as its base of the lava made it difficult to develop for agriculture. Because this forest remained untouched for a long time, it has a unique ecology. The forest is the main source of groundwater, the main water source for the half million people of the island, because rainwater penetrates directly into the groundwater aquifer through the cracks of the lava under the forest. Gotjawal forest is considered an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention by some researchers because it is the habitat of unique species of plants and is the main source of water for the residents, although to date it has not been declared a Ramsar site.
In Korean, do is the phonetic trancription of two distinct hanja (Chinese characters) meaning "island" and "province". However, Jejudo generally refers to the island, while Jeju-do refers to the government administrative unit.
Until 2005, Jeju Province was divided into two cities (si), Jeju and Seogwipo, and two counties (gun), Bukjeju (North Jeju) and Namjeju (South Jeju) respectively. The two cities were further divided into thirty-one neighbourhoods (dong), while the two counties were divided into seven towns (eup) and five districts (myeon). The seven towns and five districts were in turn divided into 551 villages (ri).
In 2005, Jeju residents approved, by referendum, a proposal to merge Bukjeju County into Jeju City, and Namjeju County into Seogwipo City. Effective 1 July 2006, the province was also renamed Jeju Special Autonomous Province with two nominal subdivisions, Jeju and Seogwipo city. In addition to changes in name, the province has been given extensive administrative power that has been reserved for the central government. This is part of plans to turn Jeju into a "Free International City".
Society and culture
Because of the relative isolation of the island, the people of Jeju have developed a culture and language that are distinct from those of mainland Korea. Jeju is home to thousands of local legends. Perhaps the most distinct cultural artifact is the ubiquitous dol hareubang ("stone grandfather") carved from a block of basalt.
Bangsatap are small, round towers made of many stones. There are many Bangsataps and you can see them near the countryside in Jeju. People usually pile up many stones, making a shape like a tower in order to protect themselves from the bad luck in their village. They have built Bangsatap according to the theory of divination because they believe that geography is very important in choosing the right place for them. It is also a good example to demonstrate religious belief in Jeju island because it is an object that people can rely on putting rice paddle inside the Bangsatap to gather as much money as possible and also putting an iron pot to overcome a disaster and fight fire in their village. Nobody knows that when the Bangsatap was built in the past year.
The myth of Seulmundae Halmang is well known in Jeju. According to this myth, Seulmundae Halmang (Grandmother Seulmundae) could reach from Sung San Ill Chul Bong to Guan Tal island at Aeweol in a single stride, and with both feet to Mount Halla. She was very strong, had 500 children, and built Mount Halla with seven scoops of earth.
One day, Seulmundae Halmang was making soup for her sons while her sons were out hunting. While they were gone, she fell into the pot and drowned. On their return, they hungrily ate the soup, without knowing that it contained their mother. However, the youngest son knew. He told the truth to the rest of the sons, and the whole family cried, and eventually turned into 500 stones.
Main Sights
Tourism commands a large fraction of Jeju's economy. Jeju's temperate climate, natural scenery, and beaches make it a popular tourist destination for South Koreans as well as visitors from other parts of East Asia. The most popular tourist spots on the island are Cheonjeyeon and Cheonjiyeon waterfalls, Mount Halla, Hyeobje cave, and Hyeongje island. There is a variety of leisure sports that tourists can take part in Jeju including golf, horse riding, hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, etc. Depending on the season, Jeju hosts many festivals for tourists including a penguin swimming contest in winter, cherry blossom festival in spring, the midsummer night beach festival in summer, and Jeju horse festival in autumn, among others. For most tourists, traffic to and from the island is mainly taken through Jeju International Airport and transport within the island by rental cars. Some local products are popular to tourists, including Jeju's special tile fish and mandarin oranges, aside from souvenirs and duty-free shopping.
Jeju was chosen as one of the 28 finalists of the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign by the New7Wonders Foundation.
Tourist Attractions
Hallim Park is one of the oldest and most popular tourist attractions on Jeju. It is located on the west coast of the island.
There is an annual fire festival on the island that stems from a custom of removing harmful insects and old grass in villages every winter. The fire festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month each year. Dal-gip(to pile up much wood) is burned when the moon rises while praying for good harvests and making good wishes. Jeju traditional food is all eaten at the site of the festival. This festival was held 13 times until 2009. The Jeju Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival started in 1997 and become a leading festival of Jeju. This takes place in Saebyeol Oreum located in Bongseong ri, Aewol Eup. It takes up 25 minutes from Jeju International Airport by car. Jeju citizens do their utmost to prepare the Fire Festival so as to pass down, develop and ultimately develop branding for the unique folk culture resources of Jeju. Saebyeol oreum has a characteristic of a complex volcano. It has the horseshoe shaped crater that is both very wide and slightly split. Also, it is rising high with the little peaks making oval from the south peak to northwest. The scale is above the sea level 519.3m, height 119m, circumference 2,713m, area 522,216. Saebyeol oreum, which is the middle size among the 360 oreums in Jeju island. It's named after the saying "it brightens like a star".
"Olle" is a word in the local dialect which refers to the paths between houses and public roads." "Jeju Olle" is a hiking trail founded by Suh. Myugsook. There is a narrow pathway connected from the house to an open space called "Olle". It is the jeju word and has the same sound as "Would you come?" in Korean. The first trail route was opened in September, 2007. There have been 14 opened and the trail exploration team is still working on new routes. There are many route signs. Those are blue arrows and you can fine that on the stone walls of local villages and rocks near the seaside. Blue and yellow ribbons knotted around trees lead travelers on Olle trails.
Manjanggul is one of the longest lava tubes in the world. Manjang Cave, situated at Donggimnyeong-ri, Gujwa-eup, North Jeju, 30 kilometers east of Jeju City, was designated as Natural Monument No. 98 on March 28, 1970.
Sangumburi Crater is the crater of an extinct volcano. Unlike its brethren Halla-san and Songsan Ilch'ubong, this one exploded quickly, but did not spew much lava nor did it form much of a surrounding cone. This phenomenon is called maru in Korean, and Sangumburi is the only one of its kind in the country, making it Natural Monument #263. The remaining crater is 100 meters deep and an average of 350 meters across. Over 400 species of plants and animals live inside the crater. Visitors can walk around part of the rim (the rest is private property and fenced off), but they cannot venture down inside the crater. A well-paved path leads from the parking area to the viewing area which has a small pavilion and several vista points. Also on the grounds are numerous grave sites made in traditional Jeju fashion: a wide, trapezoidal stone wall surrounding the burial mound. Several of the sites also have small stone figures that guard the mound from evil spirits. At the park entrance are several large rocks from the crater. During the eruption, molten rock flew from the volcano into the air and cooled into many exotic shapes.


Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes - South Korea

The Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is a World Heritage Site in South Korea. Jejudo is a volcanic island, 130 kilometers from the southern coast of Korea. The largest island and smallest province in Korea, the island has a surface area of 1,846 square kilometers.
A central feature of Jeju is Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea and a dormant volcano, which rises 1,950 meters above sea level. 360 satellite volcanoes are part of the main volcano. Volcanic activity on Jeju began approximately in the Cretaceous and lasted until the early Tertiary period. The last recorded volcanic activity was recorded approximately 800 years ago. The island is covered in volcanic rock and volcanic soil produced by Hallasan. Baengnokdam, the crater and lake in it are located at the peak of Hallasan, was formed over 25,000 years ago.
Jeju is scientifically valuable for its extensive system of lava tubes (also known as lateral volcanoes or in Korean as Oreum). These natural conduits through which magma once flowed are now empty caves that are some of the largest in the world. The caves provide opportunities for scientific research and are also popular tourist destinations. Off the shores of the city of Seogwipo are a vast belt of pillar-shaped rocks that are examples of the natural beauty of Jeju. Shellfish and animal fossils discovered in this area are also very valuable as scientific resources. Beomseom Island and Moonseom Island, also off the city seacoast, are also well preserved and scenic areas. The variety of animal and plant species on Jeju is also an important reason for its value as a natural reserve. Half of all Korean vascular plants grow naturally on the island while another 200 species of plants indigenous to Korea have been transported here. However, half of these species face extinction. The polar plants which came from the south during a glacial period and inhabit the peak of Jeju is one example. Other plants in the subtropical forest and lower regions of the island are also endangered.
Manjanggul is one of the longest lava tubes in the world. Manjang Cave, situated at Donggimnyeong-ri, Gujwa-eup, North Jeju, 30 kilometers east of Jeju City, was designated as Natural Monument No. 98 on March 28, 1970.
The annual temperature inside the cave ranges from 11 to 21, thus facilitating a favorable environment throughout the year. The cave is also academically significant as rare species live in the cave. Created by spewing lava, "the lava turtle", "lava pillar", and "Wing-shaped Wall" look like the work of the gods. It is considered to be a world class tourist attraction. The Geomunoreum lava tube system is the most impressive and significant series of protected lava tube caves in the world and includes a spectacular array of secondary carbonate speleothems (stalactites and other formations). And it overwhelms other lava tubes with its abundance and diversity.
The Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, which is regarded as the finest such cave system in the world, has an outstanding visual impact even for those experienced with such phenomena. It displays the unique spectacle of multi-colored carbonate decorations adorning the roofs and floors, and dark-colored lava walls, partially covered by a mural of carbonate deposits. In addition, lava tube caves are like those in limestone karst in scale, shape and internal decoration, but completely different in origin. Lava tube caves are known from basaltic terrain in most of the world's volcanic regions. The lava tube caves of the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System are, however, regarded as internationally important due to their length, massive volume, intricate passage configuration, well preserved internal lava features, abundant and spectacular secondary carbonate formations, ease of access, and their scientific and educational values.
Another feature making Geomunoreum Lava Tube System globally significant and distinctive is the presence of carbonate deposits and formations. Very small deposits of calcite are common in lava tube caves, and are more significantly developed as speleothems in Duck Creek cave in Utah, USA. However, in abundance, density and diversity they are far less impressive than those of Yongcheongul and Dangcheomuldonggul Lava Tubes in Jeju, and the scale of these decorations within the lava caves of Jeju Island far exceeds any other comparable examples. The nomination is supported by the Commission on Volcanic Caves of the International Union of Speleology - the world's most authoritative scientific body on volcanic caves, which regards Jeju's lava caves as being of the highest international ranking. Yongcheongul Lava Tube has been discovered subsequently and is of equivalent value.

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Mt. Hallasan National Park - South Korea

Hallasan is a shield volcano on Jeju Island of South Korea. Hallasan is the highest mountain of South Korea. The area around the mountain is a designated national park, the Hallasan National Park (Hallasan Gungnip Gongwon). Hallasan Park is one of the oldest and most popular tourist attractions on Jeju. It is located on the west coast of the island.
Hallasan is commonly considered to be one of the three main mountains of South Korea, with Jirisan and Seoraksan being the other two. Alternate names for the mountain include Hanla Mountain or Mount Halla and older English sources refer to the peak as Mount Auckland.
Hallasan is a massive shield volcano which forms the bulk of Jeju Island and is often taken as representing the island itself. There is a local saying stating that "Jeju Island is Hallasan; and Hallasan is Jeju." The mountain can indeed be seen from all places on the island, but its peak is often covered in clouds. The mountain has been designated Korea's Natural Monument no. 182.
The volcanic island was constructed starting in the Pliocene epoch atop the continental shelf, which is presently about 100 m (300 ft) below sea level in that area. Eruptions of basalt and trachyte lava built the island above sea level, and it now reaches a height of 1,950 metres (6,398 ft). A large volcanic crater over 400 m (1,300 ft) in diameter tops the volcano. About 360 parasitic cones, or oreum in the Jeju dialect, are found on the volcano's flanks. Most of them are cinder cones and scoria cones, but there are also some lava domes and about 20 tuff rings near the coast and offshore, which were formed by underwater phreatic eruptions. The most recent eruptions occurred on the flanks in 1002 and 1007.
There is a crater lake on Hallasan called Baengnokdam, literally "white deer lake." There is a legend attributing the name of the lake to otherworldly men who descend from heaven to play with white deer. Depending on the season, the circumference of the lake is up to 2 kilometres with a depth up to about 100 meters.
The mountain is home to Gwaneumsa, the oldest Buddhist temple on the island. The temple was originally built during the Goryeo Dynasty. Like many other temples in Korea, Gwaneumsa was destroyed and rebuilt in the 20th century. There is a memorial site outside the temple, remembering the victims of the Jeju uprising that took place between 1948 and 1950. It is one of the most visited places of the island.
Mt. Hallasan National Park
Hallasan is located in the central part of the island. Since 1966, any area 800 meters above sea level as been designated as a nature reserve. The park is mostly unspoiled nature with hiking paths and park managerial facilities being the only man-made modifications in the area. The flora at the Mt. Hallasan National Park is unique. 1,565 vascular plant species have been recorded in the area thus far and is the most number of plants in any mountain, 33 which are endemic to the island. Unlike most other Korean mountain environments, Hallsan has a unique vertical distribution of plants in three different zones: the subtropic, temperate, and frigid zones.
Over 17 mammals, 198 types of birds, 8 types of amphibians, 8 types of reptiles, and 947 insect species have been catalogued in the nature reserve. Endangered species include the Capreolus capreolus pygargus and Felis bengalensis manchuria. Since the island was last connected to the Korean Peninsula 10,000 years ago, animals endemic to the island appeared at that time and this separation from the mainland is also of biological significance.
A famous part of the Mt. Hallasan Nature Reserve is the Pillemot Cave, a site dating to the Paleolithic period. The caves are significant because of the archaeological remains found there. Archaeological evidence from the cave suggests that people have occupied the island since the Paleolithic period.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Seoraksan Mountain - South Korea

Seoraksan is the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range in the Gangwon province in eastern South Korea. It is located in a national park near the city of Sokcho. After the Hallasan volcano on Jeju Island and Jirisan in the south, Seoraksan is the third highest mountain in South Korea. The Daechongbong Peak  of Seoraksan reaches 1,708 metres (5,603 feet). The Taebaek mountain chain is often considered the backbone of the Korean peninsula.
The national park attracts many national and international tourists all year round, but the main season for Seoraksan national park is autumn. The autumn colours in the area are considered amongst the most beautiful in Korea. The red and yellow forest is interrupted by rocks and small mountain streams flow amidst this. During the rainy season in summer -especially after a typhoon- these streams can swell.
Perhaps the most visited part of the mountain is the main entrance valley to the National Park, a fifteen minute drive from Sokcho city. The valley runs west to east with a paved road leading up to the park's entrance gate. This valley contains many beautiful sites and is well worth a day visit.
The Yukdam waterfall and the Biryeong waterfall are located on the left side of the valley, about a forty minute walk from the main car park. Ulsanbawi  is a rock formation in the Seoraksan national park. The shape of Ulsanbawi is unique in the area. To reach the rocks you need to follow a hiking path and climb over 800 steps (it's actually 888 steps according to locals). On the way there, there are two temples and a spherical rock (Heundeulbawi) which is located on top of a larger rock. This rock is about 5 metres (16 feet) high and can be moved with some effort. Thousands of people have already tried to push down Heundeulbawi, but nobody gets further than waggling the rock.
According to the legend Ulsanbawi comes from the city of Ulsan in the south east of Korea. As Kumgangsan was built, Ulsanbawi walked to the north as the representative of the city. Unfortunately Ulsanbawi arrived too late and there was no more room. Ulsanbawi was ashamed and slowly trudged back to the south. One evening the rock went to sleep in the Seorak area. Ulsanbawi felt it was so beautiful around there that it decided to stay for good.
At the end of the main valley is Biseondae, a rock platform in a stream. Above the stream is a difficult to reach cave, which offers clear views of the surrounding rock formations.
A bit farther from the entrance is the Valley of a Thousand Buddhas, the primary valley of Seorak Mountain, also sometimes referred to as Seorak Valley. The valley was so named because the rock formations that line its sides resemble a line-up of Buddha statues.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bulguksa Temple - South Korea

Bulguksa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in the North Gyeongsang province in South Korea. The temple is located on the slopes of Tohamsan, in Jinheon-dong, Gyeongju. It is home to seven National treasures of South Korea, including Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas, Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge), and two gilt-bronze statues of Buddha. The temple is classified as Historic and Scenic Site No. 1 by the South Korean government. In 1995, Bulguksa was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Seokguram Grotto, which lies four kilometers to the east.
The temple is considered as a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in the Silla kingdom. It is currently the head temple of the 11th district of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
The earliest woodblock print in world, a version of the Dharani sutra dated between AD 704 and 751 was found there in 1966. Its Buddhist text was printed on a 8-×-630 cm (3.1-×-250 in) mulberry paper scroll.
The temple's records state that a small temple was built on this site under King Beopheung in 528. The Samguk Yusa records that the current temple was constructed under King Gyeongdeok in 751, begun by Prime Minister Kim Daeseong to pacify the spirits of his parents. The building was completed in 774 by the Silla royal court, after Gim's death, and given its current name Bulguksa (Temple of the Buddha Land).
The temple was renovated during the Goryeo Dynasty and the early Joseon Dynasty. During the Imjin wars, the wooden buildings were burned to the ground. After 1604, reconstruction and expansion of Bulguksa started, followed by about 40 renovations until 1805. During the Colonial Korea of 1910-1945, the Japanese conducted a restoration, but there are no records of the work done, and known treasures disappeared during this time.
Official treasures at Bulguksa
National Treasures No.20 and 21 : The two famous stone pagodas, Dabotap and Seokgatap reside in the main courtyard of the Bulguksa Temple complex. They are, respectively, the twentieth and twenty-first national treasures of Korea and were designated on December 20, 1962.
National Treasure No.22 : The Yeonhwagyo (Lotus Flower Bridge) and Chilbogyo (Seven Treasures Bridge) are a pair of bridges at Bulguksa. This bridge was designated as the 22nd national treasure on December 20, 1962. The bridge lead to Anyangmun (Peace Enhancing Gate) leading to Geuknakjeon (the Hall of the Pure Land). This pair were built at the same time as their brother bridges, National Treasure No.23.
These pair of bridges share the 45 degree incline, arch underneath, and the combination bridge/staircase design of their brother bridges. However, one noticeable difference is that this bridge is smaller. The lower Lotus Flower Bridge has 10 steps while the upper Seven Treasures Bridge contains 8 steps. This bridge is on the west in relation to the Blue Cloud and White Cloud Bridges. The Lotus Flower Bridge is known for its delicate carvings of Lotus Flowers on each step but these have faded with the weight of many pilgrims. Today, visitors are restricted from walking on the bridge.
National Treasure No.23 : The Cheongungyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and Baegungyo (White Cloud Bridge) Bridges of Bulguksa Temple are two bridges that are a part of a stairway that leads to the temple. The bridges were probably built in 750 CE during the reign of King Gyeongdeok. Although built separately, they are designated together as one single national treasure. They were designated as the 23rd national treasure on December 20, 1962.
The Blue Cloud Bridge makes up the lower span of the stair while the White Cloud Bridge is the upper part. The bridges lead to the Jahamun (Golden Purple Gate) which leads to Sakyamuni Hall. There are 33 steps on the stairway, which slopes at a 45 degree angle, and each step corresponds to one of the 33 heavens of Buddhism. The lower Blue Cloud Bridge has seventeen steps while the upper White Cloud Bridge has sixteen. The large arch underneath the stairwell testifies to the use of arches in Silla-style bridges and the remains of a pond and once flowed underneath the bridge.
National Treasure No.26 : National Treasure No.26 (Bulguksa geumdong birojana buljwasang), designated on December 20, 1962, is a seated gilt-bronze Vairocana Buddha statue at Bulguksa Temple.
The Buddha of Enlightenment is enshrined in the Birojeon. It is 1.77 meters in height and made from gilt-bronze. The head of the Buddha has an usnisa, a symbol of supreme wisdom. The head of the Buddha was made by fusing two shells to each other and the face is elongated and soft. The robes of the Buddha are highly detailed and the simulation of folded cloth rippling down from the shoulder to the lap is done with high skill. The hands of the Buddha are in a position, the right index finger covered by the left hand, which often is used to symbolize the Buddha of Enlightenment. The figure is estimated to be from the 9th century CE due to stylistic evidence, including the overly wide lap and the lack of tension in the depiction of the robes and face of the Buddha.
National Treasure No.27 : The seated gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha statue of Bulguksa Temple is National Treasure No.27. (Bulguksa geumdong amita yeoraejwasang) and was designated on December 20, 1962.
The Amitabha Buddha statue is 1.66 meters in height and enshrined in Geuknakjeon. This gilt-bronze statue was probably cast in the late eighth or early part of the ninth century and it shares the style of National Treasure No.26. The head of the statue is made by fixing two shell-like pieces together. The face has a distinctively aquiline nose. The Buddha has broad shoulders and strong chest while the large lap gives the figure a sense of proportional harmony and stability. The style of the robe seems to be more stylized and haphazard. The position of the left hand raised at shoulder-level palm forward and the right hand is placed at the lap. The style of the Buddha seems to follow an abstract and stylized tradition rather than a representation of realism.
Treasure No.61 : This sarira pagoda, or stupa, looks like a stone lantern. It stands 2.1 meters tall and is located at the left side of the front garden of Birojeon. The artifact was at one point taken to Japan in 1906 but was returned in 1933. It is from the Goryeo Dynasty, but shows the influence of Silla Dynasty art.
A sarira is a container for the relics or remains of famous priests or royalty. It is said that this sarira contained the remains of eight priests or a queen. The three main features of the piece are the foundation stone, the main body, and the ornamental top. The foundation is an octagonal stone decorated with carvings. Atop this foundation is a circular stone incised with louts motifs. The pillar supports of the main body are carved with a cloud motif while the main body is cylindrical and has four bas-reliefs of Buddha and bodhisattvas and are accompanied by flower motifs. The top of the pagoda has twelve sides which meet into a hexagonal shape.