Thursday, December 6, 2018

Seongsan Illchulbong's volcanic landscape inspires flights of fancy

The kind of landscape that looks alive to me

Can you see what looks like a monster 
peeking out of the bushes? ;)
From this angle, Seongsan Ilchulbong 
looks well majestic as well as nigh unclimbable!

After spending an enjoyable time at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak), the friend I had made the predawn hike up the peak with and I made our way down it along a different trail from that which we had taken to go up it.  In part because it was a more winding trail (that covered more distance), our descent took more time than our accent.  Then there was the fact that post sunrise, we could see more -- and ended up stopping from time to time to admire the views and volcanic landscape, and take photos of them.

For some time now, I've found volcanoes and volcanic landscapes fascinating, both geologically (I took a couple of geology courses as an undergraduate) but also purely on an aesthetic level; not least because volcanic areas feel alive to me.  To be sure, the sense that the actual rocks and other geological features are alive is particularly strong in the obviously active volcanic areas (such as Japan's Mount Aso and Owakudani valley).  But Jeju's Seongsan Ilchulbong also has the kind of landscapes that feel like they could spring to life -- in terms of the rock formations getting me thinking of monstrous creatures and such!   

Over the course of hiking in Hong Kong, I've come across many fancifully named rocks and rock formations in places like Po Toi and Cheung Chau.  To my mind, the volcanic landscape of Seongsan Illchulbong is well capable of inspiring similar flights of fancy.  

As it is, seongsan denotes a mountain shaped like a castle (or fortress) in Korean (while ilchulbong refers to a peak from where beautiful sunrises can be viewed).  Furthermore, the ring of 99 sharp rocks atop the rim of its crater -- that's some 600 meters in diameter and 90 meters in height -- has been likened to a giant crown.  And I'd go further still and state that there were angular sections of rock in the area that called to mind birds of prey about to pounce as well as at least one pair of holes high up on a rock wall that looked like they could be the eyes of a watchful stone monster or god looking down on the people hiking on the trail below!  

Even those without much of an imagination should be able to admire the spectacular sights that this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site presents from a number of different angles and vantage points.  And even while I wasn't able to view Seongsan Illchulbong from the air, I still would say that I managed to get views "in the flesh" of this justly famous Jeju landmark that rival those of many beautiful photos taken of it.


forsythia said...

Reading a book about Koreans now, and delighted to see the word "Jeju" in your post.

YTSL said...

Hi Forsythia --

If you didn't realize, I've got a few other posts on Jeju up -- and plan to put up more posts on Jeju over the next week or so! Also, this was my fourth visit to South Korea -- and I've blogged about two of the previous visits too. :)

Bill said...


Your description, "The kind of landscape that looks alive," describes exactly the way I've always felt about nature...Your top photo of the rocks is just teeming with profiles of the island's mythological spirits who were born in volcanic activity. Second photo from the top: your rock "fortress" definitely contains at least two eyes. Walkers below on the steps appear to be ascending towards a dark eye of this kingdom. So, this entry does indeed "inspire flights of fancy."


YTSL said...

Hi Bill --

I'm happy to learn that I'm not the only person who has the kind of thoughts I do about Jeju's volcanic landscapes!