This mountain was the peak of Mt. Halla before it was broken off and thrown to this spot in the southwest part of Jeju island, at least that’s one of the legends that surrounds the Sanbang mountain (산방산) and the grotto that’s there. The legend starts off with a mighty hunter who was hunting at the peak of Halla mountain.
While shooting arrows at the white deer before him, the hunter missed and hit the Halla spirit in the rear-end. Angry and in pain, the Halla spirit ripped the peak of the mountain off and threw it at the hunter. It fell to the coast and killed the hunter beneath it. It doesn’t end there though, the hunter was then reborn as the female spirit of the mountain made by the top of the Halla that had been thrown. This mountain, unlike the others on the island, doesn’t have a crater at the top, hence the legend.
Another, more romantic, legend surrounding the mountain is centered on the goddess Sanbandeok, the beautiful daughter of Sanbangsan. She fell in love with a mortal boy named Goseong but an official of the village in which Goseong lived would not have it and he wanted Sanbandeok for himself so, he banished Goseong and took his possessions. Taken over by grief and mourning, the goddess went to her mountainside cave and turned to stone to mourn the loss of her love until this day. Water that drips from the top of the cave to a pool below is said to be the tears from the goddess and visitors are welcomed to drink the tears and say a prayer for the good health of their family, something that she had always wished for. Now, her cave is shared with a statue of the Buddha and a woman that chants the Buddhist sutras day in and day out. It is said that the visitors to the grotto should visit again and again and upon doing so they will find that they see different images in the stone that sits behind the seated Buddha statue.
The more scientific information explains that the 395 meter high Sanbang mountain was formed by volcanic activity some 700,000 to 800,000 years ago and is actually a large body of lava. The name of the mountain can be translated to mean ‘a cave inside a mountain’ which makes sense because the sides of the rock are spotted with numerous caves and cavities produced by the weather over the years.
For more information and directions to the mountain, temples and grotto, visit: The Soul of Seoul
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