Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sangjokam, the Elephant Rock

Sangjokam, due to its peculiar appearance, has been mystified through myth. Many of the peculiar rocks in the area have some kind of myth woven around them, but the legend of Sangjokam is commonly known to locals and was shared to me by a couple of elderly museum workers sitting on sheets of igneous rock imprinted with dinosaur tracks beside the cave. (I have to admit that the 사투리 "provincial dialect" of the deep south really prevented me from understanding the whole story, but I nodded my head dutifully and then tried to find a more complete story on the internet; there isn't much.) Anyway, the workers were waiting for the water to recede so they wouldn't have to climb the steep stairs and go over the cliff but could walk through the mysterious caves in the rockface where the fairies of heaven are said to have visited.

Sangjokam literally means "sang" (elephant), "jok" (foot) and "am" (rock). From a distance it does indeed look like the heavy legs and feet of an elephant. From the seaward angle the four leg-pillars seem to be holding up a rock table, and it is this rock-table that the myth is mostly concentrated around.

Okhwangsangje is the Korean emperor of heaven. The name is a derivation from the Koreanized Sangje or the Chinese Shangti, the supreme ruler of the universe based on Taoism. Myths around the the Korean emperor of heaven frequently employ some musical instrument like a flute or other heavenly tool that is made of jade, and so the Korean emperor's name has been expanded to Okhwangsangje, or Great Jade Emperor (of heaven). According to legend, the great Okhwangsangje would look down on earth and see the beauty of Sangjokam, and liking to wear new, beautious and golden clothes, sent some fairies down from heaven to weave golden brocades for him on the rock. While the fairies were in such a temptingly picturesque spot, they bathed in the Seonnyoetang. Once finished with their weaving, they presented the glorious clothing to their emperor. What is left of their presence on earth is the rock loom and the 50cm mineral-green, perfectly round pool of water where they bathed inside of the caves.

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