Mt. Baekdu(白头山)

Headword

백두산 ( 白头山 , Baekdusan )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ChoiRaeok(崔來沃)

Mt. Baekdu legends refer to tales about the mountain and its environs and residents.

As the tallest mountain on the Korean peninsula, Mt. Baekdu is the sacred origin of the Korean people, a spiritual place that inspired myriad folk tales, from the progenitor myth of Gojoseon and the founding myth of Goryeo to present-day narratives. Mt. Baekdu legends are recorded in the form of ancient books, travelogues or recordings of oral recitations.

One of the most widely known among Mt. Baekdu legends is the story of the origin of Cheonji. A mean-spirited back dragon appeared in the sky and blocked water routes, drying up the land. A man named Baekjangsu (White Warrior) was visited by a princess who helped him to become the mightiest man under heaven, and together they were able to defeat the black dragon, and with the restored water, made Cheonji, the crater lake on top of Mt. Baekdu. In “Tale of the Stone Needle That Sewed Back Cheonji, ” a great flood on Mt. Baekdu caused the Cheonji to overflow, killing everyone except a mother and her son, born after the death of his father. But soon the mother died from starvation and the son was saved by the great-granddaughter of Yeogwassi (Nuwa) of heaven who descended to earth. The great-granddaughter carved a stone needle out of a rock from Mt. Baekdu, which she used to sew back Cheonji to contain the lake, and thus brought peace to the world. The son and the granddaughter wed, after which people once again began living on and around Mt. Baekdu.

The Cheonji legend shows mythological traits, in that a princess intervenes in the fight between an evil black dragon and a good white dragon, helping the white dragon in his effort to make life possible for the people. This signifies that Mt. Baekdu and Cheonji are sacred places that bring life. The tale about the stone needle offers hope that man can survive even the great flood. Another variation of the Mt. Baekdu legend is “Tale of Leaving Home to Acquire Skill, ” in which Mt. Baekdu is a woman who borrows seven sons from Cheonsin (Celestial God) and sends them into the world to each acquire a skill, portraying Mt. Baekdu as protagonist or a heroine with a human character. “Tale of Insam” is a story of hunting for wild ginseng on Mt. Baekdu, signifying that the mountain is a spiritual place that provides divine medicine that cures people. “Tale of a Beast and a Hunter” portrays the relationship between the people and animals of Mt. Baekdu.

Mt. Baekdu legends, first of all, reveal the distinctive characterisics of the mountain and its people; secondly, they are mythological narratives about the origins of various northern peoples; third, they portray Mt. Baekdu as a subject that sustains the Korean spirit; fourth, in these tales, Mt. Baekdu becomes Mt. Taebaek to form Korea’s founding myth.

To Koreans and Korean-Chinese as well, Mt. Baekdu takes up a religious and spirital status. As the setting for the myth of Korea’s progenitor [Dangun](/topic/Dangun, FounderofGojoseon), Mt. Baekdu is the place where history began for the Korean people, with its tall, mystical peaks serving as the pathway to the sky, its rich resources protected by the mountain god (sansin), and as a safe shelter where people can hide from danger.

Mt. Baekdu

Mt. Baekdu
Headword

백두산 ( 白头山 , Baekdusan )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ChoiRaeok(崔來沃)

Mt. Baekdu legends refer to tales about the mountain and its environs and residents.

As the tallest mountain on the Korean peninsula, Mt. Baekdu is the sacred origin of the Korean people, a spiritual place that inspired myriad folk tales, from the progenitor myth of Gojoseon and the founding myth of Goryeo to present-day narratives. Mt. Baekdu legends are recorded in the form of ancient books, travelogues or recordings of oral recitations.

One of the most widely known among Mt. Baekdu legends is the story of the origin of Cheonji. A mean-spirited back dragon appeared in the sky and blocked water routes, drying up the land. A man named Baekjangsu (White Warrior) was visited by a princess who helped him to become the mightiest man under heaven, and together they were able to defeat the black dragon, and with the restored water, made Cheonji, the crater lake on top of Mt. Baekdu. In “Tale of the Stone Needle That Sewed Back Cheonji, ” a great flood on Mt. Baekdu caused the Cheonji to overflow, killing everyone except a mother and her son, born after the death of his father. But soon the mother died from starvation and the son was saved by the great-granddaughter of Yeogwassi (Nuwa) of heaven who descended to earth. The great-granddaughter carved a stone needle out of a rock from Mt. Baekdu, which she used to sew back Cheonji to contain the lake, and thus brought peace to the world. The son and the granddaughter wed, after which people once again began living on and around Mt. Baekdu.

The Cheonji legend shows mythological traits, in that a princess intervenes in the fight between an evil black dragon and a good white dragon, helping the white dragon in his effort to make life possible for the people. This signifies that Mt. Baekdu and Cheonji are sacred places that bring life. The tale about the stone needle offers hope that man can survive even the great flood. Another variation of the Mt. Baekdu legend is “Tale of Leaving Home to Acquire Skill, ” in which Mt. Baekdu is a woman who borrows seven sons from Cheonsin (Celestial God) and sends them into the world to each acquire a skill, portraying Mt. Baekdu as protagonist or a heroine with a human character. “Tale of Insam” is a story of hunting for wild ginseng on Mt. Baekdu, signifying that the mountain is a spiritual place that provides divine medicine that cures people. “Tale of a Beast and a Hunter” portrays the relationship between the people and animals of Mt. Baekdu.

Mt. Baekdu legends, first of all, reveal the distinctive characterisics of the mountain and its people; secondly, they are mythological narratives about the origins of various northern peoples; third, they portray Mt. Baekdu as a subject that sustains the Korean spirit; fourth, in these tales, Mt. Baekdu becomes Mt. Taebaek to form Korea’s founding myth.

To Koreans and Korean-Chinese as well, Mt. Baekdu takes up a religious and spirital status. As the setting for the myth of Korea’s progenitor [Dangun](/topic/Dangun, FounderofGojoseon), Mt. Baekdu is the place where history began for the Korean people, with its tall, mystical peaks serving as the pathway to the sky, its rich resources protected by the mountain god (sansin), and as a safe shelter where people can hide from danger.