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Whispers of Thousands of Years’ of History from the Sound of Fallen Leaves

Whispers of Thousands of Years’ of History from the Sound of Fallen Leaves

Posted November. 18, 2004 23:06,   


“A mountain is the divide. Mountains divide water, and water does not overflow mountains.” These are just simple truths. These were said by the geographer during the late Joseon, Yeoam Shin Kyung-joon (1712-1781) in his book “Sangyeongpyo.” This lays the foundation of the coined term of “One Daegan, One Junggan, 13 Jungmaek” that we use often. This is where the 14 strands of mountains, Baekdu Daegan, are derived from.

Yoeam’s classical philosophy on geography that focuses on the fact that the geography in general does not just indicate looking at the look of nature itself, but also understanding different walks of life influenced by nature, comes to us as a very special case.

Andong to the Left, Hamyang to the Right, and the Land of Scholars-

With the fall nearing its end, there is a reason to mention the name of Yeoam’s “Sangyeongpyo.” To introduce the woods of Sanglim on the upper riverside of Hamyang, Gyeongnam to the people who want to immerse themselves into nature in the middle of the fall, there should be some stories told about “Hamyang,” a name unfamiliar to us.

Mt. Jiri is thought of as “land of Cholla,” but Hamyang, Gyeongnam also is a part of the mountain. The taller the mountain is, the deeper the valley is. As the phrase, “Mountains are the divide,” goes, there are people living on other side of River Somjin’s Gurye and Namwon of Cholla on the mountains and the fields wet by water flowing to the east. That land is Gyeongsangdo, and Hamyang is the village resting on the shoulders of Mt. Jiri.

“Andong to the left, Hamyang to the right”: Hamyang was a hometown of scholars with an abundance of local schools annexed to the Confucian shrine and private schools during the Joseon period when Confucianism was admired, even though it was a remote village. Also, this is the back of the marketplace between the east and the west of Mt. Jiri, on the Gyeongsang side of it. So, there was always an abundance of produce as well as people. The stream striding Hamyang is Wichoen. Sanglim is the 60,000-pyong stand of serene woods by the stream.

This fall, the wooded roads of Sanglim are full of the sound of winds that are hung on the branches, of fallen leaves that fell on the ground that are rolling around, and of people’s walks trotting on them, as well as falling leaves raining on the passers-by. This is one of a few rare flatland woods where you can have those experiences. Choi Chi-won (857-?) of Shilla 1,100 years ago is said to have planted the first tree here to build the forest when he came down to the area as a county head. The forest provides a refrigerating shadow during midsummer, breath-taking sceneries of fall foliage and fallen leaves in the fall, and beautiful snow scenes during midwinter. It is a true gift from out ancestors.

Big Mountain ‘Jiri,’ Its Beautiful Curves in Our Eye-

On the way from leaving Hamyang-eup to go to Seoam and the Temple Byoksong in Chilseon Valley lie the steep hills of Odojae (altitude: 750m). The road maps still mark it yellow (unpaved), but a new road was paved last year.

The road passing Jianchi, a road with seven curves looking like thin snake, passes over the top, and on the way down from the top, meets “Mt. Jiri Jomang Park.” Standing here, one faces the panoramic view of breath-taking curves of the big mountain, Jiri, against the background of blue sky. Present are Habong, Jungbong, and Choenwangbong (names of peaks), that connect to Jesukbong, Sesoekpyongjeon, and Byoksoryung. Where else can anyone see this spectacular view of mountain curves with one eye on the roadside.

Under the hill is Uitan-ri, Macheon-myon. Seoam is located in the middle of the mountain on the left side of the road entering Chilseon Valley across the bridge. The temple head monk, Woneung, has been making tireless efforts over the last 40 years with many different stonecutters to create the culmination of the beauty of this trip: myriads of faces of Buddha, bodhisattvas, and Buddha’s disciples are carved elaborately on the rock wall of a rock cave.

Travel Information-

Sanglim: Daejon-Tongyoung Highway - Hamyang Junction - 88 Highway - Hamyang Interchange

Seoam: Hamyang-eup ∼ No. 24 National Road (toward Macheon) ∼ No.1023 Local Road ∼ Jianchi (zigzag hill roads) ∼ Odojae ∼ Mt. Jiri Jomang Park ∼ Uitangyo (Macheon-myon) ∼ Chilseon Valley ∼ Chusung-ri

County Office of Hamynag: (www.hamyang.go.kr): 055-960-6114

Mt. Jiri Jomang Park: Odojae Rest Area 055-964-0009

Seung-Ha Cho summer@donga.com