Legends & Grottos On Sanbang Mountain
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.
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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.
At the foot of Sanbang mountain sit Sanbang Temple and Bomun Temple which welcome visitors to step up and enjoy their beautifully painted walls and statues before beginning the steep climb up to the grotto in the mountain above. The walk up may take only 20 minutes or so, but it’s a climb and in the heat of the summer, it’s a wet climb. There are altars and places to stop along the path up periodically to take a rest before reaching the site that everyone comes to see, Sanbang Grotto (산방굴사). The entire place from the foot of the mountain with two temples to halfway up the mountain to the grotto is a must see on any adventure in Jeju. Natural beauty, colorful cultural and religious relics and breathtaking views of the beaches and islands below are just some of the perks of this stop on the island.
Are you going to Jeju and want to know where to stay? Check out The Shilla Jeju, Ocean Palace Hotel or Kensington Jeju Hotel for an amazing stay on this amazing island in Korea.
Sanbang Grotto (산방굴사)
제주특별자치도 서귀포시 안덕면 사계리 184
184 Sagye-ri Andeok-myeon Seogwipo-si, Jeju, Korea
Bus: 700, 750, 900
Hours: sunrise – sunset
W1,000 ~ W2,500; the admission ranges as you can buy tickets for just the grotto or you can buy a mini package deal ticket which includes other stops in the vicinity.
Amenities: bathrooms, souvenir shops, parking, convenience stores and cafes