Geochang, Korea: Suseungdae
Located in Deogyusan National Park, Suseungdae (수승대) is one of Geochang’s oldest tourist attractions.
The massive turtle shaped rock dates back to the three kingdoms period in Korea and is quite an impressive sight to behold. For anyone that read The Neverending Story or saw the film adaptations and remembers Morla, The Aged One, the giant turtle mistaken for a mountain, Suseungdae is the literal incarnate of the character. Amgudae, the name given to the turtle, sits in the Wi River, the point where Seong River, Sansu River and Bungye River from Mt. Deokyusan and Gal River from Songye meet. If the water is low enough it is possible to cross over and climb up the back of Amgudae for a real life Neverending Story experience. Families and friends in the area flock here in the summer to swim in the water and camp on the banks while enjoying the serenity of the water and the mountains surrounding.
The original name of the area was Susongdae, meaning “to send anxiety/worry”. At the time of the three kingdoms when Baekje and Silla were at odds this was the location where people would leave for the Silla kingdom and as they weren’t sure whether they would return safely or not, the name was fitting. This name sounds similar to Suseungdae, which was later suggested by the scholar Toegye Lee Hwang, who upon hearing the name of the place thought Susongdae wasn’t fitting for such beautiful scenery. Suseungdae means “supreme beautiful landscape, which can make people forget their concerns and worries” and fits the current vibe of the location much better. The carvings and etchings in the rocks that make up the massive turtle are intricate and really unique to see in an area so so historical.
Nearby, along with the river to swim in and the sites to camp and the mountain trails to hike sits the Guyeon Seowon Confucian School dedicated to Yosu Shin Gwon, Seokgok Seong Paeng-nyeon and Hwanggo Shin Su-I, three scholars from the Joseon period. The tower overlooking the water was built in 1740 and is called Gwansuru Gate. The name means “watching water” and was inspired by the Book of Mencius that says, “The way to look at water is watching how it flows. Flowing water never runs past a puddle, unless it has filled it.” Inside sit four turtle tombs carved from large rocks for the scholars the place is dedicated to and some well taken care of old buildings.
The area can be a little tricky to get to without a car or motorbike, but it is possible. There are buses that run from near the Geochang Bus Terminal, but be prepared for a country intermittent style schedule that you may not be able to nail down. Getting there is half the fun.
경상남도 거창군 위천면 황산리 890
Gyeongsangnam-do Geochang-gun Wicheon-myeon Hwangsan-ri 890
From Seoul: Take a bus from East Seoul Terminal or Nambu Bus Terminal to Geochang (거창). The bus takes about 3.5 hours. Get a bus from outside the terminal to Suseungdae, operates at 30 minute intervals from 6:20 to 17:30 and the trip takes 20-30 minutes.
Facilities: parking, swimming area, Camping sites, bathrooms
Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pmGeochang, Korea: Suseungdae