Yang Sa On’s Tour of Mt Kumgang

 

Yang Sa On (1517-1584) was a writer and calligrapher. He passed the state civil service examination and was promoted to Magistrate of Anbyon. But without much interest in government service, he studied while touring spots of scenic beauty and historic interest.

He loved Mt Kumgang very much. Hence he adopted his pen name of Pongnae, which was another name of the mountain.

Between Janggundae and Ryonhwadae in the Lagoon Samil area of Mt Kumgang there is a rocky hill that commands a general view of the lagoon. The hill is called Pongnaedae because Yang studied there. Below the hill is Pongnae Cave in which it is said he studied while seeing the picturesque scenery of the lagoon.

Besides, Mt Kumgang has lots of legends and episodes about Yang, including Legend of Piraejong.

While working as the Magistrate of Anbyon, Yang heard that Kosong Hot Spring was good, and set out on a tour of Mt Kumgang. In Thongchon he went sightseeing to Chongsokjong before reaching Onjong-ri in Kosong via Onchon.

Having come a long way on horseback, Yang was thirsty.

Dismounting from his horse, he went to a well where a young girl was scooping water into her jar, and asked her for water.

The modest girl with pretty features made a polite bow, scooped water with a gourd, picked a handful of leaves from a weeping willow at the well and put them in the water of the gourd before offering it.

Yang felt suspicious and angry. He, however, was so thirsty that he, blowing off the willow leaves, drank all the water.

Then he asked the girl why she had put in the leaves. With glowing cheeks, she replied, "I was afraid that you might have trouble if you drank water hastily."

Yang slapped his knee, saying in admiration, "People of Mt Kumgang are as perfect as its scenery."

After touring the mountain, he left the following poem.

 

Does the earth come from the sky

As there is a mountain above a mountain?

The sky is in the middle of the water

As streams flow side by side.

This body is flying in extensive space,

And it is neither smoke nor mist nor spirit.

I hear all people in this world

Wish to live in Koryo.

Now touring Mt Kumgang,

I know the peaks here are all beads.

 

Yang was also counted as one of the three noted calligraphers in the period of the feudal Joson dynasty, and his calligraphy can be seen in celebrated mountains and scenic spots like Mt Kumgang and Mt Myohyang.

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