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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Grant

Tea Time Tales - Legend of Namsan Mountain

Enjoy with a cup of luxury green tea.

A beautiful pond commanding a spectacular view is located at the foot of Namsan Mountain in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. There is an old legend associated with this famous pond named Seochulji.

It was during the reign of King Soji, the 21st monarch of the ancient kingdom of Silla, in the late 5th century. One day, a crow and a mouse approached the king. To his surprise, the mouse began to speak in human words. “Your majesty, follow after this crow.” The king thought it very strange and he ordered a soldier to follow the bird. While going after the crow, the soldier happened to see pigs fighting at the foot of Namsan Mountain. He stopped to watch the unusual scene. Distracted by the fight, he was unaware of the passage of the time. Soon, he realized that he had lost the crow, which had moved on without him. Not knowing what to do, the solider was wandering around a pond nearby. Suddenly, an old man appeared from the pond and gave him a letter. There was something written on the envelope. “If opened, two people will die, and if not opened, one person will die.”

The solider returned to the king and gave the mysterious letter to him. After reading the letters on the envelope, the king refused to open it, as he thought it would be better to kill one than two. But an official in charge of astrology insisted that the king open the letter since two people would indicate ordinary folks and one person would refer to the king. After some hesitation, the king opened the envelope. Inside was a letter, on which it was written “Shoot the case of geomungo.” Geomungo is a six-stringed traditional musical instrument.

Again, the king thought it was very odd but he decided to follow the instruction. When he fired an arrow at the cover box of the zither that was placed at the royal palace, a scream came out of the case. Surprisingly enough, what the king saw inside the case was his queen and a monk who had been hiding there. It turned out that the two people had been having an affair and wove a plot against the king. Thanks to the letter, their ploy was completely brought to light and the king could save his own life.

Afterwards, the pond where the old man appeared was called Seochulji, meaning “letter from the pond.” Also, people began to hold a special ritual for crows by offering them glutinous rice on the 15th day of the first full moon of every year.


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