THE DELOS INITIATIVE

 

Mani-san Mountain - South Korea

 

 

Mt. Mani-san, in the island of Ganghwa-do, is located only 496 m high above sea level, but it is considered one of the most sacred mountains in Korea.  It owes its significance not only to its beautiful scenery and its terrific views over the sea, but also because Dangun, the founder of the Korean nation, allegedly constructed on its peak the stone altar of Changseongdan and performed the first celestial offering, more than 4000 years ago. It is said that the literal meaning of Mari-san, the old name for Mani-san, is the 'head' (of all the mountains).  The climax communities of Pinus densiflora, Carpinus coreana, Carpinus laxiflora, together with deciduous broadleaved big trunk trees covering the slopes of the mountain are of significant value.

 

A sacred torch has been lit on the peak of Mani-san for the National Athletic Games since 1953, and a special ritual is performed on October 3rd to commemorate the National Foundation. Since the designation of the site as the National Tourist Area in 1977, the local governments of the City of Incheon and the Gangwhagun County have tried to develop the area to attract more tourists. As Mani-san mountain is near to Seoul and is surrounded by many historic and cultural sites, both ancient and modern, more than 500,000 people visit this mountain, making it the second most favoured mountain in Korea. The vast number of tourists has been damaging to the soil, plants, animals, and the scenery. However, the symbolic significance felt by the public can play a key role in the cancellation of large scale reclamation and development projects and in the efforts for better management.  The popularity and the symbolic importance of this mountain for Korean nationalism present a predicament for its preservation.

 

Responsible: Kyung-Koo Han

E-mail: hanthro@kookmin.ac.kr