Volcanoes and Villages

doing some research on the Paektu Volcano in China/North Korea —  

  1. Known as Changbaishan 长白山, a famous tourist location in Jilin province – very famous in both Chinese and Korean history, literature, and the mythology
  2. 150 kilometers from the volcano to my wife’s hometown (Qidaogou 七道沟)
  3. Known as the birthplace of the dude who founded the Korean Empire, Dangun, as well as the birthplace of the progenitor of the clan which eventually conquered China and created the Qing dynasty, Bukuri Yongson (of the Aisin Gioro people)
  4. In the caldera of the explosion created in 945 A.D. is a lake called “Heaven’s Lake”
  5. Interestingly, the first major Korean kingdom known as the Goguryeo (from where we get the name Korea) ended after the nobles and royalty left their country to take residence in another kingdom someways down south – in the 10th century, about 50-100 years after the volcano erupted and caused ash and ice to cover the entire country within a 120 km radius for almost 3 years, and even caused snow to fall in May once year
  6. Some perspective – the eruption at Pompeii was a 5 on the VEI scale (Volcanic Explosivity Index), while the Paektu eruption was a 7 on the Index, making it one of the most devastating eruptions in history
  7. The Aisin Gioro claim their progenitor Bukuri Yongson was born from a virgin on the mountain; three heavenly maidens were bathing in the lake at the top of the mountain (which formed after the eruption), and a magpie dropped some red fruit near one of the heavenly maidens (Fekulen) who ate the fruit and became pregnant with a son
  8. The fruit itself was a god transformed by the Emperor of Heaven, and the magpie was also a transformed god
  9. Bukuri took a boat down from the mountain, and when he came to a group of men fighting he pacified them, told them his story and his clan, and from there consolidated their power until they finally conquered the Ming dynasty
  10. The Goryeo dynasty (not to be compared with the Gorguryeo, whose nobles fled to Goryeo after the eruption) which basically gained power after the volcano erupted — recorded in their books that the Jurchens (who were what eventually became of the Aisin Gioro, or so they claim) were forced to live on the other side of the Yalu River from the volcano, making me wonder if they were remnants of the Gorguryeo who failed to assimilate into the Goryeo
  11. So what started as a worried research into the impact zone of the volcano (should North Korea conduct a nuclear test too close to the volcano, and hence cause some ash damage near my wife’s hometown) appears to have much more importance than I initially realized–
  12. Final thoughts: it could be argued that if the eruption did not happen, the Manchu people (the Jurchens) would never had had an impetus to invade and conquer China. I mean, if your land was a volcanic wasteland, would you stay? Having traveled to that area several times, I can say the land takes a lot of work, the mountains are precipitously dangerous and confusing, and it’s even rumored that when the founder of the current Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was out on his military march to found his empire, he got lost in the forest not far from Paektu Volcano (around 90 miles away) where he was so hungry because he couldn’t find anything to eat, that his troops killed one of their horses for their dinner

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