Korean Trails

Over the Mountain, is a Mountain

                  Cheongryang-san 청량산

- Western branch of the Deoksan-jimaek Ridge

- Bonghwa-gun (Myeongho-myeon, Jaesan-myeon), Andong-si (Dosan-myeon, Yean-myeon)

Cheongryang-sa Temple nestled beneath the rocky tops of inner Cheongryang-san, one of the great Korean views.

 Cheongryang-san creates a breath-taking natural boundary between the peaceful rural heartland of Bonghwa-gun, 30km to the north-west and  Andong 35km to the south. Its twelve dome-shaped peaks rise abruptly from the most impressive section of the Nakdong River, which having gained weight on its journey from Taebaek hits the Cheongryang wall and becomes white-water in places, snaking its way along the rocky face of the mountain. 

Somewhat unusually for a famous Korean mountain, Cheongryang-san is not a part of any of the major lines on the ridge system, and not even part of a main branch off the trunk line. Cheongryang is attached to a small western twig of the Deoksan-jimaek minor ridge, which in turn connects to the Nakdong-jeongmaek ridge in Yeongyang county to the east.

 

 The area of Northern Gyeongsangbuk-do which Cheongryang-san inhabits is the heartland of neo-confucian history in Korea. Dosan-seowon, one of the preeminent Neo-Confucian academies, is just down the road toward Andong, and Cheongryang-san is rich in relics, legend and history from this period. Stories of some of the great scholars of the time, such as Lee Hwang (1501-1570), and before him Choe Chiwon (857 - ?) are told on the mountain, which has taken on a distinctly more Confucian feel than most major mountains in the country.

Left: Nakdong-gang meandering through Cheongryang-san - taken from the 'Toegye Pilgrimage Trail' south of the mountain on the Andong side


 Dosan Seowon's founder Lee Hwang/Toegye (1000won note famous), spent much time in the mountain, particularly in the summer months, and this has recently been celebrated by the opening of a wonderful river-side trail between the main mountain entrance and Dosan-seowon, which I'll touch on at the bottom of this page.


Hwang dubbed Cheongryang-san the "six-six peaks" after the famous Wuyi Mountains in China to which they bear a resemblance.

Many of Cheongryang-san's peaks were renamed in the Joseon Dynasty from often colorful and inspirational Buddhist names to more Confucian styles - such as after writing implements, direct physical resemblance to objects, or famous Chinese peaks. 

For Goryeo Dynasty King Gongmin (1330-1374), Cheongryang-san, with it's isolation and impenetrable fortress-like cliffs offered an ideal hideout during a time of great strife. The Goryeo Kingdom at the time was a compulsory ally of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, following a series of devastating invasions in the 13th century. By the mid-14th century Yuan was in decline, and Gongmin took the opportunity to begin reforming the Korean government. He tried to remove pro-Mongol aristocrats and landowners, who were vast in number, and launched an unsuccessful coup against him. Things were shaky and defenses were stretched with a growing number of attacks by Japanese "Wokou" Pirates, and when the Chinese Red Turban Army invaded Goryeo, Gongmin, his Mongol wife Queen Noguk, and a small army took refuge here in Cheongryang-san for a time. Their legacy remains with the impressive, recently rebuilt, fortress walls of the mountain's eastern ridge, shrine to the King, and hermitage building honoring Queen Noguk, who died in childbirth.

 

Although still out there from anywhere, the road to Cheongryang-san is not so forbidding as it was in Goryeo times, and National Highway 35 flanks the Nakdong river through the mountain to the park entrance, and is a VERY beautiful drive, particularly from the Bonghwa side where it passes through an amazing section of gorge.

Unsurprisingly this is a very popular area in the summer, and during the peak season the road becomes quite chaotic with cars parked all over the show near the prime swimming  and picnic spots.

In recent years this section of the river has become a popular rafting destination, with a number of companies setting up shop. This has really changed the face of the valley and there are now a large number of fancy pensions and restaurants lining the river.

The main entrance to the mountain is across the river from the large, modern, Cheongryang-san museum. The museum is typical of many in Korea, displaying the cultural history of the Bonghwa area and the mountain itself, and is well worth a visit. Next to the museum is the park office, where you can pick up a map if you need one. There are some excellent restaurants, minbak accommodation and ample free parking in this area - choosing to park here may save some hassle trying to park across the river in the mountain-proper during the busy season, where parking is limited, it's often fairly chaotic up there on a weekend.

  The city buses stop near the museum, and a narrow road crosses the river and winds east through the park, right across its high pass into  remote Yeongyang-gun. All trails to the main peaks begin from this road, through the main park entrance gate. The majority of hiking is done on the northern (left) side of the road, from three trail heads which head to the main peaks above Cheongryeong-sa temple, shown in the park map below.

Cheongryang-sa, from the western face of Geumtap-bong



Cheongryang-sa is located on the high south-east facing Yeon-dae (Lotus platform) in the shadow of the dominant peaks and cliffs of the inner mountain, and is surely one of the most inspiring temple sites in Korea. 

Established during the Silla dynasty in 663 by the great traveling monk Wonhyo-daesa, it is said to have at one time supported up to 20 hermitages dotted around the cliffs of Cheongryang-san. Today only the main temple remains, along with Eungjin-jeon, a Buddhist hall and shrine to Queen Noguk,  located on the rocky heights of Geumtap-bong.

 Cheongryang-sa is probably my favourite temple in Korea, and is well worth a visit even if hiking is not on the agenda. It's hard not to be inspired by these beautiful buildings growing out of the mountain side, and the spectacular pagoda which looks south-east over the valley to the sunrise. It's a great place to relax, and boasts one of the great tea-houses on the final steps to the pagoda, an awesome place to be after the steep concrete climb.

Cheongryang-sa is located 1km up a very steep paved driveway, accessed from the Seonhak-jeong carpark ???, midway up the mountain road running from the main park entrance to the pass (See map below), and the walk will take about 30mins.


If not climbing to the peaks there is a very rewarding mid-mountain loop walk linking the two carparks, Seonhak-jeong and Ipseok, with Cheongryang-sa. After climbing from Seonhak-jeong, head east past the temple to Cheongryang-jeongsa, a fascinating building about 200m from Cheongryang-sa itself.

Cheongryang-jeongsa, or Osan-dang, is a proud Hanok style house built in 1832 as a mountain retreat for Confucian scholars of nearby Dosan Seowon. During the late 19th century it acted as a base for the Cheongryang resistance army as plans were afoot to rise up against the Japanese colonists. Osan-dang was burnt down by the Japanese in 1896, but rebuilt in 1901 and has stood ever since.

Today the building is protected and off-limits, but a second structure is in place next door, Sanggunui-jip (????) home to renowned Dalma artist, mountain hermit, and great collector ??? Lee, Dae-sil.






Cheongryang-san resident artist and Osan-dang "caretaker" Lee Dae-sil, young and old, with his iconic headband.

And his quirky home/gallery "Sanggunui-jip",  (right)

Sanggunui-jip is certainly a unique place, and reflects the character of Mr. Lee, Cheongryang-san's resident artist, and an old man of the mountain. The front yard is full of amusing carvings and sculptures, and Mr. Lee's garden shed has become a bit of a gallery of trinkets, with hundreds of kitschy, vintage items he's dragged up the mountain, from outdated telephones and radios and musical instruments, to old garden tools which cover the walls. The main house is Mr. Lee's studio, and if he's home he'll likely offer tea if it's quiet, and if you've got some Korean language he'll be more than happy to explain his art and lifestyle.
From Sanggunui-jip there are two options for completing the mid-mountain circuit. If you turn right the main trail follows a ledge south-east around the face of the mountain (blue/yellow trail above), and you'll reach the Ipseok carpark after 20mins or so. The other option is to climb briefly to the north-east and meet the main trail heading up to the ridge, turn right and walk across the southern face of Geumtap-bong, checking out Ungmyeong-su and the Eungjin-jeon shrine. Heading southeast from here there are good views over Cheongryang-sa and the inner mountain peaks before the trail connects with the main trail to Ipseok carpark - give yourself 45min or so for this walk from Sanggunui-jip.

 

The Northern Ridge Circuit

Cheongryang-pokpo - Jangin-bong - Seonha-bong - Jaran-bong - Wonjeok-bong - Takpil-bong - Jaso-bong - Gyeongil-bong - Geumtap-bong - Ipseok Carpark. 8 peaks over 7 kilometres.  The full circuit can be completed in 3 or 4 hours. There are a number of signed trail options from the ridge down to the temple if you want to make that shorter.

 As mentioned earlier, the majority of visitors will attempt to park midway up the mountain road, and walk the paved road to the temple; the central, windy yellow trail in the middle of the map up there.

Hikers looking to do the northern circuit of the main peaks should start from the trail-head opposite the Cheongryang-pokpo (waterfall) or the Ipseok trail-head up near the pass opposite the fortress walls. Starting higher the latter is an easier approach to the peaks, but I recommend starting from opposite the waterfall because at the end of the hike you can walk out down the fairly steep road rather than slog up it at the beginning of the day.

Haneul-dari (sky bridge) connecting Seonha-bong and Jaran-bong



Cheongryang-pokpo - Jangin-bong 1.7km


The Cheongryang-pokpo trail head is about 500 metres into the park, at the first restaurants from the main entrance and opposite, of course, the Cheongryang waterfall; a thin bridal-veil style fall which seems to run out of nowhere, and sometimes not at all, which has led me to believe it may well be artificial, like the impressive man-made falls by the main entrance bridge.

The trail leaves from the large signboard map on the roadside, and follows a paved path up through garden farming to the small village enclave of Dudeul-maeul.  Aside from the fields, Dudeul-maeul, which aside from it's fields is little more than a couple of old houses and sheds.

With the natural terraced platforms of this area, highland farming is still quite common in the area around the mountain, and as your view opens up to the south you'll see similar high farms on the mountains across the other side of the nakdong river, quite a rare thing in Korea, where mountain-tops are generally forested, but also generally too steep to consider farming.

From the end of the paved farm road the trail heads into forest, climbing steeply up a gravel path to the shallow pass between Jangin-bong and Seonhak-bong. Jangin-bong is a slight detour from the main circuit path, and is a 500 metre walk west from the pass.

At 870m Jangin-bong is the largest of Cheongryang's domes. It's original name was Dae-bong, but along with many in this park was changed by the 16th century Punggi magistrate Ju Sebung. Jangin-bong is named for Zhang-yue peak of China's famous Tai-shan mountain. The peak itself doesn't offer spectacular views as it's walled by forest on most sides, but on the south-western edge you can get good views off the cliff face over the Nakdong river, and east up the valley over the mountain fortress ridge.

East to Takpil-bong - the "Excellent writing" from Yeonjeok-bong.

 


Jangin-bong - Gyeongil-bong 3km


From the peak descend back to the pass and climb briefly onto to Seonhak-bong (crane peak), covered in a blanket of pines, the favourable nesting site for cranes. 

The two domes of Seonhak-bong and Jaran-bong are divided by a very deep gap, which until recently made the hike between the two quite a substantial drop and climb, unfair really when it's merely a tree-hop for a nesting crane.

The Haneul-dari (sky bridge), above, was built in 2008, and has cut the walk between these peaks down to 30 seconds. The 90m long suspension bridge has also contributed to a great change in visitor numbers to the park, and for that reason I'm not a fan.

Looking to the mountain fortress, from Yeonjeok-bong

 It seems the bridge has put Cheongryang-san firmly on the Gwangwang bus (touring bus) circuit, and these huge monstrosities of transport essentially make driving up the peaceful mountain road a crawl at best in the busy season, and take all the available parking. These buses, the biggest made, are usually carrying older hikers and refuse to park in the lower car park. They have taken a lot of character away from this beautiful place. I hope Cheongryang park officials see this and stop allowing them to park on the high mountain.

 However! Whatever your thoughts on sky bridges, the quality of the structure can not be denied, it's an extremely impressive bridge, and is quite an awesome sight to behold, it also opens up a completely different "birds eye" view of the mountain, and is a bit of fun to cross. It cuts a good 20-30mins off the walk as well!


Jaran-bong - Jaso-bong, 1.2km 


The bridge delivers you onto the edge of Jaran-bong dome and our trails continues east along the ridge. After a couple of hundred metres is a junction, where a track descends to the right down to Cheongryang-sa via Yeonhwa-bong. Our trail continues along the ridge to Yeonjeok-bong, the first of three rocky tooth-like peaks over the next kilometre or so. The trail goes around Yeonjeok-bong, but there is a staircase to the top, which is worth climbing as the view is quite commanding. From the foot of Yeonjeok-bong is another option of descending to Cheongryang-san via Yeonhwa-bong.

Yeonjeok-bong means "Ink Water Bottle Peak", as that's what it resembled to good old Confucian magistrate Ju-Sebeong, and it's close neighbour Takpil-bong (above) is named for the shape of a tightly collected calligraphy brush - I can see that, and wouldn't mind betting Takpil-bong was named first.

There is no access to the top of Takpil-bong, and our trail skirts around its southern face and on toward Jaso-bong, for mine the most impressivepeak of Cheongryang-san. The path heads across the southern face of this peak, and you'll have to turn off the trail to climb the steep staircases to the summit. There are great views in all directions, but this is the only spot to get broad views to the north-east.

From the base of the peak a trail heads south down to Kimsaenggul cave and onto Cheongyrang-sa or Ipseok. It's the "main trail" I suppose - but our ridge circuit continues... 


Jaso-bong - Gyeongil-bong 1.2km

We continue east along the ridge, on a thinner trail which continues for almost a kilometre before reaching a ribbonned junction, where we'll head right (south) to Gyeongil-bong, the "Rising Sun Peak", as on every spring and autumn equinox, the sun rises over this peak when viewed from Yeondae platform of Cheongryang-sa.

Eungjin-jeon Hall 



Geongil-bong - Ipseok 2.1km 

From here the trail descends steeper, turning south-west down to Kimsaenggul Cave and waterfall, a tall, shallow cave over which a waterfall flows in the summer rain. It is said the great Silla calligrapher Kim Saeng lived in a cottage here for 10 years practicing his art.

Here we meet the main trail from Jaso-bong, and skirt south around Geumtap-bong  to the Eopung-dae cliff platform, which offers the best view of Cheongryang-san (top photo).

Here we meet another junction, with the option of heading down to the temple, just a few hundred metres to the west, or turn south-east along the face of the rocks to Eunjin-jeon (above)

Heading south-east the trail passes along the face of Geumtap-bong to Chongmyeong-su (intelligence water) cave spring. Silla Dynasty confucian scholar Choi Chi-won spent a lot of time in this spot, and claimed the water of this spring made him more alert in his mind, so it became the intelligence water!

Just around the corner the trail meets the Buddhist hall Eungjin-jeon. Eungjin-jeon houses an image of King Gongmin's wife, the Mongolian Princess Noguk, who died in childbirth after the couple left Cheongryang-san. Eungjin-jeon is perched beneath Geumtap-bong's impressive southern boulders, known as the "rocks through which the wind blow" A favourite spot for Choi Chi-won to read and play his checkers, Geumtap-bong is also named Chiwon-bong.

Passing through the garden area of Eungjin-jeon, we turn south and after a few hundred metres meet the main inner mountain trail running from Cheongryang-sa to the Ipseok car park, a well worn walk out to the road.

From Ipseok, your way out is obviously down the road, it's a couple of kilometres down to the park entrance. If you head up the road a bit though, there is a Hyuge-so (rest area) at the pass with a supermarket and small restaurant, it's also a minbak. Also the entrance to the mountain fortress, shrine to King Gongmin and trail to Chukryeong-bong on the southern ridge are about 100m up the road on your right. Details for that trail at a later date.

Getting there


By car:

Cheongryang-san park office and trail entrance is on National Highway 35, approximately 40km north of Andong. From Andong follow directions heading to Dosan-seowon, but continue past another 15km or so.

From Bongwha take NH36 east, turn right (south) at the junction with NH35 and follow this road to the park.

From further afield: Take the Jungang Expressay (NE55), get off at Yeongju to reach Bonghwa. To reach Andong get off at West Andong if coming from the north or South Andong if coming from the south.


By Bus:

From Andong - Bus 67 leaves Andong at 05:50, 08:50, 11:50, 14:50, 17:50. Return times: 0650, 10:20, 13:20, 16:20, 18:40. The trip takes about an hour.


From Bonghwa - The Cheongryang-san bus leaves the terminal at 06:20, 09:20, 13:30, 1740. Return times: 07:00, 10:10, 14:30, 18:20 (40min trip)


This is a remote area, and from any direction you choose to arrive will take you through some of Korea's best tended and sleepiest farming villages - places like Myeongo-myeon and Jaesan-myeon to the west and Yean-myeon and Dosan-myeon to the south give the impression of going back in time. Life is slow and measured and the locals are proud farmers with confucian values stronger than anywhere in the country - maybe the world. To come to Cheongryang-san it is well worth taking some extra time to explore the side roads  between Andong and Bonghwa, very few do, and you'll be amazed what you might find out there.

Toegye Pilgrimage Trail

 

 

 Looking back on Nongam-jongtaek from the riverside trail

A few Kilometres downstream from the park entrance the river widens through the sleepy village of Gasong-ri, as it makes its way into the head of the Andong lake and Dosan-seowon.

This is an idyllic area of sleepy farmland and rolling hills, and probably the path through which Lee Hwang (Toegye) and other scholars of Doseon Seowon made their way from the academy to the mountain.

In recent years trails have been constructed along the riverside and through the hills and villages of both sides of the river here, collectively known as the Gasong-ri Yedeon-gil, a small part of a much wider connection of trails and rural paths called the Dosan Yet-gil, which connects the mountains and villages in a 20km radius around Dosan-seowon.

The trails on the southern side of the river through Gasong-ri are know as the Toegye Osol-gil (pilgrimage trail).

At the end of the narrow road flanking the river past Gasong-ri is a village of beautifully restored traditional Hanok buildings known as Nongam-jongtaek, many of which are associated with the great Confucian writer and scholar Lee Hyeon-bo, pen name Nongam (1467-1555), which the Toegye trails circle around.

The buildings were originally located under a cliff on the Buncheon stream near Dosan-seowon, but the area was flooded by the construction of the Andong dam in 1976, and they were individually moved to various areas nearby. In 2005 they were brought together to this location, which is considered a similiar site as that where they came from.


Amongst the buildings are the Bungang-seowon, and the magnificent Aeil-dang pavilion (left) which Nongam built to honour his father. Aeil means "missing the passage of a day", as when building it Nongam realized the days of caring for his 94 year old father were numbered. 

The pavilion is located under a cliff face, as it was initially built under Nongam-bawi rock in Buncheon, after which Lee Hyeong-bo chose his pen name.
 


Nakong River on the Toegye Pilgrimage Trail, downstream from Nongam-jongtaek.


The trail leaves the river and climbs a few hundred metres to a highland farming village above the cliffs.













Along farm trails the path enters forest, backtracking to Nongam-jeongtaek above the magnificient Hakso-dae cliffs, with some awesome views (as seen below) 

This was a 1.5/2hr stroll over what I guess to be about 4.5km

Gasong-ri Yedan-gil - north side of river


 Between Gasong-ri and Nongam-jongtaek, just downstream from the famous Gosan-jeong Pavillion, a bridge crosses the river into the village of Gasa-ri,  from where another section of connected trails has been constructed along the river and through the hills to neighbouring villages. 

On a rainy day a couple of summers ago I walked the trail through Gasa-ri, past the cliffs of Wolmyeong-dae and followed the 4km red circuit trail to Jeonmang-dae viewing platform, indicated in the map below.

This was early days in the development of the trail, and was a bit of a bush-bash in places through the forest sections above the river. But expensive infrastructure in important parts of the trail had been built, such as railings along Wolmyeong-dae, park benches through the forest, good signage and the impressive viewing platform at the southern end of the trail, so I imagine that the path is now fully walkable and easily navigable.


 


Yedan-gil direction sign at Gasa-ri
- pointing right to the main trail heading through the riverside fields to Wolmyeong-dae, and up to the Buin-dang Shaman shrine in the village square, where there are also toilets and a resting pavilion under the village guardian spirit tree.
The well maintained and active shrine buildings of Buin-dang.



The shrine itself is on the right, and the building on the left is a shaman wardrobe, filled with colorful uniforms and peacock feather headdresses.
 
The trail heading around the cliffs at Wolmyeong-dae.

 Fields at Gasa-ri

 

Getting to Gasong-ri - The small road to Gasong-ri leaves Highway 35 at a bend in the road as it first meets the river as you come from Andong. 35 then flanks the river heading upstream, while the Gasong-ri road flanks the river downstream.

There is a bus stop on the bend in Highway 35. Busues running to and from Andong and Cheongryang-san will stop here. It'll pay to tell them you're getting off at Gasong-ri as they probably won't stop if they don't need to.