Kumgangsan (Diamond Mountains) 

Every Korean feels his heart trembling with fascination when it comes to talk about the Diamond Mountains - Kumgangsan (). It is considered as the the most beautiful mountain resort occupying a territory of 530 square kilometers in the Eastern part of the Korean peninsula just to the North of the military demarcation line, in Kangwon-do province. 

The feelings are especially sharp, because nor for the people of DPRK, nor for the people of ROK it had never been easy to visit the place of magical beauty. The Northerners are not allowed to travel the country freely, and those from the South can come to Kumgangsan only for occasional events  in a certain restricted area.   

The mountain resort is divided in three symbolic parts - Outer, Inner and Seaside Kumgang. The Outer Kumgang typically has a lot of high peaks, most of them rugged and amazing in forms, rising almost strait into the sky. Coombs with waterfalls of crystal clean water and emerald-green pools add more intoxicating beauty to the place.

One of them is Kuryo Waterfall (九龍瀑布) 74 meter high that attracted attention of poets since ancient times.

Poet Choi Chi-won (崔致遠) left the following lines on a rock Neoreok near the waterfall about the beauty of the place: 

A thousand fibres of white silk           千丈白練 
A pile of ten thousand pearls.            萬斛真珠 
Te point is that the water streams look like the silk pliers, and the water pools seem to be full of pearls under the falling water. 

Since old times the mountain has been considered sacred, especially when Buddhism reached the hight of blooming there.  

A legend says, that 53 statues of Buddhas, made in India, had been sealed inside a temple bell and dropped into the ocean. The bell was floating until reaching the shore near the Kumgangsan Mountain. Buddhas got out of the bell and moved deeper into the mountains where they came across nine dragons, the guardians of a pond they had been living around. They did not want to give up the place to the Buddhas. The two sides agreed to compete in skills so that the looser would have to leave, and the winner would stay in the mountain. The dragons made a spell and called out lighting, thunder and a severe rain shower, but the Buddhas were sitting still on an elm tree. Then the Buddhas drawn a talisman and thrown it into the pond. The water started boiling and the dragons had to fly away. They settled at the place where the waterfalls are exist today.

The symbolic entrance to the district, where the waterfalls are located, is formed naturally by two huge rocks joined over the path leading to the mountain sceneries. Beneath the rocks there is another one with engraved old Chinese characters - Kumgang-mun (Kumgang Gate, 金剛門). 

The Seaside Kumgang (Hae-Kumgang) differs from the rest of the mountain area in the shape of the landscape. I found Samilpo Lake there as the real jewel of the nature. The rocky shores, covered with pine tree forest, rise high over the blue crystal clear water. Small isles on its surface look like emerald stones, shining under the sun.  

The name Samilpo literally means "Three days lake". An old legend says, that a king made a camp with his troops on the lake shore for one day only. But the beauty of the place was so captivating that the King could not make himself leave and he stayed there for three days. That's how the lake got its name Samilpo. 

I took a boat to see the lake closer, approached isles which rocky surfaces were engraved with old times autographs and poems. There are many of them. Some go down under the water, some are fading away by time, wind and heat of the sun. 

Legends say celestials lived there since ancient time.

Poet Jun Woo-chi left the following words about the lake, describing its natural beauty. 

At the autumn night, frost fell on the lake, and the air is clear!                                       秋晚瑤潭霜氣清

Cool wind is blowing, sounding like flutes.                                                           仙風吹途紫簫聲

No more blue cranes in sight, the sea is wide.                                                     青鸞不至海天濶

Only the moon is shining over the 36 picks.                                                         三十六峰明月明

Three Buddhas met me in the Inner Kumgang. Samburam Rock (三佛庵) depicts three images of Mitreya, Sakyamuni and Amithaba.  

 A grid for playing paduk (jap. go) is engraved on a rock plate near a mountain river. Celestials would come from the sky and play it with stones from the creek. A few autographs are left near the grid by those who probably enjoyed this place centuries ago. 

There is a huge rock on the way to Kumgang Gate with three large Chinese characters 五仙嵒 that means "Five Immortals", legendary figures in Taoism. According to a legend, two thousand years ago the five came down to earth from heaven. Everything they touched turned into rocks, except rice that they gave to the people and saved them from hunger. 

In Kumgangsan the five immortals enjoyed the natural beauty of the mountains near the rock called to commemorate the five immortals. The rock was overturned during a heavy floods in the past, but the characters were still visible.  


 Ancient pilgrims engraved their names on the mountain rocks. At the time of socialism a new kind of engravings like Chollima winged horse of the revolution and slogans praising the Korean Workers Party. 

More then 108 Buddhist temples existed in Diamond mountains in the past. One of them is still there. It is called Pyohunsa (表訓寺) or "Pyohun's monastery", built in 598 and rebuilt in 675 by a person named Pyohun, one of the disciples of a Buddhism school. Nowadays it is a new building erected after the Korean war (1950-1953).