|the Bukhan-san 북한산 Sub-Range
the Guardians of Seoul, North of the Han River
The term "Bukhan-san" indicates the large cluster of prominent peaks directly to the north of Seoul's downtown.
There is no single mountain with that name!
According to the extant records, Mt. Samgak-san was first casually referred to as "Bukhan-san" durin the reign
of Joseon King Sukjong 1674-1720, as the mountain-fortress in its center was renovated/upgraded and named
as the "Bukhan-sanseong" in 1711. It seems that the Japanese colonialists first officially designated Samgak-
san on maps as "Bukhan-san" in ignorance of Korean traditions. Ever since the ROK national government
designated Samgak-san, Dobong-san, Uisang-san, Wonhyo-sa and Sapae-san together as the "Bukhan-san
National Park" in 1983, this mistaken labeling has become common and even seems to be increasing. The
three highest peaks of Mt. Samgak, or one of them, are often labeled "Mt. Bukhan" (or the older spelling
Pukhan) on some maps. This should be corrected -- the name "Bukhan-san" actually designates the entire
sub-range of mountains that dominate Seoul City north of the Han River.
They form the effective end of a range of mountains called the Hanbuk-jeongmaek that branches off from
the Baekdu-daegan Main-Range at Chuga Ridge and Baekam-san up in North Korea, goes south and then
southwest until it approaches the Yellow Sea north of the Han River (it channels the Han from origin to ocean
along its northern side).
A set of ten major mountains and many significant subsidiary hills, peaks and crags, the Bukhan Mountains
were and are the spiritual and physical guardians of historic Seoul, capital of Korea since 1392 CE. The
Seoul City Wall built then still runs from Nam-san up over Inwang-san to Samgak-san (and on around the
Nak-san Ridge back to Nam-san), cumulating in a gigantic fortress with massive gates (a few sections of
the wall, including most of the eastern parts, no longer exist). Refer to this map:
1. An-san, with Bongwon-sa
2. Inwang-san, with Seon-bawi and Guksa-dang
3. Bugak-san, the North Peak, above Gyeongbok
Palace -- its long south-eastern ridge is Nak-san
4. Hyeongjae-bong Peak of Samgak-san,
with many small temples
5. Samgak-san Southern Peaks
or "Front Range"
6. Samgak-san (main peaks), with Doseon-sa
and many other temples
7. Dobong-san, with Mangwol-sa, Cheonchuk-sa
Wonhyo-sa and many other temples
8. Sapae-san, with Hoeryong-sa and others
9. Surak-san, with Heungguk-sa & many others
10. Bulam-san, with Bulam-sa and other temples
11. Acha-san / Yongma-san, with a few temples
12. Seoul Nam-san, with Tower, Waryong-myo,
Minsok-chon & many others
13. the Sadong-san, the Four Eastern Ridge-Hills
including the Nak-san ridge
|significant parts of Bukhan-san as seen from Gwanak-san to the south
|The Bukhan Mountains form an oval-shape circuit with a few significant gaps in it -- the mightiest mountains are in
a half-circle to the north of central and eastern Seoul (with a gap that leads up to Uijeonbu City), and some lesser
peaks scattered in a southern loop just above the river. There are a few other non-important small mountains not
indicated here. The Buddhist temples, Confucian shrines, Shamanic shrines, historical sites and hiking trails found
on the slopes of the Bukhan Mountains are almost innumerable. On the pages linked to this one, I have focused on
the Mountain-spirit Shrines [Sanshin-gak] of the most significant ones -- information can be found on other sites.
Considered collectively, the Bukhan Mountains count as
one of the Top-12 Most-Sacred Mountains of South Korea.
Historical note that the correct name of the
central mountain of the Bukhan-subrange is
actually Samgak-san, from a tourist map
put out by Gangbuk-gu District in 2004.
Detail sections of the 1861 Daedong-yeoji-do Map by "Gosanja"
Kim Jeong-ho, showing the mountain-ranges north of Seoul
Signature-gathering Campaign advocating
restoration of Samgak-san's traditional
name, urging the national and Seoul
governments to stop using "Bukhan-san"
for it, with my friend Mr. Cho from the
Gangbuk-gu District Office, in April 2007.
|Panorama of the north-central mountains of the Bukhan-subrange shot from Nam-san to the south
by Robert Koehler -- Editor of SEOUL magazine, former blogger of The Marmot's Hole (used by permission)