Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” This Monday corner takes you into the world of interesting Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na. Today I’ll talk about how Sikjang, or the rice-storing mountain, got its name.
Located in the Daejeon area in the central part of South Korea, Sikjang Mountain boasts lush forests, clear valleys, and various kinds of plants and wild animals. There are also several interesting legends about the beautiful mountain too. The word “Sik” in “Sikjang” refers to “rice”, and “jang” means to “store” or “hide.” So, the name indicates “a rice-storing mountain” or “a mountain where rice is buried underneath.”
In one tale associated with the mountain, the area was the border between two ancient Korean kingdoms, Silla and Baekje, during the Three Kingdoms period. The southwestern kingdom of Baekje built a fortress on this mountain and stored a large amount of rice in preparation for the neighboring Silla’s possible invasion. Since the mountain served as a repository of military rice, it became known as a rice-storing or Sikjang mountain.
Another legend tells us about a rice-producing pot buried in the mountain. A long time ago, a farmer lived near the mountain with his two sons. The family was very poor and they subsisted on herb roots and tree bark. One day, as always, the farmer was wandering the mountain in search of something to eat, when he discovered a big pot in the bush. The farmer thought it was strange because it was rare to find such a thing deep in the mountains. He brought the pot home, thinking that he could use it for cooking rice.
At home, the farmer cleaned the pot and placed it in the fireplace. He put a handful of rice in it and made a fire in the furnace to cook the rice. He wished that he could cook more rice for his hungry sons, but he had to save every grain of rice as the family was running out of food. After a while, the farmer opened the lid of the pot to see if the rice was fully cooked. To the man’s surprise, the big pot was filled with steamy, delicious-looking rice, although he had put only a fistful of rice in it. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He pinched himself to make sure that he wasn’t dreaming. It turned out that it was a magic pot. Every time the farmer put rice in it, no matter how small the amount was, the pot soon became full of cooked rice. Thanks to the mysterious pot, the family members no longer had to starve but could eat their fill.
Time passed and the two sons became old enough to get married. But a problem arose. They fought fiercely to possess the magic pot, with each son claiming it belonged to them. Unable to decide who deserved the pot, the father brought the pot back to the site where he had first found it and hid it in a bush. Back at home, he told his two sons that whoever located the pot first would own it. The two sons searched the mountain all day long to find the missing pot, only to fail. So, the farmer went to the site to retrieve the pot himself. Strangely, he couldn’t find the pot either, even though he looked in exactly the same place he had buried it. He combed the area to recover the pot, but it was gone. The pot was lost forever.
From then on, the mountain was called Mt. Sikjang, meaning “a mountain where rice is buried or hidden underneath.”
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” Tune in again next time for another interesting Korean folk story. Thanks for listening. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.