• Dr Anne Hilty is a scholar-practitioner of health psychology from New York, living in Europe and East Asia since 2005. She has been in clinical practice since 1989 and engages in a variety of research projects for social welfare and cultural preservation. Additionally, she is a well-published writer.

  • ArirangTV video clip

    Profile of Dr. Hilty by Arirang TV, on Youtube (June 2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RHfOy0fHo4
  • Headline Jeju article

    Profile of Dr. Hilty on Headline Jeju newspaper (January 2011; Korean only): http://www.headlinejeju.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=107569

The Story of Jeju, in Pictures

This is the story of an island called Jeju, in the Northern Pacific…

A place like no other, with several thousand years of human civilization in harmony with nature and today the first and only place in the world to receive all 3 UNESCO natural science designations…

And a place in the throes of modernization…

▲…where fields are still cultivated by hand, and labor is nearly always performed communally…not by ‘hired hands’ but villagers who help their neighbor today in the understanding that he or she will in turn be in their field tomorrow, in a system known as mutual aid…

▲…where farms are typically in the benign shadow of an ‘oreum,’ local dialect for the nearly 400 secondary cones that emerged when the central volcano formed this island some 200,000 years ago (last eruption: 1007CE)…

▲…where soil worked for many centuries is now black gold, volcanic soil that once represented hardship because of its stony content, stones cleverly–and laboriously–removed one-by-one to become low stone fences, protecting the soil and plants from the fierce winds that sweep the island–again, cleverly, as the space between stones reduces the wind to a gentle breeze as it passes through the field, and renders the stone wall nearly invincible…

▲…and more black gold at a giant’s feet…

▲…with some creative tilling, always by hand, horse, or hand-driven machinery in these small and often oddly-shaped fields…

▲…where a hiking trail on the ‘oreum’ is likely to require passage through a cow gate…

▲…and one’s trail companions might well be bovine…

▲…where the farmland below can often appear as a beautifully handmade patchwork quilt that tells the story of the people’s lives…

▲…where hiking, and nature, are a daily part of life and the relationship between humans and nature seamless…

▲…where the dead are buried near the living, the gravesite complete with guardians/servants and errand boys, the pillar–one of a pair of grave markers called ‘mangjuseok’ and representing two gates, one for the living and the other for spirit…

▲…an errand boy, one of a pair, called dongjaseok–and the least important of the markers…

▲…a guardian and servant to the deceased, also one of a pair–and the most important of the markers, called ‘muninseok’…

▲…second dongjaseok…

▲…second muninseok…

▲…and the official tombstone, covered in Chinese characters, telling the story of the deceased–identity, accomplishments, and most importantly, lineage, all not so much to memorialize as to introduce the deceased to the spirit world…

▲…and the view from the grave…

▲…and an altar at which to honor the dead…

▲…sometimes, though not often, two family members were buried together, always beneath a grave mound and always surrounded by a low stone fence…

▲…and  at Chuseok, an autumn harvest celebration, the family tends the grave in an annual rite known as bulcho, by cutting and cleaning away the grass and honoring the dead…

▲…and as time passed, the muninseok or guardian/servant was not always included and only the dongjaseok or errand boy and mangjuseok or doorway marker remained–but an errand boy cannot properly serve nor guard the dead…

▲…and in some cases, the dead are relocated to a more propitious site–or, in these modern times, more convenient for the family, and the original grave is left empty…

▲…even though the original site may have been most propitious indeed, with a grand view…

▲…leaving the gravestone, broken, as so much flagstone along a hiking path…

▲…the unsuspecting descendants below…

▲…with the dead overseeing it all…

▲…now with only errand boys and a lineage marker, missing their guardian/servants and the gateway markers of the passage points between the worlds…

▲…and we descend to the world below…

▲…where, sometimes, the trail companions are not bovine but equine…

▲…content, and at ease with humans, a true and faithful companion of Jeju people through the ages, with three varieties: the original Jeju pony; a squat and sturdy horse which is a legacy of the 100-year Mongolian occupation in the 13th century; and, today’s imported thoroughbred…

▲…a place of harmonious existence between human and horse…

▲…where, despite modernization at a breathtaking pace, the ubiquitous stone walls remain…

▲…stone walls that, whether surrounding fields or gravemounds, take some (literal and metaphor) interesting twists and turns…

▲…and, in very modern times, crisply manicured grave mounds all in a row looking sanitized–and segregated from daily life…

▲…inclusive of ‘guardians’ for the patriarch, though now only the decorative sort…

▲…where the fields yet remain rich and fertile…

▲…enriched by the minerals of the volcanic stone and ash…

▲…some graves with modern walls of stone+cement, the wind’s undeniable requirement of passage and the water’s need to breathe forgotten–thus cracking, as is to be expected…

▲…while the ancient techniques of building a stone wall prevail…

▲…and sometimes, though not often, the walls around a grave mound take on a sympathetic circular shape…

▲…a place where that circular shape so common in nature is sometimes reflected in the outline of the fields…

▲…where calves are born in abundance, but sometimes die, leaving the cow (like the one on the right) to bellow incessantly and sniff other nursing calf-cow pairs, in search of her own…

▲…and next to the dairy farm may be the family shrine…

▲…and where graves are typically found in the midst of the fields, sometimes several…

▲…and “crop circles” are merely a farmer’s creativity–and, sense of humor…

▲…where the grave may be the central feature of the field, precisely where a farmer should be laid to rest…and near his family…

▲…where new and old stone fences sometimes meet…

▲…and elaborate family markers are sometimes erected to the dead…

▲…where onions dry in the fields…

▲…and gardens are now sometimes manicured things…

▲…where small farms yet prevail, and garlic dries in mesh bags by the roadside…

▲…and potatoes rest in the field, waiting for the final gathering…

▲…and public schools are elaborate, even in the smallest villages…

▲…where quiet village life is still the norm…

▲…and life has modernized while retaining aspects of the traditional style…

▲…and life in the small village still revolves around the farming fields…

▲…with an occasional home fallen into disuse and utter neglect, reclaimed by nature…

▲…where village life remains behind low stone walls…

▲…and grandfathers spread red algae to dry in the sun, algae likely gathered by their haenyeo (free-diver) wives…

▲…with improvised storage facilities for garlic, potatoes, onions…

▲…and the “olle gil” or walking path found throughout the villages, now lined with cement…which cracks…

▲…a village like so many others on this island, tucked behind stone walls, next to both sea and farm fields, in the shadow of a benevolent giant…

▲…and the small truck used for every need…

▲…and modernized yet small houses retain the flavor of their stone, thatched predecessors…

▲…a place where field work is still done by hand, sometimes augmented by small machinery…

▲…a place where squid is hung on a line to dry, like so much laundry,  the squid boats with their high beams lining up on the sea at night like so many hydro-cars…

▲…and where, at low tide, people comb the seabed for mollusks…

▲…where red algae, a product valued for its medicinal properties, is often found being dried by the sea, in preparation for going to market…

▲…and life revolves around the sea, Seongsan Ilchulbong–a UNESCO-designated 5000-year old tuff cone–presiding in the distance…

▲…an island created by volcano, a world of natural artistry revealed at low tide, where algae and volcanic rock meet…

▲…the red algae sometimes exquisitely colored…

▲…and sometimes looking like a mass of red hair…

▲…with a rocky seabed which, when revealed at low tide, gives strong impression of the ancient lava flow that created this island…

▲…with colorful marine life on a backdrop of volcanic basalt…

▲…and many tiny gold ‘nuggets’, seemingly alive and pliant, which I have yet to identify…

▲…a lone basket left by a haenyeo diving with her ‘sisters’ at sea, her shoes and sundries inside…

▲…sand dunes an uncommon feature in this rock-formed island…

▲…and more mollusk-seekers combing the shallows…

▲…Seongsan Ilchulbong rising over all…

▲…the stunning coastline near Seongsan Ilchulbong…

▲…and a nearby abandoned (house? lookout facility?)…

▲…from which one might peer out to the east through its “eyes”…

▲…which Nature threatens to completely consume…

▲…the local Seongsan Village public shrine/altar, next to the small (house? lookout? altar-keeper?)–and, the sea…

▲…with dual altars inside–and the throngs of Seongsan Ilchulbong tourists kept out…

▲…and the rocky shoreline leading up to what was once a separate tuff cone or parasitic volcanic cone at sea, now connected by land bridge, the majesty of Seongsan evident in the “99” peaks of her crown…

▲…and another haenyeo facility, just west of Seongsan Ilchulbong…

▲…where a grandmother haenyeo watches over drying red algae…or perhaps merely rests after her morning of diving…

▲…a watery pathway leading to the shore and haenyeo facility, a haenyeo diving in its waters, the ever-present cormorant resting nearby…

▲…haenyeo wetsuits drying in the sun…

▲…an island which includes many Buddhist temples, this one at the base of Seongsan Ilchulbong…

▲…a seaside, open-air, working haenyeo facility to the east of Seongsan Ilchulbong, on Gwangchigi Beach…

▲…unusual rock formations which emerge at low tide, the “gwangchigi” from which this beach derives its name, haenyeo diving in the background, and all at the foot of the queen…

▲…a “4.3” memorial to victims of a 1948 (~’53) period of violence, a cultural wound yet unresolved…one of many mass graves, this one discovered at Gwangchigi Beach and mentioned by French-Mauritian author and Nobel Prize-winning (2008) J.M.G. Le Clezio, who has stayed on Jeju several times and published an article about the island in GEO, March 2009…

▲…site of 1948 massacre, or mass execution, depending upon one’s ideology…

▲…in nearby Seongsan Village, along a highway, a secret passage so low as to be missed entirely…

▲…a tree growing through it, requiring one to bend low–or, to bow–upon entry (the cement, however, a recent addition)…

▲…to be immediately met with the colorful banners of a small shamanic ‘dang’ or village shrine (aka, ponhyang, or ‘original village’), at which the gods, viewed as ancestors (chosang), are worshipped by the indigenous people (chason), their descendants…

▲…and the sacred tree, conduit between the worlds as in all shamanic traditions, a marriage of tree-and-rock so common on volcanic Jeju, with altar naturally at its base including a still-burning candle, indicating the use of the shrine by shaman (simbang) or devotee (dang-gol) that very day…

▲…the shrine nearly invisible to the public, hidden deep within as one of Jeju’s remaining secret places, garden before, modernity looming overhead, construction foremost…

▲…and the threat to Jeju’s past…and possibly, to its future.

***

This is the story of Jeju Island…

and the story of indigenous peoples and unique, sacred lands…

all over the world.

2 Responses

  1. Love the eyes through which you see all this and describe it , Anne! Poetic perspective with intriguing facts–wonderful mixture.

  2. Amused! Born and raised on this island, I learn many more aspects of Jeju that I neglected intentionally and unintentionally being indise the culture.

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