If aliens landed in Gyeongnam, would they think Koreans worshipped the turtle?

Looking back at some of my travel photos, I can’t help but notice the prominence of turtles in the south of the peninsula.

The symbolism of the turtle is explained briefly in the Life in Korea website as follows:

While the dragon was considered the ruler of all animals, the turtle ruled over the insects. Because turtles live longer than other animals, they symbolize longevity. People believed that turtles had the power to predict the future. Fortune tellers used the shape of a turtle’s shell to forecast the future. Turtle images often form the base of steles or monuments to famous people.

And of course, there’s the tough shell which comes in handy when you’re under attack.

So here are a few of the turtles and tortoises I’ve come across, some of them fiercer than others.

1. First and foremost, there’s Yi Sun-shin’s famous armour-plated turtle ships. Here’s one in Tongyeong harbour:

Turtle ship
Tongyeong Harbour, 26 March 2012

2. A turtle lighthouse:

Turtle lighthouse
Hansando, Tongyeong-si, 26 March 2012

3. A modern turtle drinking fountain:

Turtle Drinking fountain
Hansando, Tongyeong-si, 26 March 2012

4. A slightly less fierce-looking drinking fountain at a temple:

Turtle Drinking Fountain
Yonghwasa, Mireukdo, Tongyeong-si, 27 March 2012

5. A monument at the location of the first cotton plant in Korea:

Cotton memorial
Sawol-ri, Danseong-myeon, Sancheong-gun, 1 April 2012

6. A memorial near the original burial site of King Sejong’s placenta:

Sejong placenta turtle
Eunsa-ri, Gonmyeong-myeon, Sacheon-si, 1 April 2012

7. A giant golden turtle at the Donguibogam Village in Sancheong-gun, home of the International Traditional Medicine Expo:

Donguibogam turtle
Donguibogam-chon, Geumseo-myeon, Sancheong-gun, 6 September 2013

As an aside, two of the royal seals from the Joseon dynasty which went missing during the Korean war were turtles too:

Seals
Cultural Heritage Administration via Joongang Ilbo

The above photo includes two seals from the Empire period – top left and bottom right. Seems they didn’t like turtles under the empire…

For those of you who like slideshows, here it is:

Contents
Introduction 12: Yun Isang’s music at TIMF 2012
1: Dansaekhwa – Korean Monochrome Painting at the Museum of Contemporary Art 13: Jeon Hyuck-lim, Magician of Colours
2: Suh Do-ho “Home within Home” at the Leeum 14: Mugwort pancakes and bronze age dolmen
3: Bugaksan to Daehakro 15: A visit to Min Young-ki
4: Walking the palace trail with the RASKB 16: Silla pagodas, Korea’s first beautiful village, and Nammyeong’s tomb
5: the Trip to Tongyeong 17: On hiking in Korea
6: Tongyeong harbour 18: The hike to Beopgyesa
7: Yi Sun-shin — military genius, hero, poet 19: Beopgyesa Temple and those Japanese feng-shui stakes
8: Yun Isang, Sancheong and Tongyeong 20: Rabbit Stew and Love Shots
9: Yun Isang — Victim of the Cold War 21: Seong Cheol’s birthday, Park Chan-soo’s museum and Gaya period tombs
10: Mireuksan and meonggae – a morning on Mireukdo 22: The Burial Grounds of the Royal Joseon Placentas, and why underfloor heating is not always good for you
11: The Tongyeong International Music Festival 23: Mun Ik-jeom: dutiful son and smuggler of cotton seeds
Extras
Thank yous The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
LKL in the 경남도민일보 “A Reason to Live” and “Pain”: Two lame films to avoid
Some regional foods in Tongyeong Some regional foods in Sancheong
Park Kyung-ni’s tomb in Tongyeong If aliens landed in Gyeongnam, would they think Koreans worshipped the turtle?

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