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:
2. A turtle lighthouse:
3. A modern turtle drinking fountain:
4. A slightly less fierce-looking drinking fountain at a temple:
5. A monument at the location of the first cotton plant in Korea:
6. A memorial near the original burial site of King Sejong’s placenta:
7. A giant golden turtle at the Donguibogam Village in Sancheong-gun, home of the International Traditional Medicine Expo:
As an aside, two of the royal seals from the Joseon dynasty which went missing during the Korean war were turtles too:
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: