The Dol Hareubang, or stone grandfathers, are perhaps the most recognised symbol of Korea’s Jeju Island. We’ve seen them on Kdramas, variety shows, advertising campaigns, and stamps.
Although they look like they’ve been around forever, it is thought that they originated in the mid 1700’s and were perhaps influenced by South Pacific stone statues such as those from Easter Island. Other theories place them as having been influenced by the Turkic Kurgan stelae of Mongolia, or that they were an original Korean invention. Since other anthropomorphic statues appear in cultures all around the world I’m ok believing them to be totally Korean. There are similarities between the Dol Hareubang of Jeju Island and the mainland Korea stone jangseung, but with the stone jangseung not having any hands. (Many jangseung are made from timber and bear a slight resemblance to totem poles.)
There are only about 47 original Dol Hareubang, with the rest being of modern origin. You can now find them in every possible size, as well as in forms such as sweet treats to tempt tourists.
The Dol Hareubang are seen as protectors or guardians and may have originally stood guard at gateways and entrances to fortresses and other important buildings.They were usually found in pairs which lends credence to them being gate guardians. With their slightly mushroom shaped soldiers hats they are also seen as a fertility symbols, with women rubbing the noses for a boy baby and the ears for a girl. Dol Hareubang was originally a nickname for them, but it became their official name in 1971.
But the Dol Hareubang are not the only stone men of Jeju Island. We found lots of volcanic basalt rock that looked vaguely human that had been collected and put in gardens and along forest trails. Some of these little men were left in the natural state whilst some had had minimal carving to create human features.
They were cute, but scary at the same time, giving you that being watched feeling that raises the hair on the back of your neck.
In some ways I prefered these little stone men as they had a lot of character and charm. Some were even in the form of animals like these Jeju pigs.
We discovered that there were also large stone men more in keeping with the Inuksuk of the Inuit.
And lastly there were the stone men of the Buddhist Temples.
Jeju Island is a wonderful place to visit with lots of unique things to see and do. Some of our best memories, however, came from some of the lesser attractions such as all the different ‘stone men of Jeju’.
Have a great day everyone.
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Photo credits to me and Elle Marzec, except for stamp image which was in public domain. Please do not copy without permission or accreditation.