Just a quick note to say that tomorrow’s post on Baekdu/Changbaishan volcano will be out in the afternoon, not as early as usual. That’s partly because it has been a hectic week and I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, but mostly because it’s very difficult to find a way into the post.
Now, Saturday night, I’ve got one…
…but to do it properly I have to work on it during the day tomorrow.
This volcano had a VEI 7 eruption about 1200 years ago, has had a few smaller eruptions since, and got kind of restless early in this century, though it then settled back down. Very little is known about it (or at least easily accessible to a layperson) in the West, though it is wildly popular in Asia.
My amateurish impression is that when the “big one” destroyed regional civilizations on what’s now the Korean Peninsula and in the adjacent region of China (yeah, it was really bad), those who rebuilt in the area and needed an explanation for what had happened made it a holy mountain. It also helped that the mountain is the source of three rivers and has a spectacular post-eruption waterfall.
That guess may or may not be close to the truth, but certainly today Changbaishan/Baekdu is a political symbol (and is still worshiped by some Manchu people).
The border between China and North Korea runs right through the crater lake (Tianchi, the Lake of Heaven). That alone explains a lot of the difficulty in trying to understand this volcano. However, the volcano’s symbolism and history magnify the problem.
North Korea has Baekdu’s image on their national emblem; China has named one of their newest, most advanced ships after it (as Changbaishan); South Koreans voice concerns that the nature reserve and resort facilities on the Chinese side of the mountain – where volcano has more visitors yearly than Mount Fuji in Japan – are somehow an attempt by China to take control of the entire thing; and on and on it goes.
I even watched some YouTube videos of North Korean TV broadcasts about the place. (They’re very depressing – life never resumed for these people, back in the 1950s, as it did for the West and the South after the armistice was signed in 1953.)
There’s a lot I’d like to say about it. I mean, just look at the place – all this, plus a VEI 7 eruption, and a lot of Westerners have never even heard of it…
…but it’s difficult, mostly for cultural reasons.
Now, perhaps, I’ve found a way into writing a short post about it – well, more tomorrow, hopefully. It may lap over into Monday, but not to worry – Monday’s Civil War post will still be out per usual.