Paektu Mountain

Paektu Mountain, also known as Baektu Mountain or Changbai Mountain, is an active stratovolcano that is located along the border of China and North Korea. At an elevation of 9,003 feet, it is the tallest peak on the Korean Peninsula and in northeastern China, as well as the tallest peak in the Baekdudaegan and Changbai mountain ranges. The volcano is a popular tourist area for many South Koreans and foreign travelers.

Paektu Mountain is a cone shaped volcano that holds a large caldera that is 3.1 miles wide that was created during a massive eruption that spread ash as far as Hokkaidō in Japan. The caldera holds a lake that reaches a depth between 699 and 1,260 feet and is typically covered with ice between October and June. The north side of lake holds a waterfall that feeds the Tumen, Yalu, and Songhua rivers. The middle portion of this volcano grows about three millimeters per year due to rising magma levels in its center.

Paektu Mountain has been considered sacred throughout history to the Koreans and Manchus. It has been mentioned under many names throughout China’s history, including Buxian Shan, meaning the Mountain with God, in the Shan Hai Jing, and as Shanshan Daling, meaning the Big Big Big Mountain, in the Canonical Book of the Eastern Han Dynasty. In Korea, the volcano is thought to be an ancestral place and from the beginning of Korean history to the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, people relied upon the mountain.

In 1712, an agreement was made between Manchu and Korean officials that decided the border between the two areas. A monument was constructed near the south side of lake on the crater of the mountain. However, this monument has caused confusion and tension about the border that has lasted into the twenty first century.

The weather on Paektu Mountain can be described as unpredictable, with winter temperatures averaging about −54 degrees at the peak and summer temperatures averaging 64 degrees. Over 168 species of plant have been recorded in and around the lake within the crater of this volcano and the area around the volcano is densely forested, although deforestation has greatly affected the forest on its Korean side. The forest supports many species of animal including tigers, leopards, bears, deer, wild boar, wolves, owls, woodpeckers, and scaly-sided mergansers.

Image Caption: Paektu Mountain volcano, April 2003. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia