Korean gardens embody a philosophy of adapting to nature in its original state. The elements of a Korean garden include land, structures, flowers and trees, streams and ponds, rocks and walls, bridges and paths. A garden brings these elements together into harmony within a defined space through an orderly and functional arrangement.
- Chung Jae-hoon, Korean Gardens: Where Man and Nature Become One
The Korean garden is more than just a scenic location. For Koreans of old, it was amicrocosm of the universe, an architectural embodiment of the Korean world view. Mans influencing touch is kept to a minimumrocks, streams, ponds, and trees are left as close to their natural state as possible; artificial additions, meanwhile, serve to highlight or complement nature, not dominate it. By tying together the natural and man-made, the garden expresses mans harmony with his natural environment, an ever-present theme in Koreantraditional culture.
Characteristics of Korean gardens
Kim Yong-duk, former president of the Traditional Garden Society and himself the owner of the beautiful Haksajae home and a tale of Seoul Korean Gardens Simple and natural, Korean gardens embody the traditional view of the cosmos Written and photographed by Robert Koehler garden on the island of Ganghwa-do, explains that the traditional gardens of Korea, China, and Japan share four common characteristics: water, rocks, plants, and structures. The differences, however, are in the details. In a Korean garden, for instance, the Korean red pine features prominently, while in Japanese gardens, cherry blossoms are more prominent, and in Chinese gardens, juniper trees. Kim says it takes some time to get the feeling of each nations garden, but there are more general philosophical differences. Japanese gardens are more manicured, while Chinese gardens tend to be overwhelming in all aspects. Korean gardens, however, stress naturalizationthere is a less human approach. Korean gardens will typically feature a pond, trees, and rocks, left in their natural state or placed in a manner approximating nature. Overlooking the scene, usually on a hill or by the side of the pond, a simple pavilion will be built to provide a panoramic view of the scenery. In larger gardens, such as the famed Huwon Garden of Changdeokgung Palace, several pavilions will be built, each offering its own unique view of the landscape.
Underpinning the Korean traditional garden is a Korean world view, indigenous to the country and reinforced by imported ideologies such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, that reveres nature and seeks harmony of man in his natural environment. In Korean Gardens: Where Man and Nature Become One, Chung Jae-hoon, Professor of Traditional Landscape Architecture at Korean National University of Cultural Heritage, writes:In particular, Song Confucianism's view of nature strongly influenced Joseon gardens. It was through these influences that Joseon art was created, with its naturalistic style untouched by artifice, while a worldly, practical lifestyle flourished, based on
moderation and diligence. Indeed, this led to the development of a highly humanistic and straightforwardly naturalistic culture.
To see the epitome of this philosophy, head to the Juhamnu Pavilion in Changdeokgung Palace. Set atop a terraced hill overlooking Buyongji Pond, the two-story pavilion and pleasure pond is a favorite of former Traditional Garden Society president Kim. It is particularly typical of the neo-Confucian idea of harmonizing humans, and nature, such as the shape of the island and pond, he explains.
Seen from the pavilion, Buyongji Pond is a square, representing the earth, while the circular island in the middle, with its beautiful solitary pine tree, represents heaven. The Juhamnu was the kings personal library and is located close to the palace, at the highest point in the garden. Below the Juhamnu are several other pavilions, each with its own function and meaning.
Beautiful Korean gardens near Seoul
These are several gardens in and around Seould where visitors can get a better appreciation of the beauty of Korean landscaping.
Changdeokgung Huwon: Generally considered the apex of Korean traditional gardening, this royal pleasure palace behind Changdeokgung Palacedesignateda UNESCO World Heritage Siteconsists of several ponds and associated pavilions, the most famous of which is Buyongji Pond. Each season presents a different and uniquely beautiful view.
Hours: Guided tours of the garden are given between 10am and 4:30pm (closed Mondays).
Admission: 5,000 won, plus 3,000 won to get into Changdeokgung Palace itself.
Getting there: A short walk from Exit 3 of Anguk Station, Line 3.
Seongnagwon: This retreat garden in Seongbuk-dong consists of three separate areas, an entrance, inner garden, and rear garden. One of the few remaining examples of Joseon-era villa architecture left in Seoul, it is a remarkably tranquil place where you can relax to the sounds of chirping birds and running water. The garden is currently undergoing restoration, which is scheduled for completion in the second half of 2010.
Hours: To be decided
Admission: To be decided
Getting there: Take a taxi from Hanseong UniversityStation, Line 4.
Hee Won Garden: Located on the grounds of the Ho-Am Art Museum in the Seoul suburb of Yongin, this spectacular piece of Korean traditional gardening was built by Samsung in 1997. The extensive grounds are home to a lotus pond, pavilions, Korean stone walls, pagodas and other stone ornaments, and even a rare peacock.
Hours: 10am5pm (closed Mondays)
Admission: 4,000 won
Getting there: Take bus No. 1113 (Gangbyeon
Station, Line 2), 1500 (Hanguk Univ. of Education,Line 3), 1500-2 (Sadang Station, Line 2), 5002,or 5800 (Gangnam Station, Line 2) and get off atEverland. Shuttle buses to the garden depart from Everlands entrance.
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