Korea’s best garden,
Praised as the best of Korea’s private gardens, Soswaewon is still loved by many even today after nearly 500 years. Why do we love, care for, and care about the kindness of Soswaewon?
Who, when, why, and how did they create the Soswaewon, and who were the people who came and went here? How should Soswaewon be understood and appreciated, and how is it different from Chinese and Japanese gardens?
A hermitage garden is a place where scholars leave the world and live in seclusion by nature, separated from a house for their main daily lives and built in a place with excellent landscape.
In addition, the Wonlim(garden) is often used interchangeably with the Jeongwon(yard or garden). Wonlim(garden) is used in China and Korea and In Japan, jeongwon(yard) are preferred.
If the Jeongwon(yard) created the atmosphere through artificial landscaping in the house, Wonrim(garden) was a landscape of the mountains and forests in the suburbs and placed the house and pavilion in a proper location.
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Soswaewon, the cradle of Joseon’s Seonbi culture
Soswaewon was the place where the best scholars of the time enjoyed the leisure while enjoying the scenery, and were the birthplace of the cultural discourse that discussed the ideal.
For the scholars of the Joseon dynasty, the formation of a scholarship culture through arts and fellowship, as well as training and learning, was an important task. Running a pavilion or a hermitage garden, a place for this, was a product of their spirit.
As a representative example, Mt. Mudeungsan Wonhyo Valley has a soswaewon garden, Sikyeongjeong Pavilion, Hwanbyeokdang Pavilion, and Doksujeong Pavilion. Among them, Soswaewon is one of the best hermitage garden in Korea, which it has a residential function.
Architecture and Landscape of Soswaewon Garden
So how is Soswaewon organized and Why do we call Soswaewon the Supreme Forest? In order to appreciate Soswaewon, it would be better to start with the sensation of feeling as it is, and then expand your interests to see who, when, and why this garden was made up, what landscapes were composed, and what meanings were contained within.
The rustic atmosphere of Soswaewon gives a glimpse into the life of that era. However, the pain of the unfortunate man who sought to reform a country in this poetical life, but did not achieve it, and found his comfort in natural life rather than actively changing it in reality. I can feel it. On the other hand, you can see a weak human being who was frustrated by one failure, and who, in some ways, escaped from reality.
Soswaewon is by far the best in terms of design and composition among private gardens created during the Joseon Dynasty. Soswaewon seems to be a small space consisting of a large rocky valley, streams flowing between them, numerous trees and flowers, several shafts and elegant buildings.
The natural slope is treated with traditional straight stages, but each space is also well connected to each part without causing any rejection of nature.
The small thatched pavilion on the shaft is the oldest site in the Soswaewon and was recently built after its old image.
The composition and area of the soswaewon does not stop here. From the bottom of the entrance to the back mountain, Ongjeongbong Peak, is infinitely wide and full, but few people know it.
This series of flows leads to the back mountain village or back to the Soswaewon entrance. Some are bordered by fences, some by bamboo frest, and some by nameless trees.
If you look far away after feeling only what you see in front of you, there are bamboo forests and trees surrounding the mountain and all the trees around you. If so, how far is it? Soswaewon confined in the fence is limited and only slightly visible and somewhat dry.
How is Soswaewon different from the garden of Changdeokgung Palace, the representative palace of Korea?
Changdeokgung Palace, which is located in the middle of nature and is designated as a World Heritage site compared to the small, personal, and concentrated soswaewon, is luxurious, somewhat artificial and refined with various facilities just like the palace’s garden.
The secret garden of Changdeokgung Palace was called Geumwon (禁園), which means that only the royal family was allowed to enter the public.
Changdeokgung Palace’s secret garden includes a large number of pine trees around Buyongji, Aeryunji, and Okryu Stream, where visitors can feel the changes of the four seasons. This is a combination of nature and water and trees, which is a characteristic of our traditional garden.
In particular, our ponds have traditionally rounded islands in the center, based on the Yin-Yang Five Elements. In comparison, the ponds in China and Japan are oval-shaped or have many curves.
In terms of size, our ponds do not give us pressure as it is not like the huge size of the pond of china. And our ponds do not give us stuffiness like the small and artificial pond in japan.
Garden of Nature,
Garden of Literature
Soswaewon is not a space that ends with simply seeing and feeling buildings, trees, and valleys. This beauty is never limited to or ended in nature, including fluttering branches, the sound of the wind passing through branches, the sound of birds chirping, falling leaves, the sound of water flowing through the valley, full of blueness, whispering sunlight, etc.
The Soswaewon, which was frequented by some of the best poets of the time, is an audible garden beyond the visual dimension of the eye and ultimately a literary garden that evokes poetic sensibility.
Where the energy of nature and the human mind fit into one, the effects of hearing and shading used to make it..Now, we should find the original and architectural value of Soswaewon with literary sensitivity.