[KS] FW: Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders

Werner Sasse werner_sasse at hotmail.com
Sun Aug 12 02:31:01 EDT 2012

 From: werner_sasse at hotmail.com
To: hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Subject: RE: [KS] Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2012 06:25:32 +0000

Dear Frank
always great to read you comments. This time, however, I am wondering.
I have studied Soswaewon in Damyang extensively, a carefully constructed garden (build over 5 generations) with lots of references to literature and philosophy - Chinese literature and philosphy, of course, because it is garden culture connected with Seonbi exile culture. Lots of prose literature and poems about it, too, including a map with references (middle 18th c.).
Another idea coming up are three gardens on Bogil-do off the south coast, one of them build by Yun Seondo.
How about gardens around some Seowon? And Biwon? And around Pavillions in Jeolla? Some temple areas, especially when they have many side-temples?
As for the mud, is it not that the mud areas are in-between the official buildings of palaces, and the garden with pond(s), pavillion(s) and statues is somewhere in the back or at the side? The same is true with traditional Hanok, where garden architecture is kept at the fringes, but it is there. The mud center seems to be a display that this area is an artificial area pulled out of the surrounding nature (culture<---->nature, which is actually not so deeply part of Korean culture as it is in European culture).
Last note: Studying Soswaewon it sometimes was not easy to distinguish between some feature which has been added and features which were simply cleaned spots left in the original state but in connection with other areas given aesthetic meaning. And some of the walls building terrasses were build in a way that they looked natural, and you had to give a second look to see they were man made. Maybe we have here the basic difference between Korean and Japanese of Chinese gardens. Making the garden more natural than nature itself, so-to-speak.
BestWerner (and greetings to Min)P.S. Not necessary to be so apologetic and careful about saying s.th. is missing in Korean culture. We do not have to be too sensitive. In Korean culture smoking ham is missing, and so is cheese. Did I now insult Korea? > Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2012 15:20:54 -0700
> From: hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders
> In response to Brother Anthony's note about "garden culture" (quoted 
> below): 
> > (…) every government compound in Joseon (and there were an awful lot of 
> them) 
> > was landscaped in a garden style with lotus-ponds, pavilions, rocks, plants 
> . . . 
> > so that we would have to assume that people knew what they were doing even 
> if 
>   [The caps are mine. / FH]
> That exactly is what I have doubts about. 
> "Garden" possibly yes, "garden culture" no. (But I like to limit my 
> note on the mid- to later Chosŏn period.)
> For physical reasons, if you construct three-dimensional buildings, and 
> building are always three dimensional, on a two-dimensional surface, or 
> any topological plane for that matter, you will involuntarily create 
> open space between these objects. Now you have a choice to leave those 
> spaces as mud-covered soil, cover them with grass or stones, create 
> gardens, etc. Looking at photographs of Korean palaces from the 1880s 
> what we see is mud and stone, rarely some bushes (maybe partially 
> grass). Reading any sort of descriptions from that time you will not 
> find a single writer who would have been impressed with anything that 
> comes close to a "garden" or describe any anther sort of landscaping 
> attempt. You may now argue that Westerners did not "understand" what 
> they saw (the "Korean way" of whatever aesthetic concept). But that 
> again, is met by the absence of Korean treatises on garden and 
> landscaping. When we talk about "garden culture" we really do not and 
> should not simply refer to the space in between buildings that is in 
> one or another way being utilized. The emphasis here is on "culture." 
> There would be plenty of written records and treatises if gardening 
> would have been something Koreans were concerned about. I am not a 
> believer of comparative studies, yet, if we have a brief look at e.g. 
> France and Britain (in extension Italy and Prussia) with their famous 
> garden culture, we will find those kind of texts and and endless amount 
> of references, and you will find that this kind of aristocratic garden 
> culture was then (since the later 18th century) handed down to the new 
> growing urban population, the new economically and politically 
> developing citizenry. And that again was a cultural all-inclusive 
> 'package' that delivered everything from gardening styles over proper 
> table manners to sexual techniques (reading 19th century French novels 
> will get you all the details). Then there is China and Japan, and as 
> many here on this list originally coming from these fields of study 
> know much better than me, China and its famous mountains and landscapes 
> had been the model for Japanese garden culture. Same as in Korea, so 
> far this matches one to one, it was usually the description of Chinese 
> places in Chinese poetry that was taken up as a model, e.g. in 
> painting, or again referencing it in (Japanese and Korean) poetry. This 
> is a truly complex topic, and there is no need to even try to summarize 
> this, and you are all aware of this anyway. Important for the topic 
> "garden culture" is that there are plenty of old Chinese records that 
> relate to garden, and there was, *together* and in union with "tea 
> ceremony" an early modern revival (well, maybe re-invention would 
> describe it much better) of garden culture in JAPAN. As professor Best 
> pointed out, there is a seemingly never-ending hype surrounding topics 
> like Japanese tea and garden culture, and it is therefore hard to get 
> oriented--seeing how important that actually was during the entire 19th 
> century. Yet, it sure is a culture that produced an amazing amount of 
> literature, that was highly influential in areas like philosophy, the 
> arts, any sort of aesthetics, life style, etc. 
> None of that in Korea! 
> Should we not trust our basic six senses a little more? A culture that 
> has or had a "garden culture"--well, I suppose people would do 
> something with the available spaces then, even if that culture went to 
> a prolonged period of decline, say one century and a half. Is that so 
> in Korea? I am well aware that this is now not a very "scientific" 
> argument, but in the early 80s I met nobody in Korea who would know 
> what to do with whatever spaces they had around their house, nothing at 
> least that would give any sort of hint at garden or garden culture. Are 
> we then saying that this was once entirely an aristocratic culture 
> limited to palaces? Okay. But again, in such a case there would be 
> plenty of written records, of treatises indeed, that would discuss the 
> importance of garden and gardening, e.g. as in Japan as a miniature of 
> an idealized landscape in idealized China. I have not seen that (but I 
> am more into the modern period anyway). Have you?
> I think we need to think more about the CONTEXT of these questions, of 
> the entire theme. The way I am writing this and the way you may read it 
> involuntarily makes it sound as if Korea is "missing" something, some 
> culture it should have but does not. I'd really like to play this ball 
> back. WHO, in the first place, did bring such claims onto the table, 
> WHO claims that Korea has a tea and garden culture, and WHO tries so 
> hard, come hell or high water, to find archaeological "evidence" for a 
> garden culture in Chosŏn Korea? (Again, the theme is "garden culture" 
> here, not just spaces with plants and stones in between buildings.) We 
> all know that Korea has just so amazingly much to offer, even without 
> Hollywood, Japanese tea and gardens, Neuschwanstein, or gondolas. 
> Regards,
> Frank Hoffmann
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreaweb.ws
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