[KS] Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders

McCann, David dmccann at fas.harvard.edu
Thu Aug 16 17:57:52 EDT 2012

One of the fascinating parts in this intriguing string is the way a sijo can do it all.  The gesture, from the composed moment when it begins.  I've always found that fascinating, how the lines are not just parts of an argument, but movements,steps, and gestures as in a dance.

Have a drink, and then just have another!  Who cares if it be tea or makkolli?  Let's just pluck petals and keep count on this garden-variety abacus.

There ought to be a book on this very subject, of tea, gardens, landscapes, a drink, and a few lines of verse sung out.

David McCann

Sent from my iPad

On Aug 16, 2012, at 11:40 AM, "Best, Jonathan" <jbest at wesleyan.edu> wrote:

> A few too many thoughts peaked by Frank Hoffman’s last contribution to the string on Korean garden culture mostly.
> He did ask about the ritual, periodic rebuilding of Japanese temples: not temples, a term commonly reserved in the context of Japan for Buddhist ceremonial centers, but as far as I know the only significantly sized structure that is and has long been periodically rebuilt is a Shintō shrine, the Ise Jingū—which is the shrine dedicated to Amaterasu Ōmikami, the ‘Sun Goddess’ and divine progenitor of the ‘imperial’ family. It is rebuilt—and historically has been with but a few lapses—every 20 years with traditional hand tools; its next be rebuilding will occur next year (2013). Buddhist temples have been rebuilt, but not according to a ritually fixed schedule and, at least to my knowledge, without proscriptions on what type of construction technology may be employed. For example, the Shitennō-ji in Osaka, originally built in the early 7th century and destroyed several times by fire over time (the last destruction caused by Allied bombing in WWII) was rebuilt in ferro-concrete (sp?). It is, nonetheless, unlike most Chinese remakes of early Buddhist edifices, historically remarkably accurate in both form and decoration. Japan is, of course, most fortunate among East Asian countries in that it has a representative sampling of original wooden, freestanding Buddhist temple halls with at least one per century starting in the 7th century. They also have a wonderful array of original 8th-century and later paintings of temples, palace interiors, etc. plus a long established, scientific and, in my opinion especially since WWII, largely methodologically responsible archaeological tradition.
> Re gardens: I think the distinction between garden culture and having gardens is a useful one, As I understand it, gardens have a long history in China that began at least as early as the Former Han dynasty. But my sense is that while the Chinese elite through time enjoyed their gardens, their gardens were designed by hired garden professionals and largely with an interest in outward form (the appealing manipulation of a current style). Thus perhaps an apt parallel might be having one’s robes made up by the “right” tailor.  This is not to say that Chinese garden design doesn’t have a metaphysical foundation that it seeks to represent symbolically, it has both but it doesn’t seem to me that either that foundation or the ways in which it was symbolized evolved much through time.
> I think that the metaphysical foundation of Chinese garden design is Taoism and that geomancy provided the visual vocabulary through which the most basic Taoist concepts were symbolized in both garden design and landscape painting. So in this regard, perhaps I disagree with Professor Hoffman. I believe that geomancy, which was derived from Taoist theories about the structure of the physical universe, provided the basic perceptual screen through the premodern Chinese elite viewed the world. I think that most art historians and perceptual psychologists and thoughtful Buddhists believe that we human only “see” what we know to look for—which is another way of saying that we construct our own personal ‘realities.’ In other words, all of our individual notions of reality are conditioned by our culture and our personal experience, and consequently they are to a significant extent illusionary. I’d probably best get back to Chinese gardens.
> Anyway, geomancy is concerned with the flow, and therefore the quality and quantity, of ch’i (perhaps a kind of vitalizing energy?) in a particular piece of real estate as revealed largely by its topography and the character of its watercourses. The cultural authority of this Taoist derived geomantic notion is reflected in the Chinese word for landscape painting, shan-shui hua 山水畫 or  “mountains and waters painting” obviously. Unlike landscape painting, however, garden making or even design was not an art form considered appropriate for the Chinese literate elite, and I believe that with perhaps the exception of an occasional eccentric member of the elite, it was left to hired professionals. It seems that the Chinese who could afford them, felt that at the very least they ought to have a nice and ‘in the mode garden’ and many, even most, likely found actual enjoyment in their gardens—as presumably also do folks today living in MacMansions. In any case, the continuing importance attached to garden architecture in traditional Chinese society is evident from the remarkable and numerous personal gardens of Ming and Ch’ing date preserved in Su-chou, Hang-chou, etc.
> Turning finally to Korea, I suspect that given the prominence of having a garden among the Chinese elite of Ming times in particular, some early Chosŏn visitors to China sought to emulate the fashion at home. This is not to say that there were no earlier gardens in Korea, certainly there were, but I’m trying to explain what I suspect inspired the kind of garden making and its cultural rational in early Chosŏn that Werner and Sun Joo refer to. Those imagined garden-desiring early Chosŏn yangban would not have built the gardens themselves, so whatever form their garden assumed presumably reflected their tastes/ideas, but as understood and executed through the hands of others and to the degree realizable through the possibilities and/or limitations offered by the geology, botany, and climate of their locale. Stone is a basic component of a geomantically designed garden; most stone in Korea is igneous (especially granites), whereas in China you also have an wonderful variety of sedimentary stones—including those to my eye weird, but greatly esteemed by the Chinese elite, water-worn rocks that look like Swiss cheese but speak graphically of the formative interaction of yang (stone, i.e, 山) and yin (water 水). In sum, I suspect that at least for the early Chosŏn period, you’d have primarily Korean renditions of Chinese gardens, just as in early Chosŏn landscape painting, you have primarily Korean renditions of the Chinese, not the Korean, physical landscape rendered by Korean hands but essentially in the painting styles of China.
> More than enough already,
> Jonathan
> ________________________________________
> From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws [koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] on behalf of Frank Hoffmann [hoffmann at koreaweb.ws]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 2:40 AM
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Tea Ceremony and other wonders
> ------------------------------
> In this re-written version, I am trying to summarize some minor issues,
> but also get to the essential issues later in this posting. For
> whatever reason the first version did not get posted. / FH
> ------------------------------
> Quick question:
> Professor Kim, the link you provide to the "original" of the poem shows
> it is written in Hanja, not mixed script?
>  百里群山擁野平。臨溪茅屋幸初成。此身不繫蒼生望。宜與沙鷗結好盟。
> That changes the grammar (no -porira ending), makes even Richard Rutt's
> translation with the more 'passive' last line also more appropriate. I
> thought that sijo were always composed in mixed script. Not?
> Second quick question to Professor Sun Joo Kim. You wrote:
>> The thached roof building is none other than the MyOnang-jong,
>> MyOnang Pavilion in Tamyang, where Song Sun resided.
> Okay, a "pavilion" then -- Myŏnang-jŏng -- but that seems a bit
> strange, as a pavilion, by definition, is a place to meet, to drink
> wine, sing, recite poetry, etc. That was such an intriguing concept
> that Prussian kings even imported that to Dresden
> (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/68305971 ), and others that really look
> like East Asian ones). You do not build a pavilion to then say, sorry
> it is too small, stay outside my friends, I am enjoying just myself,
> the moon and the mountains. For a photo of the rebuild pavilion,
> Myŏnang-jŏng, see the last pictures on this page:
> http://jungar.tistory.com/115  It makes much more sense if indeed the
> object referred to would be a small house (in a similar setting). When
> we read such "information" about allocations of places in literature
> and poetry to specific, existing buildings and places we should be
> suspicious. That pavilion may not have been a pavilion in the 15th
> century, and/or the writer may just have had some very generalized
> situational setting in mind when writing the poem. The reason I am
> pointing into this direction is again the already mentioned
> context--interpreting archaeological findings the way they seem
> appropriate to make up a good story (but what I saw and mentioned
> earlier did relate to tea ceremony). All this is, let me also note
> this, NOT at all a Korean-only phenomena. The famous Dresden Cathedral
> (Frauenkirche), for example, destroyed during WWII and finally rebuild
> and reopened in 2005, never existed. It never existed the way you now
> see it rebuild, not for a single day. (I just use this as an example
> because I am very familiar with the details of the reconstruction
> process, but this is a global scenario.) What you see when you visit
> the impressive building are (often idealized and beautified)
> projections of how various art historians and archaeologists imagined
> how various parts of the building and its interior looked during
> *different* historic periods. In many cases the rebuild version of each
> room or part of the room (and other details) is a clear reflection of
> current (1990s and 2000s) tastes, of what "looks best" and "most
> impressive" or most "perfect" to the visitor. You will often see the
> very same room at four different periods, each wall in the state of a
> different period, and with walls that did not even exist at the time
> the opposite wall existed. It is not a reconstruction of the
> Frauenkirche during a particular period in time. Nobody did cut the
> time, say in 1820, and said, well, that is the state of the building we
> now reconstruct. Doesn't matter where to you go … in Japan temples,
> for example, are being rebuild (please, Prof. Best help me out here),
> was it every 80 years? Or every 200, I forgot. But they ARE being
> rebuild on a regular basis, and they do change their looks with every
> rebuild, most certainly so, as the "taste" changes, the needs change,
> building construction techniques and economics change, and so on and so
> forth. In Japan that is perfectly in line with Buddhist concepts of
> life, of course (everything is always perfect in Japan). Maybe that's
> why today's centuries old Japanese temples get us the feel of black
> concrete castles modeled after construction plans from The Cabinet of
> Dr. Caligari and German Autobahn bridges.
> Prof. Kim wrote:
>> [I] do not want to (...) make any comment whether there was any
>> unique garden culture in Choson
> What kind of question would such a comment have to precede, a
> whether-or-not question? All that points into a strange direction then.
> That should not be the issue. The EMPHASIS should really not be on
> "unique" (yes, of course were Korean gardens unique!)  One of the main
> questions is rather how important or how marginal gardens were in
> Chosŏn Korea for cultural production (and that can only be answered in
> relationship to whatever else was going on in Korea and what "garden
> culture" meant in neighboring China, Japan, and also in the West.
> "Garden culture" as we talk about it for these other cultures is not
> about just gardens! Garden culture is, as pointed out before, as a huge
> package of cultural production, in the arts, literature, and political
> and social life. In Europe and Japan and in early China it could have
> that role because it constituted 'high culture' and not 'low culture,'
> came from the top of the power base or, in the Japanese case, was
> instrumentalized to represent a new upwards moving merchant class. Now,
> in Korea (this is a question, not the final answer), if indeed as
> stated by Professor Sasse, garden design and architecture was informed
> by ('low culture') geomancy and not by (as in old China or in early
> modern Japan) Buddhist philosophy and related culture, and also not by
> neo-Confucian ideas, then we would already have a very major difference
> there to the neighboring settings. That is also expected, of course.
> But my doubts are that in a neo-Confucian state low culture geomantic
> practices can lead to a whole culture. See, again, this is not just
> about gardens … you would then see literature, philosophical
> discourses, you would see lots of ceramic wares and other handicraft
> production, changes of social life etc. all circling around the garden,
> and being reflected in garden designs. I have NOT seen that in Korea.
> And it makes NO sense to me, would not expect that with any low culture
> anywhere, not until the 20th century (or maybe the French Revolution,
> if we talk about Europe). In that context it then also makes sense that
> the few treatises by Korean scholars we do have come from early
> Chosŏn--still close to the Koryŏ period, a time where gardens were
> bound into philosophical concepts and were they still represented
> aristocratic culture, both in China and Korea. So, my second set of
> doubts is with all these over and over emphasized "geomantic"
> principles etc. when it comes to later period gardens in Korea. What
> that indicates that to me is that, all over, representatives of the
> upper class, scholars, etc., did not anymore care much about gardens,
> and that there was not much of a related culture left. Gardens could
> NOT s easily be bind into neo-Confucian concepts of thought (quite
> opposite to Buddhist societies, and also opposite to the European case
> where power structures and resulting aesthetics were represented in
> very direct ways … as e.g. in North Korea today). Bamboo and the
> flowers mentioned before … yes, scholars may have discussed those, BUT
> NOT within the context of garden, garden planning, garden architecture,
> etc., just the way that they do play symbolic roles and the way they
> appear e.g. in painting. Gardens themselves where, as compared to other
> periods and other countries, at a low burner all through the Chosŏn
> period, and if today you interpret their layout as geomantically
> influenced than that is an indication of exactly -- we do see no
> reflection of the ideologies of the state there, nor (!) was whatever
> was done in gardens handed down from the aristocracy to a wider
> population to again (a) propagate state ideology or ideologies of
> important power brokers, (b) and there was no imitation of upper-class
> culture either. The way I read Werner's description then rather means
> lower and upper class culture were the same when it comes to gardens
> (geomantic principles). That is an overly clear indication there there
> was no importance put to gardens whatsoever. I would, however, further
> extend my doubts to the "geomantic influences" part--it sounds too
> 20the century Western 'esoteric.' Aren't geomantic practices always (a)
> very concrete? And (b) this is never an entire philosophy either, but
> the grand master plan such as Buddhist or Confucian models, but rather
> limited in that sense. That again means, when it comes to gardens, then
> there is no such "concept" of how to construct a garden, is there?
> Rules may have been applied, mostly rules of what NOT to do. But
> geomancy, although we use that term, was never anything like ONE school
> (or religion) that would provide a whole toolset (like Buddhism,
> Christianity) of symbolism; there are no grand master narratives that
> someone could have taken up, it cannot be utilized for the grand
> planning of gardens (for scholars and the upper class).
> A last note--let me come back to the issue of the "uniqueness" of
> gardens (or garden culture, which I would not use). Uniqueness is out!
> And right so, we should really stop talking about and thinking in terms
> of uniqueness when we discuss, describe, talk about national or local
> culture, even when we talk about individual cultural production. I know
> that there are still people out there at anthropology museums and
> museums that have East Asian art collections, and other such places,
> where efforts are put into providing proof of national uniqueness of
> this or that, but well, I think it has been at least two decades that
> adjectives such as 'unique' started to get disqualified and to be
> ignored at international contemporary art exhibitions. Although these
> mummy terms in wheelchairs were never declared dead and replaced by
> something else (but that's seldom the case with any cultural models and
> belief systems, they do not get replaced, they co-exist until everyone
> has forgotten), they were just disregarded and left alone in their
> isolated chambers to dream of the olden days when they had received so
> much attention. I see no reason why there should be any difference in
> how we discuss traditional art and how modern and contemporary art and
> art objects. Objects may have been produced under very different
> circumstances, but we do evaluate them and their meaning to us today.
> OUR concept of uniqueness and the still mainstream understanding that
> 'good art' has to be 'unique,' that is basically a left-over from the
> early and mid-20th century art scene and the way modern art, and more
> specifically abstract painting and Informal, took care of propagating
> themselves through pamphlets and declarations, and how it was later
> advertised as the final and last stage of human art development by
> entire governments, as the final (or at least strongest) legitimate
> expression of individualism in the arts. All of that is yesterday's
> talk now, all that has been dropped. Uniqueness and originality, as
> concepts, are not even meaningful anymore for designers, as was still
> the case in the 1980s and maybe up until into the 1990s. Then we had a
> new emphasis coming in on "authenticity" and "the local" as a result of
> and parallel to postmodern movements. But now that's gone also, and not
> even corporate advertisement companies work with such concepts anymore.
> When we see Apple vs. Samsung in court over a cell phone design, then
> that is an expression of how far behind the court system is, not an
> expression where our society and artists are. Neither designers nor
> artists would care about "originality" and "uniqueness" much anymore,
> and if they are soon out. The very obscure part comes in when we remind
> ourselves that those engaged in East Asian art and culture have for
> decades tried so hard to explain that "uniqueness" and "originality"
> are modern Western concepts that traditional cultures in Asia did not
> go by. Look e.g. through all the literature from or about Japanese art
> of the 1970s, no matter if traditional or modern art. It's full of
> originality discourses, that is the main focus. Korea, a few decades
> years later, has these now, at least the official organizations
> (National Museums, ARKO, etc.) all reproduce them, is at the hight of
> it. So you see all these explanations on how and why "originality"
> concepts had not been enacted in traditional Korean art, and a few
> lines later it is explained to us how and why Korean national culture
> is the most "unique" and "original" one (AND that is not even wrong in
> the sense of factually incorrect). Be-au-ti-ful! So, while in
> traditional art almost everything relies on models, patterns, and
> repetition, all the modern national institutions in Korea never get
> tired to advertise nothing but national-level uniqueness and
> originality (Bauhaus and European modernism ideologies send their
> greetings!); all the while the international art scene has moved on
> into other directions. Try to explain that logic to your students,
> please. That will likely take you a full semester of intense
> brain-washing to communicate. But museum folks and other institutional
> representatives are usually really skilled at turning all these
> left-over approaches into a tasty pindaettŏk. And who knows, if you buy
> their coffee table book for your art and culture class, they might get
> you a free Samsung Galaxy S3 in unique Korean design right on top of
> it.
> I come to the modern Tamyang gardens later (maybe tomorrow) … and to
> the various very interesting points Werner made. But seriously, I thing
> the main disagreements are not about the actual gardens but about how
> and where to situate the discourse.
> Best,
> Frank
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreaweb.ws

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