[FOUNTAIN]Pavilions reflect nature and life

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[FOUNTAIN]Pavilions reflect nature and life

Pavilions were the showcase of how classical scholars viewed nature and life. The traditional Korean-style garden was not an artificially created, secluded enclave, as seen in China and Japan, but a symbol of a nature-friendly spirit. Chinese people dug artificial ponds, arranged various shapes of rocks, and built layers of walls to create a sense of division. Japanese created miniature scenery by precisely calculating and placing each plant and rock. But our Korean ancestors realized that the spectacle of the mountains and valleys in the country surpassed artificial beauty. By building pavilions in the middle of open space, Koreans inserted themselves into the raw scenery instead of reproducing natural beauty.
The beauty of a pavilion is determined by its surroundings, and Korean scholars sought locations that best resembled their idea of utopia. Pavilions were where scholars spent their leisure time when they returned to their hometown or were sent to remote locations involuntarily. The universal motto of pavilion culture was to communicate with nature. The 16th-century poet Jeong Cheol sang about the idyllic life of enjoying drinks, flowers and nature. Geomungo, a traditional six-string instrument, calligraphy and Go were indispensable parts of the pavilion-oriented lifestyle. But the pavilions also were a hotbed of political strife and arguments.
The prime pavilion location was one where you could hear the rhythm of running water from a nearby valley and breathe the clean, pine-scented air. The water would clear frustrated minds, and the cool wind would comfort tired bodies. Scholars would talk to nature and gain enlightenment. All sides of a pavilion were open, as if to embrace all of nature. The wall tablets, columns and octagonal roof were designed to blend into the surrounding scenery.
The best location for pavilions was Anui Valley in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang province. The water running through Mount Deokyu’s valley created little ponds here and there, and the area was known as the home of “Eight Ponds and Eight Pavilions.” The Nongwoljeong is especially famous for its outstanding surroundings. Overlooking the Wolyeon Rock, which surrounds a little pond, the pavilion is protected by thick pine forest. The Nongwoljeong was completely destroyed by arson on Oct. 5. It was an incomprehensible, intolerable act of vandalism.

by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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