The essence of China blooms in Suwon park

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The essence of China blooms in Suwon park

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Red lanterns, artificial ponds and hills, flower-patterned ceramic grates on freestanding walls and bamboo trees do not belong in traditional Korean gardens.
Although Korea is bordered by China and the Chinese influence is felt in many things, such as Chinese characters and Confucian culture, the country lacked a decent Chinatown and park until recently.
Although it is very small, Koreans can now glimpse the beauty of traditional Chinese gardens in Suwon, Gyeonggi province, thanks to the sister province relationship between Gyeonggi and Guangdong province in China.
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The garden Wolhwawon, or Yuhuayuan in Chinese, is an example of a “shanshui yuanlin,” or the southern Chinese mountain water garden.
The garden was built by the Guangdong province in exchange for a Korean style garden in the city of Guangzhou, which was built by Gyeonggi province last December. The double construction was agreed to in joint statements between the two provinces on Oct. 17, 2002.
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Yuhuayuan means Guangdong Chinese garden, and such it is, literally. Most of the materials used in the garden were shipped from China including tiles, lumber, artworks, wooden furniture and stones. Even the laborers were brought from China to work on the garden.
As opposed to more rustic-looking Korean gardens, Wolhwawon features well-designed artificial ponds and a manmade hill.
While the lumber used in Korean gardens is kept bare and natural and intentionally shows its age, all the wood and furniture in the Chinese garden is painted chocolate brown. The freestanding walls all have windows to impart a feeling of transparency and unity.
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On entering the south-facing main gate, which is hung with red Chinese lanterns, visitors first see roofed corridors surrounding a courtyard. The corridors and one of two buildings they connect block the view of a large rear garden from the main gate.
The courtyard has a small pond that will eventually be filled with lotuses. Opposite the gate is the main building, Fu Rong Xie in Chinese (Bu Yong Sa in Korean, meaning Hibiscus Hall).
Freestanding walls separate different sections of gardens, but the windows allow views of what is beyond, piquing the curiosity of visitors as the corridors guide them from the front courtyard to the rear garden. To the right of the main building is the second building, Oklandang, or Jade Magnolia Hall. In front of it is a small square where visitors can exercise or practice Tai Chi.
Walking through the corridors, one can see Wolho, or Moon Lake, a larger pond that takes up much of the rear garden. The soil unearthed when excavating the artificial pond was used to build a tiny hill, on which a pavilion was built.
“The real garden was formed in line with the style of traditional gardens in Guangdong province and the artificial lake and mountain reproduce the natural scenery in a limited space,” said Feng Zhi-ming, a construction supervisor from Guangdong province. “The artificial waterfall and stream, pebbled mountain tracks, flower garden and pavilion are all designed to fit in with each other,” he continued.
Construction of an artificial hill is typical in Chinese-style gardens and palaces. A good example of one such is at the Summer Palace in Beijing, and even features an artificial waterfall that flows from the hill to a pond in the rear garden.
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The pavilion at Wolhwawon is called Sam-u-jeong, or Three Friends Pavilion, because it is surrounded by three types of plant ― bamboo, pine and Japanese apricot trees.
“All Chinese gardens have bamboo,” Mr. Feng said, and then explained that bamboo has a special meaning for the Chinese. It represents prosperity as well as integrity. The joints of the bamboo symbolize moving on to the next step and in turn to success, Mr. Feng said.
On the other side of the rear garden an ark-shaped building sits adjacent to Moon Lake.
It is called Huabang, or the Painting Ark. The building has a small room and a terrace that reaches out over the lake.
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What is interesting about Wol-hwawon is the concerted effort that went into creating a Chinese garden that is as authentic as possible.
The sides of all the doors in three buildings are carved with different patterns such as birds, trees and flowers, which symbolize longevity, affection, easy life, happiness or prosperity. The windows in the freestanding walls have flower-patterned ceramic grates so they can be easily seen through.
Some aspects have had to be changed, in part because of climatic differences between Korea and semitropical Guangdong province.
Lotus and carp have not yet been put in the ponds because of the cold weather and several trays of foliage remain in a hothouse waiting to be planted. Much of the bamboo that was planted did not survive the winter and will need to be replaced.
Wolhwawon occupies 6,000 square meters of the existing Hyowon Park, in Paldal district, Suwon.
Visitors who expect to see a grand Chinese style garden similar to what they would see in China may be a little disappointed at its small scale, but the essence of a Chinese garden is still there.


by Limb Jae-un
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