A fortress of lotuses for a natural getaway

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A fortress of lotuses for a natural getaway

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Left: Entrance of Jayeonnuri Fortress in Cheonan, South Chungcheong. Right: The lotus flowers that blanket much of Jayeonnuri are a major attraction. By Hong Jeong-seon

Located between Cheonan and Gongju in South Chungcheong, Jayeonnuri Fortress welcomes visitors to its 3.3-hectare (8.2-acre) facilities at the foot of Mount Muhak with a sea of lotus flowers.

Yoo Gyeong-sang, 66, the owner of the fortress, settled in the area 30 years ago after traveling around the country trying to look for a place to establish a natural farm. After finding a small waterfall surrounded by tall green trees, just the kind of scene Yoo had imagined for his farm, Yoo purchased the land and began raising plants and flowers.

Jayeonnuri, which means “enjoying nature” in Korean, is popular with visitors for much of the year. In spring, magnolias and cherry blossoms fill the grounds, while white lotus flowers carpet the pond during the summer season. During autumn, Siberian chrysanthemums spread throughout the fortress.

Upon entering the Jayeonnuri Fortress main gate, visitors immediately spy a charming garden. Visitors then walk by a line of large and small limestone boulders that were specially brought by Yoo from Jecheon in North Chungcheong to the garden.

Major attractions at Jayeonnuri Fortress include the White Lotus Garden and Bogungji, the area with the waterfall that first made Yoo “fall in love” with this spot. With a waterfall and pond that never dry up, Yoo says the area looks like a woman’s womb, making Bojungji the “coziest area inside the fortress.”

The route leading to the White Lotus Garden is especially romantic. Visitors cross Nuri Stream where they can hear the refreshing sound of the water. During spring, the area around the stream turns red from all the blooming azaleas. Yoo and his wife say there is no corner in the fortress that they have not carefully developed, but they feel especially attached to the White Lotus Garden.

“Will there be a flower that inflames a person’s heart as much as the white lotus?” asks Yoo. “We brought these white lotus flowers from Inchui Temple in Asan and they just spread year after year, turning this area into a sea of white. Unlike red lotus flowers, which are inedible save for their roots, the petals of white lotuses can be used as medicine. It’s such a charming flower.”

Yoo especially recommends visitors cross Nuri Bridge as the delicate scent of white lotus flowers “will tickle the end of your nose.”

Although the lotus flowers are Jayeonnuri Fortress’s biggest claim to fame, Yoo says they also have a significant collection of mugunghwa, or Rose of Sharon, the national flower of Korea.

“According to old literature and even our national anthem, mugunghwa once filled the whole country,” said Yoo. “I heard that during Japan’s colonial period, the Japanese burned all the mugunghwa flowers in an attempt to annihilate the national flower.”

Yoo’s wife, Lee Bong-soon, 61, manages Jayeon Garden, a restaurant within Jayeonnuri that specializes in food made from lotuses.

Lee likes to use every part of the white lotus, from its roots to the petals, saying they are “high in dietary fiber.”

Yeon yeongyangbap, or multigrain rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, and yeon bindaeddeok, or Korean-style pancakes made from ground lotuses, are the two most popular dishes.

This year, Jayeonnuri Fortress has been designated by the Rural Development Administration as a rural educational farm. Visitors can also experience making dishes using lotus flowers as a main ingredient at the restaurant.

Jayeonnuri Fortress is open to the public for free. It takes about two hours to look around. For more information, call (041) 552-7119 or see www.jedufarm.com (Korean only).

BY HONG JEONG-SEON [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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