A Page from a Korean Garden Calendar titled NOVEMBER
A Korean friend gave me a calendar with a different garden illustrated each month. The one for November was particularly striking and brought back many wonderful memories of my visit to one of Korea's most beloved gardens in Seoul.
Surrounded by a canyon of high rises is the beautiful national treasure, Changdeok Palace, constructed in 1405. In the back of the palace is the Huwon, or Rear Garden, home to 13 of Korea's kings . My visit to this beloved garden really opened my eyes to the amazing simplicity and at the same time, sophistication of Korean garden design.
Unlike Japanese , Korean gardens are natural and unforced. Such features as ponds, rockeries, pine, bamboo, pear, apple , and other fruit trees are popular. You won't see a lot of flowers in bloom yet the textures and colors of the trees and shrubs create interest. And while Huwon is a more refined style of the royal family it has a decidedly natural beauty with its lotus ponds, pavillions and rockeries.
A fascinating feature of Huwon is the Ongnyucheon Stream ( Jade Stream ) created by King Injo in 1636. The story goes that the King and his cohorts would float their wine cups to each other and before it reached its destination a poem or song had to be completed. A poem carved in stone and with the King's inscription still exists there.
Animal motifs as well as natives can be found throughout the garden . There are over 40 species of birds, and ancient trees, some a thousand years old, still exist .
The fact that the palace and rear garden exists at all is a miracle considering what it has gone through in the turbulent history of Korea. After being destroyed several times it has gone through many restorations. It is now listed on UNESCO's World Heritage sites and is one of the most beloved and frequently visited gardens in Korea.
The hectic lifestyle in Seoul , which by the way is the 5th most populated city in the world, ( Tokyo is now 11th ) , brings many of its citizens there to seek refuge and tranquility.