Layout of Buildings (Li-ji Wu-yu)

Li-ji wu-yu refers to the way in which buildings are to be laid out on the site, and how they are to be constructed. As is indicated by the stipulation “1. Buildings, 2. Flowers and trees, 3. Water and rocks,” the location and position of the various buildings is given highest priority.

In Korea, on the other hand, the first step is selecting a site with suitable natural features, after which the layout of the buildings is determined so as to provide the best possible prospect (chomang) and borrowed scenery (ch’agydng).

The layout of buildings in a Chinese yuanlin seeks to achieve a reciprocal relationship between each building, creating mutual and intersecting views, whereas in Korea views from one building to another are deliberately avoided.

Screens (Ge) and Curves (Qu)

Ge and qu refer to the artificial means used to create dif­ferent scenic areas on multiple levels in a large yuanlin, the principle behind which is expressed by the terms bu-yi jing-yi (“changing step, changing view”) and bieyou dong tian (“another world”). Devices for segmenting the gar­den space and creating these multiple levels are walls, caves, gates, and covered walkways.

In large Korean rear gardens such as Piwon (Secret Garden), a number of scenic areas are laid out, one lead­ing into another, to be enjoyed while meandering through the environment. However, these areas are bound togeth­er not by artifice, but by nature, thus they are better described as landscapes for strolling than as gardens in the traditional Chinese sense. The natural distribution of trees is the primary means of linking one scenic area to another. Gates, walls, and other man-made additions form
demarcations of “territory” in keeping with Confucian principles, and are not used for the purpose of delineating a shift from one scenic area to another.

Raising Mountains (Duo Shan) and Selecting Rocks (Xuan Shi)

Duo shan and xuan shi are the factors that determine the forms of artificial mountains—the main scenic features in the Chinese yuanlin—and the types of stones selected as the materials for those mountains. Since the yuanlin is usually laid out on flat terrain, great emphasis is placed on layering and piling up rocks to create vertical contrast as a means of expressing images such as “strange and steep peaks” and “waterfalls dropping from steep cliffs.” Pavilions are built on top of piled rocks to afford a “high climb, dis­tant view,” and caves are cut into layered rocks to provide spaces to “think meditatively and ponder in silence.” The importance accorded these focal points in the garden means that stones with particularly striking shapes are prized highly—in fact so highly that Chinese scholars have compiled lists of the most fantastic and most famous stones.

In Korea, artificial hills called tongsan are sometimes featured in rear gardens or outer gardens, but they are always gentle, grass-covered slopes quite different from the mountains of the Chinese yuanlin. In some Korean gar­dens we can see vestiges of a tradition introduced from China of admiring distinctive stones, known in Korea as sokkasan (literally, “pseudo rock mountains”) which are displayed singly or in simple arrangements.

Borrowed Scenery (Jiejing)

In traditional Chinese gardening, there are four types of borrowed scenery: yuanjie (scenery in the distance), linjie (scenery nearby), yangjie (scenery above), and fujie (sce­nery below). These generally refer to views obtained from buildings or the tops of artificial mountains. The object of
all these techniques is to create a connection and a sense of harmony between the yuanlin—which is surrounded by a wall—and the scenery beyond that wall.

In Korea, on the other hand, the location of the site— known as sanji, or discernment of favorable land from the unfavorable—is itself key to the view afforded, and build­ings are configured in such a way as to reap the full benefit of the views provided by the site. Thus borrowed scenery (ch’agydng) is the only one of the five principles outlined in Yuan ye that truly applies to traditional Korean gardens.

It is clear then that the character of the inner garden of a traditional Korean dwelling is determined primarily by its prospect, (chomang) and that it is fundamentally very dif­ferent from the character of a Japanese garden or a Chinese yuanlin.

Updated: October 12, 2015 — 11:58 am