The “Uncultivated” Garden

The “Uncultivated” Garden


he closest Korean equivalent to the type of residence in China that would have its own ting yuan or yuan – lin is the estate of a yangban (civil or military official), and the factors governing the composition of a yangban resi­dence have been examined in the previous chapter.

Although the traditional Chinese residence and the yangban residence differ in layout and form, the hall and courtyard composition of the former is much the same as, and corresponds to, the ch’ae and madang oithe latter.

The Korean madang is an outdoor extension of the adja­cent taech’dng in the same way that a Chinese ting (court­yard) is an extension of the adjacent tang (central living room). The madang and ting both serve as functional work spaces, and as places where ceremonies are performed. Neither is designed as a decorative garden to be admired from the interior space. There is, however, nothing within the Korean residential complex that is equivalent to the Chinese “unworldly” gardens—the ting yuan (contemplative landscape garden) or the yuanlin (landscape park garden).

The ting yuan or the yuanlin of a traditional Chinese residence is an “extraordinary” space adjacent to the every­day living space but sufficiently separated from it to remain untouched by the mundane. The only possible equivalent in the Korean tradition would be the outer garden centered around a lotus pond, beyond the main gate, or the garden
around a pyoldang (a sanctuary used exclusively by the master of the household; Figure 109). Both these gardens, however, are rooted in the tradition of the hermit priests of the Unified Silla (a. d. 668-935) and Koryo kingdoms, which is quite distinct from the philosophical foundation of the Chinese yuanlin.

At the same time in which Confudan thought—with its tremendous influence on people’s lifestyle—was incor­porated directly into Choson society, the yuanlin gardening techniques of Ming – and Qing-dynasty-China were also transplanted. It was originally believed that Choson – dynasty wdnlin (yuanlin) were the product of the combi­nation of this influence with older Korean traditions. It is conceivable that there was a native gardening tradition with a place in the history of Korean gardening parallel to that of Koryo celadon in ceramics. Yet the only gardens now extant are better compared with Choson-dynasty white porcelain. Unfortunately, there are no Choson wdnlin in existence today.

Updated: October 11, 2015 — 7:18 pm