▲ Visitors are enthralled by the artistry of Spirited Garden, a park devoted to the art of bunjae, or bonsai.
On an island known for its natural beauty, Spirited Garden is a showcase of what man and nature can do together. The Spirited Garden in Hallim is the life’s work of one man, Sung Bum Young. Bonsai trees (known as bunjae in Korea) are miniature trees that have been trained to become an ideal. Almost like a work of art they are slowly pushed and prodded over a long period of time to become miniature masterpieces.
Garden is living art Gardeners like Sung are able to create living art that is a tribute to the natural world but created using human imagination and skill. In fact the Spirited Garden is just one large piece of natural art.
Sung’s Spirited Garden opened in 1992 under its former name of Bunjae Artpia and immediately became a popular destination on Jeju. In fact the garden is known for hosting many world dignitaries including the current president of China, Hu Jintao.
▲ Sung Bum Young, the creator of Spirited Garden never stops tending to his works of art. photo courtesy Spirited Garden
Sung believes that his garden can contribute to world peace by providing a space for people to contemplate nature and find a sense of peace in their surroundings. And since Jeju is an Island of Peace his Spirited Garden is in the perfect location to promote peace and conservation of the natural world.
But the story of the Spirited Garden started much earlier. In 1968 the site of the present day garden was farmland. Sung moved from his Korean mainland home to then remote Jeju Island with a dream of creating a great bonsai garden.
Sung had a vision of what his garden would become and a passion for the art of bonsai. He continued to farm the land, tend his bonsai and build his garden for the next 24 years and slowly set the foundations of his Spirited Garden.
Bonsai artists like Sung work with nature to create the trees on display at the garden. Bonsai trees often take 10 to 30 years to grow. Walking around the Spirited Garden visitors are struck by the variety of bonsai trees.
A place for reflecting Spirited Garden is not just a garden showcasing bonsai trees; it is a chance for visitors to reflect on nature and philosophy as they stroll through the beautiful surroundings. Each immaculately groomed tree contains an information plaque that often includes quotes from Sung or bits of Korean poetry.
Sung’s love of Jeju’s nature also includes the island’s trademark black volcanic stones. One of the most striking features of the garden is its use of stone to frame the bonsai. Around the garden is a massive stone wall that resembles a fortress.
Stone is used extensively in the garden landscaping including in the koi fish ponds and waterfalls that Sung designed. The use of stone and Sung’s excellent landscape design ties the otherwise foreign bonsai trees into Jeju’s natural setting. Sung even describes himself as a man madly in love with stones.
▲ Spirited Garden can count Chinese president Hu Jintao among its many visitors. Photos courtesy Spirited Garden. Photo courtesy Spirited Garden
To fully appreciate and understand Spirited Garden and Sung’s vision, pick up a copy of his book “The Spirited Garden” in the gift shop. There is an English (and Chinese) translation available and the book is a beautiful examination of bonsai trees and nature mixed with stories from Sung’s life.
The Spirited Garden sometimes appears on road signs and maps with its older name of Bunjae Artpia. The Spirited Garden’s Web site in Korean and English is www.bunjaeartpia.com. The garden also includes a buffet restaurant.
The Spirited Garden is located near Hallim in western Jeju. The O’Sulloc Tea Museum and the Peace Museum are nearby attractions.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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