With great pleasure I have the
privilege to show you here what the Dr. Byung Ju Lee knows about the Suseok of
his country South Korea.We know more or less the stones coming from China and
Japan,but we ignore almost all of Korean stones .
So needing to fill this
gap, I proposed him to write for me an article which can reveal us the
secrets of their wonderful stones ;I leave you admire the beauty of his personal
collection and hope you will enjoy with the terrific
colors,shapes,textures,forms of stones and the fine,elegant and thin daiza .
I don't have words
to thank Dr. Lee for his deep kindness and remarkable work ,the precious gift I
received it will be surely fully appreciated by all suseok and suiseki amateurs
Dr Byung Ju Lee is Professor
of Biological Sciences at Ulsan University of South Korea.The terms employed in
his article are a phonetical translation from Korean Ideograms,so the writing
can be not always right.
SUSEOK CULTURE:Introduction for Italian Suseok Friends.
by Dr. Byung Ju Lee .
"SU" means long-life and "SEOK" means stone.Therefore,suseok
means long-lived stone,or stone with unchangeable image.
PERIOD [B.C.100(?) - A.D.1300]
Korean Suseok has very long history
since our ancient kingdom , BAEKJE (Japanese call this country as "Kudara")
and KOKURIA*. These two ancient countries had last around 8 Centuries from B.C.
1 to A.D. 7 and united by SILLA.According to our old history books , Kokuria
imported Chinese Scholar Stones with Taoism.Baekje was under the same cultural
influence from ancient China.So we think Baekje also imported suseok culture
Suseok culture in Baekje,we believe,is
very important for modern Japanese art of suiseki,because Baekje was ancient
mother land of large part of Japanese peoples and her culture and system deeply
affected Japanese ancientbculture and country system.We don't have any concrete
evidence for delivery of our ancient suseok culture to Japan,but,as I know,one
of Japanese ancient book showing picture of mountain-chain shaped suseok on top
of the kind basin described that the suseok"Youngsanseok" (Fig 1) came
is origin of our country name ,Korea, since our ancient country,which followed
united Silla,named itself as Koria to uphold the great tradition and power of
Fig 1 Youngsanseok.Japanese ancient stone that is
known to be originally come from ancient Korea Baekje .
Lots of Suseoks originally collected in
Koria and Chosun kingdoms are now found in the gardens of temples,palaces and in
the houses of descendant of ancient collectors that usually belonged to upper
class.We also can find many old pictures and books related to the suseok
cultures (FIG 2).However,during this period,preferred suseoks seemed to be quite
different from present style in the most area of the world and more similar to
the Chinese Scholar stones.
Fig 2 .Old Pictures drawn in the Chosan
dynasty(1392-1910) showing suseoks similar with Chinese Scholar Stones.This kind
of stone is now classified as "Goeseok".
PERIOD (1950-present time)
Our recent suseok culture was under the
deep influence from that of Japan in addition to our traditional culture.After
the Korean war during 1950~1953, groups of suseok collectors had rapidly
increased up to a million around 5 years ago,and thereafter gradually decreased
due to loss or close of major collecting places and difficulty of finding good
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KOREAN SUSEOK
AND JAPANESE SUISEKI.
Suseok cultures in these two countries
share the same origin and therefore are very similar with each other.However,I
can tell some different points between Korean suseok and Japanese suiseki as
in name and philosophy:
Korean suseok is named to follow the
long-life and unchangeable mother nature in the sense of Korean traditional
culture and philosophy of Natrualism. If you saw the typical Korean gardens such
as "secrete garden(Biwon)" in a palace in Seul,and could find
differences between Korean garden and Japanese garden,you could easily figure
out the difference that lies between Korean suseok and Japanese suiseki.I think
key point is that we don't want to add too much artificial facts onto the garden
as well as suseok.
for displaying stone:
If stone looks like part of natural
scenery such as mountain,island,rocks and etc., we prefer to display them on the
SUBAN (suiban) filled with sand or water,instead of
DAEZWA (daiza) or ZWADAE
(the same meaning with daezwa).Many Korean stone collectors think that
exhibition on the suban is more natural than that on daezwa as the suseoks stand
on their natural state.However it is dependent upon personal preference.For
example,I prefer daezwa displaying to suban due to limited space permitted to
me.We usually put object suseoks on the daezwa too.
As I know,in Japanese suiseki limited
modification is accepted as far as it is limited for convenience of
exhibition,for example cutting the bottom. However
,no modification is accepted in Korean Suseok.
THREE COMPONENTS OF STONES FOR THE
REQUIREMENT AS SUSEOK.
1) SHAPE :
You have to find at least one point of merit or
viewing point before you judge a stone as a suseok.It could be part of natural
matter or scenery,or object or abstract.
OR SURFACE QUALITY: stones should be strong enough
not to be easily broken.Surface should be dense enough not to be seen as coarse
stones. You have to feel beauty on the stone's surface itself beside any other
components of requirement.Many Korean collectors think this is the most
3) COLOR :Dark
color is preferred.The following is kind of rank for preference:Black>Brown>Dark
gray>Dark blue>Green and Red>Light Gray. White
color is usually not acceptable.*Surface quality and color can be improved by
the process of kind of nourishing called as "YANGSEOK".Yangseok
means nourishment ofa young stone to be looked as older one by watering,hand
rubbing and exposure to the sun.