Suseok World



collecting places.









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.

  KOREAN SUSEOK CULTURE:Introduction for Italian Suseok Friends.

by Dr. Byung Ju Lee .

Definition : "SU" means long-life and "SEOK" means stone.Therefore,suseok means long-lived stone,or stone with unchangeable image.


1) ANCIENT 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 from China.

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 from Baekje.

*KOKURIA 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 Kokuria .

Fig 1 Youngsanseok.Japanese ancient stone that is known to be originally come from ancient Korea Baekje .   

2) MIDDLE-AGED PERIOD (1300-1950)

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".

3) PRESENT 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 suseok.


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 followings :

1) Differences 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.

2) Preferences 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.

3) Modification of suseok:

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.


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.

2) TEXTURE 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 important component.

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.