The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Jeju island’s spectacular ‘Spririted Garden’ of bonsai (bunjae) trees

Written By: herbrunbridge - Oct• 11•12

We here at WoWasis don’t know much about the art of bonsai. We love landscape architecture, though, so made it a point of visiting Mr. Sung Bum-young’s Spirited Garden while we were on the South Korean island of Jeju. And are we happy that we did.  In 1992, Mr. Sung began creating this garden out of a wasteland. Sung was a farmer who had a vision of what he considered beauty, and who managed, through hard work and determination, to bring it to fruition. He calls it the Bunjae Artpia, and through terraces, walkways, sunken vistas, and water features, he displays hundreds of meticulously bonsaied trees. There’s a tremendous amount of documentation throughout the park, both botanical and philosophical. The park is particularly well-regarded in China, and many of that country’s leaders have visited the park.

In a tiny pavilion, Sung’s story is told in print, the tale of a man who had a dream, who many had considered something of a lunatic, but who never dropped the shovel or stopped tying the wire. In that sense, his inspiration as a simple person with a dream that he worked hard to fulfill is the real story behind the “spirit” you’ll discover in this remarkable garden.

Sung Bum-young

Sung’s usually here, too, quietly sipping a tea with a friend or two in the pavilion near the exit gate. His biography, The Spirited Garden, is sold on a table just outside the pavilion. After we saw this place, we had to buy a copy, and an assistant popped out and asked if we like Mr. Sung to sign it for us.

The garden isn’t cheap to enter. It’s 9,000 won (about $9 USD) to get in. But it’s well worth it, on several levels. It’s beautiful, for one. If you don’t know anything about bonsai, it’s educational (that’s two). But perhaps more importantly, it gives the visitor a reflection point. All of us are capable of having a passion that runs so deeply that we want to share it with the world. It’s not so easy to share, on such a grand level. But Mr. Sung did it. And that’s the most significant thing, possibly that most visitors come away with. With a great vision, a plan, and a positive attitude, a legacy can be left for future generations. That’s the real story of the importance of Jeju island’s Spirited Garden.

Spirited Garden
1534 Jeoji-ri, Hankyeong-myeon
Jeju-si, Jeju 690-947
Tel: (064) 772-3701
open 8:30 – sunset (includes a map)

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