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Of the three great civilizations of East Asia, Korea used to attract the least attention. Overshadowed by their neighbours in China and Japan, Koreans had trouble gaining recognition abroad for the many accomplishments of their ancestors in such fields as architecture, music, dance, and the arts. That has begun to change in recent decades. As South Korea has gained economic power, people outside of Korea have begun to notice that Korea's past is at least as distinguished as its present. It is now possible to find good English-language introductions to many aspects of Korea's ancient culture.
However, one area of Korea's culture has remained relatively unknown - the beauty and extraordinary story of Korean gardens has remained largely hidden from those outside Korea. This book by Heo Kyun fills that gap. Heo Kyun shows in this book how the gardens of Korea were distinctive, reflecting the beliefs and values of the Korean scholars who designed them and enjoyed them. Korea's traditional gardens, whether inside palace walls or in mountain valleys, manifest the Korean desire to live in harmony with nature. The gardens worked with nature, fitting into their natural environment rather than drastically altering that environment to satisfy human whims. Moreover, gardens provided a sanctuary from the cares of everyday life. Koreans designed their gardens to invoke the realms of the immortals they worshipped.
When they entered their gardens, the Korean literati, political exiles and other recluses hoped to leave their worries behind them and seek comfort in the natural beauty that surrounded them. With his descriptions of the ideals behind Korea's traditional gardens as well as depictions of many of the famous gardens, Heo Kyun takes us into the worlds those scholars created, allowing us to summon, in our own minds, their extraordinary beauty, tranquillity and power.