Thursday, May 8, 2014

Korean Flower Arrangement~ An inspiring artform

Korean Traditional flower arrangement is called KothKoji 꽃꽂이 is fast gaining popularity around the world along with the K-Pop, K- Dramas, Samsung, and well, Korea itself. Worlds apart from the Western flower arrangement- wherein the lush greens intermingle with the flowers, Kothkoji has less greens and more cleaner and well-defined lines using branches, stalks and flowers. K-Flower arrangement, I find, is kind of a midway between its neighboring cousin of Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) and the Western arrangements. While Ikebana is simplicity itself, with a minimalistic use of flowers, leaves and branches, K-Flower arrangement uses much more greenery and flowers but not to the extent of the Western arrangements.

Learning Kothkoji was not a simple task as it involves ripping off the leaves- which i found totally undoable and appalling, until the lines of the branches are visible. Flowers, stalks and branches are arranged the complementing each other in a triangle with a main stem, secondary and tertiary stems. There are three main styles in Korean Flower Arrangement: The Upright style, Slanting style and Hanging style. Hard as it was to remove off perfectly beautiful leaves only to put them back in the arrangement as a filler, learning kothkoji has been a rollercoaster ride into the beautiful Korean culture. However hard it was, the end result was always so beautiful, so serene and harmonious that i have come to adore this art form <3 p="">

Orchids, Pussy Willow, Bird of Paradise combination.

Christmas decoration with ivy, poinsetta and baby's breath

Christmassy center piece
Rununculus, hydrangea combination
Never knew Violet, orange and white combination would work out so well :) 
Lily in the upright style Korean Flower arrangement

One of my favorite arrangements using bamboo and fern and cherry blossoms

This is an extension of the Upright style arrangement using two separate arrangement, connected by the bamboo with water
The Korean Flower arrangement classroom

Lily and peonies

Valentine's day special~ Arrangement using roses, eucalyptus,carnation

Lotus pods and ferns along with eucalyptus after the flowers are gone!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Dreams come true" trip to the Myeongjae mansion at Nonsan

Dreams do come true! Thanks to my Korean teacher, our family had the pleasure of visiting the Myeongjae Old Mansion in Nonsan. This is the mansion of a Korean scholar who lived from 1629 ~ 1714AD. This mansion was built by his students as a gift to the humble professor who believed in equal rights to all people when there was a marked difference in the life of the common people and the educated officials in Korea. I have always wanted to try to stay in a traditional Korean hanok, understanding the construction, experiencing the culture and enjoying the environment. I was looking into the hanoks at Bukchon in Seoul when this irresistible offer came by! Here, I had an opportunity to experience an authentic 300 year old mansion, for a night, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony in the outdoors next to the ginseng plantation overlooking the mansion itself and the kimchi pots and get a guided tour about the various aspects of the construction of the hanok itself and the philosophies of the scholar it belonged too. It was a dream come true!

We were taken to the Myeongjae mansion along with a camera crew who interviewed us about our experiences at the mansion. It was quite an experience! We were taken to Nonsan by KTX from Yongsan station and we took the taxi for a 10 minute ride to the mansion, all the while being clicked :) I felt like a princess ;) 

Nonsan in Korea

We were greeted with quite a view right when we get off the taxi. Beautiful setting of the mansion- with the mountain behind and an artificial pond in the front of the house- was typical of the traditional Korean houses. But this mansion did not have a boundary wall surrounding it like a typical Korean official's house would have. It was done as a sign to welcome all visitors, in accordance to the scholar's philosophy.

The beautiful pond in front of the mansion.
The picturesque pond in front of the mansion where meditation and relaxation would be easy, dont you think? 
Doenjang pots in the beautiful Myeongjae mansion
The mansion along with the Doenjang (fermented soya bean paste)  pots. I was lucky, I even got to taste the paste!
 The Korean traditional mansion had separate areas for the men and women and had separate rooms for the 3 generations of men and women. The men's room was in the front, with separate rooms for the grandfather, father and the son with detachable door/windows. The women's quarters was behind with views to check on the kimchi and doenjang pots and with rooms for the grandmother, mom and daughter in law. The child's room faced the women's quarters so that the mom could care for the child.
Womens quarters in the Myeongjae mansion
The women's area at the mansion with storage areas in the top which kept the food airy and fresher for a few more days. The positioning of the quarters was such that it was easy for the women of the house to keep an eye on all the workers around the house.

The women's area at the myeongjae mansion

Men's quarter's in Myeongjae mansion.
Men's quarters in Myeongjae mansion. The mansion was made out of hanji paper and wood. The rectangular frames on the left and right are detachable. It ensured privacy as well.  
The child's bedroom which leads to the women's quarters.

Room with a view
What a view to wake up to! Interestingly, this detachable window had the same ratio as the widescreen TVs we have now! The view all through the house from each window or door was so pretty that there was no other need for an artificial picture/painting to pep-up the place! This was the grandfather's room.
The hi-fi camera used (by professionals) to take arial pictures of the mansion

Yum dinner at Nonsan
We were treated with a yum dinner by the crew that night!

Cultural performance at Myeongjae mansion
We also had a cultural treat at the mansion performed by famous artists in Korea.
Musical instruments at the mansion

Early morning view of the mansion
Misty morning at the mansion
Different fruit varieties at the Mansion
Trees around the mansion were decked with fruits
The Tea ceremony
The Korean Tea ceremony was my absolute favorite time at the mansion. A close relative of the descendant of the scholar, attired in the traditional hanbok, taught us about the key elements involved in the tea ceremony while pouring us a hot cup of tea. My God! It was an hour i would never forget in my life! 

interesting stove at the Myeongjae mansion
The interesting portable stove for our supply of hot water for the tea. 

We also had pretty tasty snacks along with the tea. 
The Myeongjae mansion was built with a lot of interesting ideas which included a low chimney- according to the philosophy of the scholar- that poor people should not see the smoke from the other person's chimney when they could not afford a proper meal. 

There were many people visiting the mansion while we were there, including the mayor of Nonsan! It was quite an experience to see the professionals at work! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Double decker views

The Seoul city tour by night on the double decker bus was another one on the bucket list of things to do before i leave Seoul. I have no idea of what i was expecting. A brilliant night time of the city I currently call home, view from atop without the hassle of climbing up a mountain or was it just that I had seen too many movies featuring the double deckered ride that i felt the need to go on one? Anyway, with a lot of spirit, I boarded the bus which takes a Han river focussed route.

Seoul city tour double decker bus
Image from

I got into the seat that was allotted according to the time it was booked. Comfy seats with the promised headset which provided multi-lingual audio translation. I was set on the seat behind the first seat on the top. It was good, but the front seat would have been the best seat for taking pictures. Though the view through the windows were pretty nice too.  We started out exactly at 8PM from Gwanghwamun and snaked our way through the traffic to the bridges of the Han River. The city itself is full of skyscrapers all lighted up in unique, interesting and sometimes weird ways. The bridges over the river are all lighted up and are distinct from each other. Good for pics! The audio did not do justice to the bridges in the sense that it was just delivered a two lines about each bridge. But it was a diversion listening the information in various languages :) We didnot get to see the rainbow fountain show in the Banpo bridge :( which I thought was the major attraction of the tour. The traffic too seemed determined to slow us down and it took us forever to move in some places which made the tour so boring and too long for me and the kids. This was not a fun tour nor informative :(

night time view of Seoul
Night time view of Seoul atop the double decker Seoul city tour.
Super shot of night time Seoul from the Seoul tour bus
The bus started out fast...
Skyscrapers at night Seoul
Soon was slowed down due to the horrible traffic in Seoul. Jihachul is the way to go in Seoul.
Han River at night
Pretty views of the Han River 
Night time view of the bridge over the Han River
Interesting patterns, dont you think?

night time Traffic in Seoul
Traffic shakes
Skyscrapers edging the Han River
Skyscrapers edging the Han River
Han River and the tall buildings
I like the patterns made by the lights! 
Another bridge over the Han river at night
Yet another bridge over the Han River
Night time traffic in Seoul
Shaky lights

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Changgyeong Palace in Seoul

There are five major palaces in Seoul, built during the Joseon dynasty by following the principles of Confucianism. The Gyeongbukgung is the biggest and most famous of all located in the center of Gwanghwamun square. The Chandeokgung is acclaimed to be the prettiest of all and a must-go place during the cherry blossoms and the fall season. The Changgyeongung was a part of the Chandeokgung until the Japanese invasion when it was separated and made into a zoo and a botanical garden. This palace is also the place where Jang Geum of the famous Korean Drama Dae Jang Geum- The renowned cook turned physician is said to have lived.

The Changgyeonggung at Seoul
The Changgyeonggung at Seoul on a grey, gloomy, rainy day
The beautiful patterns on the gate of the Changgyeonggung palace in Seoul
The beautiful patterns on the gate of the Changgyeonggung palace.
The huge door of the Changgyeonggung palace
The huge door of the Eastern gate of the Changgyeongung. It reminds me of the huge Temple doors in South India.
The Forbidden Stream in the Changgyeong palace in Seoul
The Forbidden stream in the Changgyeong palace.
According to Feng Shui principles, the best place for a palace is with a stream in the front and with the mountains in the back. Hence the artificial stream was built in the entrance of the palace.

The Haichi and Phoenix to protect the palace
The Haechi is a mythical animal which is a guardian of justice which could distinguish between the good and evil and also said to protect the palace. 
Haechi is now the mascot of Seoul. It is a mythical animal which is a part lion and part dragon. I am reminded very much of the stone "Yaalli" protecting the Temples!
Haechi, the mascot of Seoul
Haechi, the mascot of Seoul
The phoenix is also a symbol of protection
Another protection symbol- The Phoenix
Beautiful roof structure and animals atop.
The beautiful roof of the palace with protective images atop. The first one from the right is the Monk and the second is the Monkey king.
Graceful inclines of the palace roofs
Graceful inclinations of the palace roof
The bucket of water which is said to ward off the evil fire
All important structures in a palace had this bucket of water to ward away the "Evil Fire".
Beautiful patterns on the doors of the Changgyeong palace in Seoul
Beautiful patterns on the palace.
Patterns on the roof
Patterns on the roof of the Changgyeong palace
Beautiful throne with the uniquely Korean painting of the important symbols.  5-mountains, with the sun and moon, waterfalls and pine trees.
The beautiful painting is an important Korean artefact denotes the Yin and Yan and is also found on the Korean 10,000won bill.

Ondol place in the palace
Ondol is the floor heating with hot water pipes which is the prevalent home-heating method in Korea. 
garden in the Changgyeongung palace
Garden in the Changgyeong gung, close to the botanical garden

Artificial lake in the Changgyeong gung.

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