Friday, June 4, 2010

Tea Tour Korea 2010 Part 2 (Gangjin)

Sitting around a festival waiting for someone to come to view your work is not very exciting.  I did have groups of monks and a big collector (who bought several good teabowls) come by knowing exactly what they wanted, but that type of sale didn't happen every day and since I had not been with the Heiss’s and Mary visiting the Mungyeong Artists in their studios, for me, the most excitement came during the adventures after the festival.
The Heiss’s along with international artists from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Latvia and Russia accompanied us to Gangjin - at Gangjin’s invitation.  Being able to introduce these artists to the Gangjin area made our adventure very special.
The afternoon of our arrival, we visited Muwisa an ancient temple founded originally in 617 CE and last rebuilt in 1555.  One of the only remaining paintings from the Goryeo Dynasty can be found at this temple.  Nearly all paintings above ground were destroyed during the Japanese invasions particularly the Imjin War - The Pottery War.  Battles for that war were fought in Gangjin's harbor and surrounding areas while a replica of a turtle ship is docked in Yosu a port not far away.

 I believe this is Guan-eum Buddha of Compassion

We were there at a very historic time in the life of this old temple - Muwisa.  They were rebuilding large sections of it using ancient methods handed down for many generations.  Throughout its future the year 2010 will be listed as a year of major renovation at Muwisa - and we were there.  

 Each log is hand planed and fashioned to fit without nails.

Not far from Muwisa is an O’Sulloc tea plantation.  O'Sulloc is a rising star in Korean tea.  Watch for it to be sold in your country in a few years.   This O'Sulloc plantation is just over 20 years old.  Their larger plantation and beautiful tea museum are on the island of Jejudo.  The tea in Gangjin is machine picked in this beautiful setting and the tea drinks quite well. 

The beautiful Mount Wolchulsan frames O'Sulloc tea

 The Gangjin O'Sulloc Tea Plant

That evening we visited Sanghwa College where Kang Kwang Mugg, our host and chair of the ceramics department, demonstrated the making of ceramic carving tools and we toured the facilities.

 Gangjin makes their carving tools from umbrella ribs.

The next morning we experienced the beautifully inlaid celadon at the Gangjin Celadon factory where we met our old friend Yoon Jae Jin who is now the head artist at the factory.  The complex, just for celadon, is huge a testimony to the respect Gangjin has for celadon.   Historically, work produced in Gangjin was considered the finest celadon in the world and 80% of the Goryo Dynasty celadon found in museums throughout the world was made in Gangjin.  Today, they work to maintain that tradition of excellence.

 A 12th century Gangjin Celadon Tea Pot

In the early afternoon, we went to the studio of the onggi potter Jeoung Yoon Suk now a Human Cultural Asset in onggi

 Chollanamdo uses the flopped slab method to form their onggi.

After the onggi visit, we went to Gangjin’s great tea temple of Baekryeonsa, home of the famous tea master Yo Yeon and one of the former homes of the historic Korean tea master Cho-Ui.  There, we had ujeon, fresh first picked green tea and also bought some of the unique ddokcha they make.  The Ujeon was presented in individual cups allowing each participant to watch their tea expand from tiny dried curls to small leaves.  The smooth, sweet taste of good Korean ujeon like this is amazing.  

The monk prepares small sample cups for us to experience

 The expanded leaves make a very smooth and sweet tea

While we were experiencing this tea, Yo Yeon brought in a bag full of freshly picked tea leaves.

 Yo Yeon Picked Tea.  Is this pick sejak or jungjak?  Is it for green tea or ddokcha?

 Yo Yeon's ddokcha rediscovers an old temple tradition. Delicious

The next morning we went to the studio of Jeong Ki-bong one of Korea’s premiere celadon artists as was his father before him and is his son as well. His tea ware is quite varied and beautiful and his carving skills are superb.  We definitely will return to this artist later.

 Let Jeong Ki Bong serve tea to you. 

A Jeong Ki-Bong Double walled vessel. Even the interior vessel is carved!

 Our trip to the Yeongam Pottery Museum (where we saw an outstanding exhibit), brought us some interesting Yeongam green tea served by the director Kim Kyu-Hwa.  “It tastes like mint.” one of the quests exclaimed at first sip.  But it was just the freshness of another amazing green tea.

 Kim Kyu-Hwa serves us tea.

A trip to the very interesting Maritime Museum in Mokpo finished our day.
That last evening we visited the home of our host Kang Kwang-Mugg and met his wife Her Yoon-Jeung and daughter Kang Ga-Hyen in their lovely home.  Mary and I knew Kwang-Mugg and Yoon-Jeung before Ga-Hyen was born and have watched her grow over the years.  This visit was a was a real treat for us and for those who had not been in a Korean home before.  Ga-Hyen played the piano beautifully to entertain us.

What a beautiful way to end our stay in Gangjin


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