Bogildo, the Trace of Gosan’s Spirit
By Oh Uhl, Student Editor
One fine day in February 2009, this reporter visited a beautiful island, Bogildo, which looks like a lotus flower enveloping itself within the mountains. It took more than one hour from Haenam to get to Bogildo by sea. Bogildo is the place where Gosan Yun Seon-do, a great master of Korean verse, sijo, in the middle of the Joseon dynasty, became fascinated. When the Manchu war of 1636 broke out, he was so disappointed of a humiliating treaty between the Joseon and the Qing Dynasty that he was determined not to come back to the land. At that time, he discovered Bogildo and then built Nakseojae and Seyeonjeong there. He accomplished an immortal work, the Fisherman's Calendar, on that island. Let’s take a look at the historic sites of Yun Seon-do, Bogildo with a Tribune Reporter.
Seyeonjeong, Where Gosan Enjoyed Boating and Reciting Sijo
Bogildo is a part of Dadohae Marine National Park. Most of the trees in the mountains are composed of evergreen broadleaf trees, so the whole island looked green though it was February, the end of winter. It may not be the high-demand season and it was winter and farming had not started yet. The island was so quiet and this reporter understood why a lofty scholar chose the place to enjoy his retired life.
When this reporter followed a path from the dock for 10 minutes, I could see Seyeonjeong (Seyeon pavilion) surrounded by a pond called Seyeonji, the largest pond in garden of Korea. I heard that Seyeonjeong is one of the three most famous traditional gardens in Korea, and then I anticipated how exquisite it would be. Seyeon means the feeling is very refreshed and graceful. Seyeonjeong was charmingly decorated. Contrary to an artificial Japanese garden, it communes with nature. I also heard a recitation of the Fisherman's Calendar, a well-expressed sijo of a fisherman’s life which is harmonious with nature. It made my mind calm and meditative.
Next to Seyeonjeong, there is Dongdae (east stage) where people did a group dance listening to the Fisherman's Calendar. Watching a floating small ship in Seyeonji, Gosan enjoyed reciting a poem. He taught the Fisherman's Calendar to children and made them sing it. He often enjoyed watching the children aboard singing the Fisherman's Calendar. The water in Seyeonji had decreased so that feeling the exact impression he had was less satisfactory. Jang Eun-suk, a clerk at the ticket office, said “Seyeonjeong is always beautiful all the year around, however, it is especially more charming when camellias bloom in March.” She has worked there about four years, but she said the sound of the reciting the Fisherman's Calendar always made her calm.
Nakseojae, Where Gosan Lived
Most visitors moved to Nakseojae from Seyeonjeong by car. This reporter walked at a leisurely pace of only about 30 minutes and this reporter could hear her own footsteps and the wind. Therefore, this reporter felt a sense of unity with nature. A green field, an endless way and a dense forest matched a blue sky. When this reporter arrived at Nakseojae and Goksudang, several laborers were restoring them to their former state. Nakseojae was a house which Yun Seon-do first built when he made up his mind to live in Bogildo. Mumindang, the men´s part of Nakseojae, had been next to the Nakseojae, but it does not exist anymore. Nakseo means enjoy reading books and the meaning of Mumindang is a person who avoids society and its people. I knew that they have been restoring them to their former state since 2002, but when I saw the dig site directly, I was very disappointed that the core of Yun Seon-do historic site in Bogildo remains but building lots.
There lies Goksudang, a house of Yun Seon-do‘s son, near Nakseojae. As far as this reporter remembers it was a thatch-roofed house, but now it is a tile-roofed house. Gosan named a dried pond in Goksudang, Yeondanggoksu and it was one of the eighth famous spots in the vicinity. Even though this reporter could not see the completed restoration features of Nakseojae and Goksudang, this reporter saw a splendid neighboring view, and understood Gosan’s mind why he named his house Nakseojae, which means the retreat from the world, and lived there for the rest of his life. It symbolizes a retired scholar’s life.
Dongcheonseoksil, Where Gosan Enjoyed Picturesque Scenery
Dongcheonseoksil (a Taoist hermit’s stone room) is located on a mountain on the opposite side of Nakseojae. It embodies a proud loneliness on the mid-slope of the mountain. It took 20 minutes to get to Dongcheonseoksil from Nakseojae. This reporter went up the mountain after a long interval, but it was not particularly arduous. Dongcheonseoksil indicates a room of recess connected with the sky. It is a space of three-square meters at most, but Gosan enjoyed reading books and drinking tea in this little pavilion. He also wrote a sijo looking at a village. He went so far as to have meals there using a pulley from his house. And another ideal spot to meditate is Chabawi (tea rock), in front of Dongcheonseoksil, a rock on which Gosan used to drink tea. I sat on the rock and enjoyed a wonderful view of a village.
The mountains surrounded the village like a lotus blossom as the name implies. When Gosan visited Bogildo for the first time, he was charmed with the island and he climbed up Mt. Jeokja and named the village ‘Buyongdong’. When this reporter just arrived there, no one was there, but after a few minutes, some people joined me. They were families, mostly. A family was well aware of Yun Seon-do Historic Site. They saw it on TV, so they made a travel plan. Kim Eun-suk, the mother, said the scene was so beautiful and the restoration was done well. Though every person descended the rock, this reporter sat on Chabawi and looked at the town for about 30 minutes. This reporter knew why Gosan took pleasure in appreciating nature. The town was like a beautiful green lotus blossom so that this reporter felt an immortal of Taoism and realized that it was the most picturesque scene in Buyongdong.
Become Yun Seon-do
When this reporter came back to the Haenam, she thought about Gosan’s comfortable life. Yun Seon-do was a respectable scholar. As his life goal was not a high-ranking government officer, he was candid and straightforward with opinions and views. Most Joseon scholars wrote their works in Chinese and were confined in a strict society in those times, but Gosan wrote delicate and elegant sijo to revive the beauty of Korea. Most of his works came to the climax when he lived in Bogildo and many sijo’s contents were about magnificent mountains and water. He also set a tradition of Korean garden culture while building Buyongdong garden since he was a landscape architect as well. Buyongdong was really picturesque and Gosan’s structures became a scene.
This reporter was really impressed with Gosan’s life, particularly in his finding pleasure in nature and scenery. Gosan could not change society, but he built a Utopia on Bogildo. Someone criticized that it was a ‘sumptuous escape’, but he was upright and had a strong self-assertion over the left shoulder. He adhered to his opinions even though he was banished to a distant place when he was 74 years old. He enjoyed a real scholar’s life. While visiting Yun Seon-do Historic Site, Bogildo this time, this reporter felt static composure inside and met the beauty of Gosan’s Utopia. When you want to find Utopia you are dreaming in your mind or experience Gosan’s brilliant retirement life, this reporter recommends you visit the world of Gosan’s spirit, Bogildo.