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Korean Bell Garden Title

The Korean Bell Garden – A Brief History

This is easily one of the most unique venues in Northern Virginia – the Korean Bell Garden. Created via a joint effort between NVRPA and the Korean American Cultural Committee (KACC), this great endeavor began with a proposal in 2007. Since then, the Garden continued to take shape, adding key elements and forever changing the landscape on an otherwise unused hill.

After plans were initially approved, the bulk of the work began in 2010, over 100 trees and shrubs native to Korea were planted and stones were placed. This event was celebrated with a huge gathering of politicians, committee members, friends and members of the public, who came out to help lend a hand planting the trees and celebrating the moment.

During the summer of 2011, a team of expert Korean artisans came and constructed the central pavilion that holds a one of a kind bell. The structure was completely built by hand in a way that has been used for thousands of years. The bell was created in South Korea with many traditional Korean images such as birds, plants and animals, as well as images symbolic of Virginia. Today, if you visit the Korean Bell Garden at Meadowlark, you’ll see the finished product, complete with replicas of ancient Korean monuments and statues, walls and stone structures adorned with traditional Korean symbols, and a flowing water way. The  development was made possible from donations to KACC, including gifts from the Republic of Korea and Gyeonggi Province, as well as private donations. Here’s a look at the Garden’s major elements:


Bell of Peace & Harmony: Cast during the Shilla Dynasty (57 BC – 935 AD), the Bell of King Seongdeok, also known as the Emille Bell, is the largest extant bell in Korea. The Bell of Peace and Harmony that stands in the Korean Bell Garden commemorates the equality, opportunity and freedom Koreans have found in the United States. It is 2.18 meters high and weighs three tons. The ten traditiional symbols of longevity (sun, mountain, water, cloud, stone, pine tree, white crane, turtle, mushroom of immortality and deer) are engraved on the bell, along with the Rose of Sharon (national flower of Korea) and the Dogwood (flower of Virginia). The words “Peace and Harmony” are also engraved on the bell.


Dol Hareubang: Dol Hareubang are statues carved from porous basalt, better known as volcanic rock, found on Jeju Island on the southern tip of Korea. During the Chosun Dynasty, the statues were erected as gatekeepers to the three gates of the fortress into the Jeju City. They were symbolic statues of protection and fertility, guarding the people who entered the castle walls. It is recorded in the “Tamna Chronicles (1918)” that Kim Mong Kyu, a Jeju Island priest, established the first at the fortress gates in 1754. The statues’ faces feature a slight smile, bulging eyes without pupils and a long, broad nose with a mushroom-shaped, rimmed hat on its head. The hands rest on the belly and always one above the other; in sets of two, one has the left hand resting above the right and the other, the right hand resting above the left.


Flower Wall: The Jagyeonjeon Hall of the Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1865 during the Chosun Dynasty by King Gojong in honor of his adopted mother, Queen Singjeong. The west-side wall of the Jayeongjeon is adorned with carved pieces adorned with flowers, which led to the name of  kkotdam, meaning flower wall. It is decorated with many images, including flowers, heavenly peaches, bamboos, lotus flowers, butterflies, peonies, apricot  flowers, chrysanthemums and more. The Wall at the Korean Bell Garden also is adorned with beautiful images. The carved pieces that decorate the Bell Garden wall depict the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. The apricot represents spring, the orchid represents summer, the chrysanthemum represents autumn and the pine tree represents winter.


Wall of 10 Symbols: The 10 motifs utilized to symbolize longevity are the sun, mountain, water, stone, pine tree, cloud, tortoise, white crane, deer and bamboo. The resilience of the bamboo and the evergreen pine tree represent eternity, while the crane, deer and tortoise are all known to have long lives. The sun, water, clouds and rocks are also enduring elements of our environment. The practice of adorning objects with motifs called the 10 symbols of longevity, or sip-jang saeng, dates back to the origins of Taoism in China and the transmission of Taoism during the fifth century. Once the custom entered Korean culture, the use of longevity symbols because ubiquitous and practiced by aristocracy and commoners alike. The sig-jaeng could be found all facets of life: on palace architecture, paintings, furniture ornamentation, garments and other decorative items.


The Korean Alphabet: Hangul, the Korean alphabet, was created in the mid-15th century during the reign of the fourth king of the Chosun Dynasty, King Sejong the Great. Prior to the invention of hangul, Koreans used hanja, logographic Chinese characters, to write. However only the few privileged, the aristocratic class, could read and write hanja fluently, leaving the majority of Koreans, the commoners, illiterate. Concerned for his people, Sejong the Great presided over the introduction of the 28-letter Korean alphabet, with the explicit goal being that Koreans from all classes would read and write. In 1443, Sejong the Great introduced the new alphabet, hangul, which was originally called the Hunmin Jeongeum, meaning “The Proper Sounds for the Education of the People.” It was created for ease and with simplicity in mind so that every Korean would be able to read and write; the great gift born from King Sejong’s love for his people.


Traditional Pavilions: Of the typical Korean traditional architectures that have been utilized for thousands of years, some of the most beautiful and biggest are historical Korean traditional pavilions and have existed for hundreds of years. The smaller sized pavilions were built by individulas for use in their private gardens. In the Chosun Dynasty, especially, the aristocrat scholars used the pavilion as a place of relaxation and enjoyment and were usually built in natural settings like riversides or mountains. The traditional Korean pavilion architecture is built without using nails. Instead, it is carefully crafted so all the pieces fit together. The Korean traditional pavilions are made of wood and last about a hundred years. Each traditional roof tile on the Korean pavilion is handcrafted by hwangto, or orcher, a type of clay made of yellow mud. As a source of relaxation, the Korean traditional pavilions follow the precepts of feng shui.


Totem Poles: Usually presented as a pair – a male and female general, these are “jangseung’’ or Korean traditional totem poles. With enlarged eyes, a bulbous nose and buckteeth, most jangseung express exaggerated depictions of the humorous sides of people. Though the origin of jangseung is not clear, they might go back to the prehistoric age when people resided near trees or rocks. Placed at the edges of villages, the main function of jangseung is to mark the village boundaries. Jangseung were also used as mileposts. The wooden totem poles were also erected to protect the village against evil spirits, fire or other disasters and to be worshipped as village guardian deities. The womenfolk prayed to jangseung for a male child. In addition to the main pair of jangseung, commonly other old jangseung stand around it. This is because old ones are not taken away when the new ones replace them.