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