Dr. Werner Sasse — a true gentleman and scholar — will be lecturing about Damyang’s Sosaewon Garden tomorrow evening (Tuesday, March 24, 7:30pm) at the Somerset Palace. From the RAS-Korea Branch homepage:

Soswaewon is one of the most famous scholar’s gardens in Korea, tucked away in a small valley in the beautiful landscape behind the Mudeung mountains near Gwangju in South Jeolla. Covering ca 4600 m2 in terraces, it was built in the 16th century by a scholar who lived in voluntary exile with his educated friends. The group, which also developed an important literary genre, long poetry called Gasa, had chosen to keep out of the life-endangering political struggles among the various politico-philosophical schools in their days.

Beautiful as the garden is at a glance with its pavilions above a brook, and its assorted plants, rocks and walls, the real beauty lies in the combination of the natural and the overlying literary structures. The garden is carefully designed to look as natural as possible, while at the same time each rock, plant and terrace carries a deeper meaning, which is only obvious to the literary mind.

The lecture will introduce this garden supported by slides. It will also introduce the social background and the frame of mind of these scholars, who were trained to be Confucianists but developed the art of leisurely bohemian life immersed in the arts and literature.

Werner Sasse was born in Germany and first came to Korea in 1966, when he spent 2 years as a development advisor to a number of schools in Jeolla province, then another 2 years teaching in Seoul. Returning to Germany, he studied Korean Studies (with Chinese literature) at Bochum University. On completing his studies, he remained at Bochum teaching and building up the Korean Studies programme until 1992, when he moved to Hamburg University and developed the programme there. On his retirement in 2006 he came back to Korea and lives in Tamyang (South Jeolla province). He currently holds the position of chair professor in Cultural Anthropology in the School of International Culture at Hanyang University. He is also an artist.