THE ORIGIN AND PRESERVATION OF RELIC FORESTS AND CONFUCIANISM IN KOREA
- Author: KIM JONGWON, LEE JUNGA, LIM JEONGCHEOL, HWANG SOOKYOUNG
- Publish: Acta Koreana Volume 14, Issue2, p195~223, Dec 2011
Relic forests comprise very original and unique cultural vegetation corresponding to the indigenous culture in Korea. This study examines Korea’s traditional Confucian values as a determinant that allows even fragmented relic forests to survive, and tries to consider the preservation of the surviving forests. As research materials, five relic forests, which are typical and representative of such forests in terms of their size or structure, were selected: namely, Mansongjŏng of Andong, Sŏngbaksup of Sŏngju, Karosup of Ŭisŏng, Sangnim of Hamyang and Kyerim of Kyŏngju. Through a survey on the historical records of each relic forest, an eco-sociological reinterpretation of the origins of the forests was carried out. Also, an on-site phytosociological investigation of the relic forests and their habitat conditions was accomplished. The transformation of the cover-abundance value was used to indicate the tree species performance of each relic forest. All of the five relic forests were thought to have originated from “forests artificially created by certain classical scholars” from the dictionary interpretation of Chinese characters in the historical records. As a result of this study, however, it was found that all of the relic forests originated from natural forests. In spite of the efforts to preserve these relic forests, this misunderstanding about the origins of relic forests, was found to have resulted in the qualitative and quantitative degradation of the forests. Due to the Chosŏn Dynasty’s Confucian values, Korea’s relic forests could survive until the beginning of the twentieth century; however, they have undergone changes from ancient prehistoric times to today’s urban industrial times along with the decline of Confucian values. As a result of this study it was concluded that even the surviving relic forests are mostly disappearing. Korea’s relic forests are not a space of landscape gardening for amusement but are rather a ‘relic forest-traditional village ecotope’, namely a unique cultural space in which nature and humans are in harmony.
ancient forest , pibo forest (裨補林) , ecological preservation , ecotope , Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft , geomancy (fengshui) , PNV (potential natural vegetation) , y？ps？ng forest (厭勝林)
There are various types of relic forests including traditional rural forests (Jang Dongsoo and Kim Hakbeom 1993, 19–31; Kim Jongwon and Lim Jeongcheol 2007, 133–188), historical forests and ancient forests in Korea. These relic forests are characterized by the fact that they are very original and unique cultural forests corresponding to the indigenous local cultures. Traditional rural forests exist within the area of influence of village communities, having historical and cultural significance, and for this reason they are forests that play a special role in clan communities or village communities. Historical forests have been preserved since they have historical significance, which is confirmed by extant historical records. Ancient forests also have a long forest age.
The authors of this article judge that the original form of these relic forests was well maintained qualitatively and quantitatively until the end of the nineteenth century before the introduction of modern science to Korea, due to the practice of Chosŏn Korea’s Confucian values. In fact, Korea’s relic forests rapidly started to degenerate and decline at the beginning of the twentieth century after the annexation and occupation of Korea by the Japanese. Because of frequent human interference due to the forests’ low-altitude locations, their qualitative degradation and structural disturbance have continued until now. The Japanese colonial era (1910–1945), the Korean War (1950–1953), and the projects for the improvement of living environments carried out as part of the Saemaŭl Movement (in the 1970s) can all be said to be historical events that have had a severely negative impact on the relic forests. The intensive human interference with these relic forests has been proven by examining their species composition (Kim Jongwon 1993, 83).
Meanwhile, since the 1990s, many relic forests have been designated as targets of protection through legal designations as ‘Natural Monuments’ or ‘Forest Genetic Resources Reserve’, etc. and have been administered by the state or local governments (Choi Jaiung and Kim Dongyeob 2000, 51–65; Korea Forest Service 2006, 47). Moreover, at the state and local levels, by means of various methodological strategies, many academic studies on the preservation, restoration and recreation of these forests have been carried out (Jang Dongsoo and Kim Hakbeom 1993, 19–31; Jang Dongsoo, Lee Kumok and Kim Hakbeom 1993, 77–89; Kim Hakbeom 1992, 239–257). Nevertheless, these efforts have been found to have resulted in a series of management strategies that have negatively affected the integrity of the entire structure of the forests due to the removal of undergrowth trees (Kang Hyunkyung et al. 2004, 63–74) or the introduction of foreign species or invasive alien species to the sites of relic forests.
Ultimately, the surviving relic forests have in fact been quantitatively reduced despite the recent active measures taken in the fields of policy making, academic studies and management (Kim Jongwon and Lim Jeongcheol 2006, 81–114). For instance, about 70% of the historical forests in the Kyŏngju area have already disappeared (Hwang Sookyoung 2011, 9–11), and even the existing historical forests continue to be seriously damaged by distorted forest-management strategies.
The authors of this article judge that the reason for this result is that the authorities involved in managing relic forests fundamentally misunderstand their true nature. In other words, with the designation of the relic forests as targets of protection, the preceding studies carried out for their theoretical support were mainly limited to an interpretation of these forests as historical monuments and lacked a naturalistic understanding of them. Regarding the origin of the relic forests, it seems that the humanistic view that perceives them as “forests artificially formed by certain classical scholars or communities” (Kim Hakbeom, Jang Dongsoo, and Lee Seungje 2003, 90–93; Park Jaechul et al. 2004, 27–32) is an erroneous one that has given rise to a distorted forest-management strategy, while an academic understanding of the relic forests based on natural science has not been developed.
Since a forest is an aggregate of plant species that repeats the processes of birth, death and regeneration as time passes and a superorganism with life (interrelation among species) and ecology (interrelation among biological communities), it definitely has an origin. Thus, this tells us that essential and fundamental interpretations and discussions on the artificial origin and natural origin of the forests, at least for the recognition of the value of relic forests, must be undertaken.
This study selected five representative relic forests considering the size of the forests and the integrity of their phytosociological species composition and tries to prove the origins of the forests eco-sociologically. Especially, it attempts to discuss the interrelationship between relic forests and Korea’s Confucian values that were dominant until the end of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, this study examines the Confucian mentality behind the relic forests and tries to propose preservation strategies for their effective maintenance.
This paper examined five representative relic forests as shown in Table 1.
Mansongjŏng (萬松亭) covers Hahoe Village, P’ungch’ŏn-myŏn, Andong-si, Kyŏngsangbuk-to, and is a traditional,
pibo(裨補) and windbreak (防風) forest. It is known that in the middle of the Chosŏn Dynasty, Kyŏmam (謙庵) Ryu Unyong (柳云龍, 1530–1601) planted 10,000 pine trees to alleviate qi(氣) at Puyongdae (芙蓉臺) opposite Hahoe Village. It was designated as a natural monument in 2006 (an area of 145,219 m²) and has been managed since that time.
Sŏngbaksup (forest outside the castle in Kyŏngsan-ri, Sŏngju) is a traditional, rural and
yŏpsŭng(厭勝) forest. It is located in Kyŏngsan-ri, Sŏngju-ŭp, Sŏngju-kun, Kyŏngsangbuk-to, and is a forest developing on a slip-off slope by Ich’ŏn stream. It is known to have been artificially created to hide the nearby male Tanggŏn (skullcap) Rock and female Chokturi (headpiece) Rock from each other (Natural Research Institute of Cultural Heritage 2007, 90) but there is no known specific data whereby it may be known whether it was artificially created or whereby its functions as a yŏpsŭngmay be concretely confirmed. It has been administered since it was designated as a natural monument in 1999 (an area of 39,944 m²).
Karosup (forest traversing the landscape from south to north in Sach’on-ri, Ŭisŏng-kun) is a traditional ancient, rural and windbreak forest. It is located in Sach’on-ri, Chŏmgok-myŏn, Ŭisŏng-kun, Kyŏngsangbuk-to, a developing riverside in the alluvial fan, and a branch of Mich’ŏn stream. Karosup is known to have been created to block winds from the west from Andong to Sach’on-ri by Kim Chach’ŏm (金自瞻, 1369–1454), the ancestor of the Andong Kim clan (安東金氏) in 1392, at the end of the Koryŏ Dynasty (Kim Taechong 2006; Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea 2011), but there are no basic historical materials related to it. It was designated as a natural monument in 1999 (an area of 33,862 m²).
Sangnim (上林) in Hamyang is an ancient, traditional rural, and bankprotection (保堰,
poŏn) forest. It is located in Taedŏk-ri, Hamyang-ŭp, Hamyangkun, Kyŏngsangnam-to and was previously called Taegwallim (大館林), but as the middle part of this forest was divided by a flood, it split into two parts known as Sangnim (Upper Forest) and Harim (Lower Forest). Currently, Harim has been damaged while Sangnim has been maintained mostly intact (Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea 2011). It formed along the left bank of Wich’ŏn stream, and is in the form of a straight line stretching from the northwest to the southeast. It is known that Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn (崔致遠, 857–?) created this forest in the United Silla period, when Ch’oe served as the governor-general of Ch’ŏnnyŏng-kun (formerly Hamyang-kun) (Institute for Translation of Korean Classics 1969, 196), in order to protect the farmland and village from flooding, but there is no reliable data to support this. It was designated as a natural monument in 1968 (an area of 182,665 m²).
Kyerim (鷄林) in Kyŏngju is a mythical, historical and religious forest that has been maintained till now as it is the site related to the tale of the birth of Kim Alchi (金閼智), the ancestor of the Kim Dynasty of Silla (Kim Pusik 2009, 54). It is located in Kyo-dong, Kyŏngju-si and was designated as a historical site in 1963 (with an area of 20,023 m²). Generally it is perceived to have been “formed,” (Hwang Junghwan 1999, 443–464; Jang Dongsoo, Kim Hakbeom and Hwang Junghwan 1996, 37–49; Tokumitsu 2007, 52–60) but there is no literature that provides “the proof of the formation.”
We carried out phytosociological investigations of these relic forests and ascertained the environmental conditions of each habitat and described their ecological information. To understand the tree species performance of each relic forest, Braun-Blanquet’s transformation of cover-abundance value was used; namely, 9: over 76%, 8: 51–75%, 7: 26–50%, 6: 12.5–25%, 5: 5–12.5%, 4: less than 5%, 3: less than 5% with few individuals size, 2: with three or four individuals, 1:one or two individuals. Tree species diversity is described by the population size of each species and the relative proportion of each was estimated based on Mansongjŏng, Andong. For related information obtained through a survey of historical records, an eco-sociological reinterpretation of the origins of the forests was also carried out.
The origins of the five relic forests studied are defined as naturally developing ones from the diversity of tree species that form each forest (Table 2). This is because the occurring tree species have the same ecological characteristics as the key species of potential natural vegetation (later PNV) in the cool-temperate southern/submontane zone and warm-temperate zone of the Korean peninsula corresponding to the site conditions of their relevant habitats. First, the major tree species of the relic forests are native species growing in response to the climatic and edaphic environments of the site conditions of the habitats, which are not alien species (introduced species or foreign species). In other words, except for
Sophora japonicaand Quercus acutissima, they are not populations planted by humans. Quercus aliena, Carpinus tschonoskii, Cornus walteriand Hemiptelea davidii, etc. are not tree species widely used in the field of landscape architecture even now.
Second, key species such as
Quercus aliena, Quercus serrata, Carpinus tschonoskii, Zelkova serrata, Cornus walteri, Hemiptelea davidii, Ulmus parvifolia, Celtis sinensis, Pinus densifloraand Salix chaenomeloides, etc. that characterize the relic forests, are representative species through which late-successional species or pseudo-climax vegetation are diagnosed. In other words, the ecological properties of these species are not those pertaining to plant communities which are artificially maintained but to those maintained through ecological processes (See conclusions and discussions). Among them, Pinus densifloraand Salix chaenomeloidesare species that form very homogeneous forests, which are uniformly reproduced with a perpetual plant community at the alluvial cone area of the fan section of rivers and at the silt estuaries of the meandering sections of rivers, respectively (Kim Jongwon 2005, 113–120; Kim Jongwon et al. 2010, 237–297). Andong’s Mansongjŏng is a model of a perpetual plant community of Pinus densiflora, while Sŏngju’s Sŏngbaksup is a model of a perpetual plant community of Salix chaenomeloides.
Third, it is not difficult to distinguish a natural topography from an artificial one. This is because, in general, artificial plantation accompanies the arrangement of the topography and the ground for the plantation, and as a consequence such artificial traces can be found in the shape of the habitats. If the topography is natural, the topography and ground are wild, developing through natural erosion or sedimentation mechanisms. In the relic forests in this study, the physical shape of the habitats, that is, the structures of their topography and microtopography have developed from their original shapes, which originated from natural mechanisms. This is also proved by the fact that the key tree species that constitute the forest canopies are the constituents of the potential natural vegetation corresponding to such original topography.
Andong’s Mansongjŏng (萬松亭) is commonly thought to be an artificial forest that originated from the ten thousand
Pinus densifloraplanted by the Confucian scholar Ryu Unyong (1530–1601), but this assertion has not been established both phytosociologically and ecologically. The Naktong River winding around Hahoe Village has developed a wide sandy beach on both its banks, and Mansongjŏng is located on their slip-off slope. The slip-off slopes at the mid-to-upper streams of rivers and valleys in Korea are mainly composed of sand and gravel stratum which have been deposited to form a gentle slope. The inside is relatively stable but continues to fluctuate dynamically and is affected greatly by the river at times of high water during typhoons once or twice a year or during the rainy season. Because of this, the slip-off slope maintains a kind of perpetual plant community of pioneer vegetation which coincides with the creation and extinction of forests. ‘ Pinus densiflora–dominant forests,’ as perpetual plant communities, are the most typical natural landscapes in Korea (Kim Jongwon 2006, 9–18). Landscape paintings created with these Pinus densifloraforests as their background are a symbol of traditional Korean culture (Kim Yeolgyu 2006, 397–400). Mansongjŏng is one of these Pinus densifloraforests that have formed naturally as pioneer vegetation of a slip-off slope composed of sand and gravel stratum (Figure 1).
Thus, Mansongjŏng is not an artificial forest but a forest that has natural origins. The formation and development of Hahoe Village were possible due to the fact that such pine forests as Mansongjŏng preexisted. Mansongjŏng had its essential significance and value as a
piboforest that screens Hahoe Village from the seasonal northwest wind and shields it from the evil spirit of Puyongdae that overlooks the village, a function that is still valid today. The first phrase, “Mansongjŭngsusik (萬松曾手植)” of the poem “Yŏngsongjŏng (詠松亭)” in Vol. 1 of Kyŏmamjip(謙菴集) written by the Confucian scholar Ryu Unyong (1743) demonstrates the fact that the local people had long recognized the effects of Mansongjŏng forest on the village. This shows the Confucian values practiced by Ryu Unyong, whereby forests and humans coexist.
However, later scholars interpreted this phrase as meaning “I planted ten thousand
Pinus densifloramyself,” and Mansongjŏng was perceived as being an artificial forest based on a literal interpretation of the passage. As a consequence the forest has been managed as an artificial one. Because the ecological properties of its natural origins have been ignored, Mansongjŏng pine forest has greatly declined both quantitatively and qualitatively.
If Mansongjŏng forest is considered pioneer vegetation, the passage should be understood as meaning “I managed and grew countless
Pinus densifloramyself.” In other words, the sustainability of Mansongjŏng can be achieved by an ecological understanding and Confucian reconsideration of it as being pioneer vegetation rather than an artificial plantation.
There are no historical records for the origin of the name of Sŏngju’s Sŏngbaksup except for the statement, “There had been Sŏgyosu (西郊藪), Ch’ŏnsu (泉藪) and Yulsu (栗藪) but they no longer exist” in
Kyŏngsanji(京山誌) in 1677 and Sŏngsanji(星山誌) in 1832. In general, Sŏgyosu is recognized as being the same as Sŏngbaksup (Sŏngju Culture Center 2010, 27; Yea Myunghai, Lee Jaehwan and Kim Sooyeon 2006, 165–172), and as the phrase, “ ch’oninsingnimji(村人植林地) (Sŏngju Culture Center 2010, 27)” in Sŏngsanjiis accepted as meaning “an area where the villagers planted trees,” Sŏngbaksup is also considered to be a forest with an artificial origin. From the statement in Sŏngsanjithat Sŏgyosu is located near the rivers outside the west gate of the village, it is assumed to have existed along the bank blocks of Ich’ŏn stream, and the bank sides are areas where in phytosociology, a variety of Salixspecies can spread. The broad-leaved forest areas shown even on a topographic map with a scale of 1:50,000 in 1918 are habitats in which typical Salix chaenomeloides-dominant perpetual communities occurring on a slip-off slope floodplain can develop (Kim Jongwon et al. 2010, 237–297), and even now, that community still survives. The argument that people artificially created Sŏngbaksup, based only on the record that there was no Sŏgyosu in Kyŏngsanjiin 1677 and later the statement, “ ch’oninsingnimji” in Sŏngsanjiin 1832 does not stand up for the following two reasons. First, until today it has never been reported that the species Salix chaenomeloideshas been planted to create an artificial forest. Second, Salix chaenomeloideshas an eco-genetic property that shows a model of uniform forest (一齊林) sprouted again uniformly from a certain ecological event (flooding and felling, etc.). Thus, Sŏngbaksup due to the fact that it comprises Salix chaenomeloides, of which the DBH and height are uniform, should be considered a natural forest sensu strictoformed by natural factors. In general, from a preliminary study that Salix chaenomeloidesgrows by the volume (DBH) of 2 cm a year (Lee Changwoo 2009, 6–7), it is known that the current populations of Salix chaenomeloidesin Sŏngbaksup are less than 300 years old. Through historical records, it is assumed that the forest was formed between 1677 and 1832, which supports the above fact.
In conclusion, Sŏgyosu in
Kyŏngsanjiand Sŏngsanjiis now known as Sŏngbaksup, a natural forest occurring on a fine sand floodplain of a river and a typical summergreen, broad-leaved, softwood forest dominated by Salix chaenomeloides(Figure 2). This willow forest Sŏngbaksup is a huge natural structure that serves as a typical, traditional, rural forest that can block flooding and the northwest wind due to its location and size. It seems that it has been preserved thanks to the oral tradition of it being a yŏpsŭngin relation to Tanggŏn Rock and Chokturi Rock as well as due to its functions as a “forest outside a castle( sŏngbaksup).” The date of genesis and source of the view of Sŏngbaksup as a yŏpsŭngare unknown. But it is assumed that this view arose from a fiction created by a sage with the Confucian intention of ensuring the preservation of Sŏngbaksup at a certain time.
However, Sŏngbaksup has been greatly damaged since the 1950s as a result of urbanization and industrialization processes and has, therefore, been managed since it was designated as a natural monument—the strictest legal device to preserve natural heritage—in 1999. Nevertheless, since people have not recognized the ecological and biological processes of this natural willow forest developing on a floodplain, it has been ruined and has gradually reduced in size. Sŏngbaksup is a relic forest that demonstrates the Confucian authenticity of the ancient town of Sŏngju and the integrity of the
Salix chaenomeloides-dominant ecosystem, which has great value as a natural heritage.
Karosup is situated on a terrace by Sach’on stream, Ŭisŏng-kun. It is a huge forest with an existing size of 40 m in width and 600 m in length, and is, therefore, the largest among the relic forests studied in this article. The actual vegetation of Karosup is phytosociologically classified as a deciduous broad-leaved mixed forest of a
Zelkova serrata-Quercus alienacommunity, and its diagnostic species are Quercus aliena, Zelkova serrata, Cornus walteri, Hemiptelea davidiiand Celtis sinensis, etc. These species are all major components of the PNV which appears from the integration of its natural environmental conditions at the fan area of a mountainous stream. These PNV species are ones that are spontaneously regenerated and perpetually maintained unless the habitat condition of the Sach’on-ri Karosup is transformed. As the base can be found in population research on plant groups (Lehvävirta and Rita 2002, 57–66) that will maintain the future forest, the above assertion is proven by the fact that the young populations of these species in the shrub layer in the forest are reproduced abundantly. This, ultimately, means that Karosup is a phytocoenosen that has developed naturally and spontaneously from ancient times without the help of humans.
Generally, the creation of Sŏrim (西林, West Forest) by Kim Chach’ŏm (1369–1454), known as the ancestor of Sach’on-ri village, is accepted as being the origin of Karosup (Kim Taehong 2006). However, there is no original literature proving this; it is simply assumed that a story handed down orally was eventually written down. The current Karosup is located to the west of Sach’on-ri village running north and south, from which it is known that Sŏrim, meaning “west forest” of the village, is also a
karosup. Until now, ‘ karo’ in the Korean name ‘ karosup’ has been interpreted as coming from the Chinese term ‘ karo(街路)’meaning ‘roadside’, but it has been recently discovered that it actually comes from the native Korean word karomeaning ‘width’ as opposed seromeaning ‘length.’ The Karosup’s location cutting across the alluvial plain from north to south supports the meaning that it is a windbreak and also a yŏpsŭngthat sustains the peace of the village community situated behind it (Figure 3).
Some scholars believe that Karosup was artificially created for religious reasons (Jang Dongsoo and Kim Hakbeom 1993, 19–31). However, Karosup was evaluated as a natural forest from a phytosociological analysis of the PNV. The fact that the representative species such as
Quercus aliena, Cornus walteriand Hemiptelea davidiihave not been used for landscape plantation until now also supports this view. Thus, Sach’on-ri Karosup is a relic forest with a natural origin rather than an artificial one.
Also, the argument that it is a religious artificial forest is not a persuasive one due to the relationship between the formation of the village and the origin of the forest. In ancient times, in mountainous inland regions, the development of indigenous villages was inevitably dependent on the local natural surroundings and environmental conditions. In other words, a scenario whereby a village was formed first, and then a forest was created to protect the village is virtually impossible in a traditional agricultural society considering the people’s mode of living that was necessarily dependent on natural mechanisms. Instead, the village site would be chosen on the basis of human wisdom taking into account the environmental conditions in which a village might be built. In this context, Karosup was a natural structure that made a crucial contribution to the formation and sustainability of Sach’on-ri village. In fact, studies of the effects of the forest on the reduction of wind speed and water evaporation rate (Lee Dowon, Koh Insu and Park Chanryul 2007, 47–100) sufficiently support the assertion that Karosup existed as a natural structure even before there was the village. Therefore, the religious element behind Karosup is judged to have been caused by the hidden intention of a local scholar or the community to prevent the forest from damage at a certain point in time. Karosup is a relic forest that functions as a windbreak against the prevailing northwest wind, a
piboblocking evil spirits from the west and a means of buffering the flooding of Sach’on stream.
Karosup was a forest with a natural origin, therefore, and the village community clearly perceived this, but the fact that it was one that was also managed is shown in the diversity of the species in Karosup. Evidence of this is the large, old oaks (
Quercus acutissima), a famine relief plant resource (Choe Chaha 1417)—used as a means of substantial practice of the Confucian spirit of love for the people—which are found with a high frequency in Karosup. Quercus acutissimais an oak species representing the supchŏngi(traditional forests created on a hill at the back of rural villages which function like agricultural fields). For example, the titles solbat(pine fields), tot’oribat(acorn fields) and chukpat(bamboo fields) are all indicative of this function. Quercus acutissimais characterized by relatively quick growth and a short life-span but is not a successional species of secondary vegetation but an element of substitute vegetation. In other words, the giant and old trees, Quercus acutissimaobserved in Karosup have only survived with human help. Thus, Quercus acutissimaoccurring in Hamyang Sangnim Forest and Ŭisŏng Karosup is a phytosociological foreign species among the other species in the target relic forests, which proves that Karosup is a relic forest originating from nature that was subsequently managed by the village community.
Despite this intentional management of Karosup, its plant diversity is very high. In general, it is different from afforested vegetation or park landscaped forests which are managed using uniform and simple plant species (Bae Byungho, Yoon Yonghan, and Kim Jeongho 1998, 701–710). The diversity Karosup’s plant species is about fifty-four times that of Mansongjŏng—the highest diversity among the target relic forests of this study. Also, the ratio of the PNV’s components indicative of the typicality of the habitat condition among the entire plant species was 78.4%—also the highest ratio. This means that Karosup is essentially different from artificial afforestation or park-forest and that it has long been managed in a way that demonstrates that the local community was in harmony with the forest’s ecological properties and vitality.
Since the onset of the urban industrial era in the twentieth century, however, the original form of Karosup has been distorted by a variety of management methods that have inevitably caused its qualitative decline. A typical example is the introduction of the invasive alien species
Robinia pseudoacacciaand the following severe spread of its population after the Japanese colonial era (Ishidoya and Chŏng Taehyŏn 1923, 72; Lee Deokbong 1963, 339–364). Although it has been designated and managed as a national natural monument since 1999, the decline of the vegetation has never improved, causing the forest to lose its original form. Karosup has great academic value, however, as it has the greatest diversity of plant species among Korea’s relic forests and an evidential vegetation of PNV.
Sangnim (上林) is located in the warm-temperate evergreen broad-leaved forest zone in the southern part of the Korean peninsula and has the greatest surviving area among the target relic forests in this study. According to legend, the forest was created in the Silla Dynasty by Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn (崔致遠, 857–?) when he was the governor-general of Ch’ŏnnyŏng-kun (now Hamyang-kun) (Institute for the Translation of Korean Classics 1969, 196). It is recorded that the forest was planted by the family in 1923, based on a passage in Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn’s
Sint’obi(文昌侯崔先生神道碑), which his descendent Ch’oe Pyŏnggŭk edited in 1861; “ Kŏnhaksaru susingnimmogŏjangje[建學士樓手植林木於長堤] (Tokumitsu 2007, 217).” There are no earlier historical records showing confirmable evidence that Sangnim is an artificially created forest. In other words, there is no reliable material supporting the content of Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn’s Sint’obithat was edited in 1861. Since he was the governor-general of Ch’ŏnnyŏng-kun, however, it cannot be denied that Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn was at one time involved in Sangnim.
But this study reaches the conclusion that Sangnim originated from a natural forest based on a phytosociological analysis of the diversity and nativeness of the arbor species. The phrase “建學士樓手植林木於長堤” could mean that Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn built a long bank somewhere in the Sangnim area, planted some plants there and soon afterwards built Haksaru (學士樓, a pavilion).
Sangnim can be said to be a remnant vegetation of mixed summergreen broad-leaved forests where the typical components of PNV such as
Carpinus tschonoskii, Zelkova serrata, Chionanthus retususand Celtis sinensis, which typically occur in ground comprising coarse sand, gravels and rocks with good drainage at warmtemperate alluvial fans in southern Korea. Especially, Carpinus tschonoskii, the most representative phytosociological diagnostic species of the habitat conditions in which Sangnim has developed is still not known to be used even in today’s landscape gardening. This tells us that the individuals of Carpinus tschonoskiiin Sangnim have originated not from artificial plantation but from a spontaneous natural system.
An ecological proof that could support the above assertion can also be found in the structures of the surface (Figure 4) and underground of the site where Sangnim has developed. On the Korean peninsula, the natural and typical habitat of
Carpinus tschonoskiiis a site with an igneous or metamorphic lithosphere and coarse particle soil originating from these rocks. Thus, since the base topography under the surface consists of huge boulders covered by mixtures of gravels and rocks, it is not an environmental condition in which large plant species including Carpinus tschonoskiican be planted. Also, synchorologically, Carpinus tschonoskiiis a key species of summergreen broad-leaved forest among the kinds of the edaphic climax forests developing in warm-temperate evergreen broad-leaved forest zone horizontally. The conclusion currently drawn from the location, topographical structure, forest size and the diversity of the plant species forming the forest is that Sangnim is definitely not an artificial forest but a natural one.
Confucian scholars Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn (崔致遠), Kim Chong-jik (金宗直) and Pak Chiwŏn (朴趾源) focused on Sangnim as originating from a natural forest
sensu strictoas an important natural structure that has buffered the regional floods and inundation. Regarding the continental precipitation pattern of the Korean peninsula, the people’s suffering from the erratic occurrence of flooding for brief periods of time is described in their historical records. The most typical example can be found in Chŏmp’ilchae chip(佔畢齋集) (Kim Chongjik 1996, 253–254): the following is a passage describing the panic in the rural villages around Sangnim when they were inundated by a disastrous flood in the sixth lunar month, “‘the banks built with stones’ collapse and ‘the tall and huge trees’ are swept away so that they look like mingled sand and bush.” This is connected to Changje(長堤) in Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn’s Sindobithrough which it can be assumed that there were stone banks in Sangnim and they were built to regulate the watercourses. Also, it shows that there was an old-growth forest and that Sangnim was a forest that buffered an exceptionally severe flood.
Therefore, Sangnim was not a space of consumptive amusement or event celebration. It can be assumed that no artificial structure, whether pavilion or tower, was installed in Sangnim for almost one thousand years from the days of Ch’oe Ch’i-wŏn, the governor-general of Hamyang, Chŏmp’ilchae Kim Chongjik and Yeonam Pak Chiwŏn through the latter era of the Chosŏn Dynasty to the twentieth century. Currently all artificial structures including Hamhwaru (咸化樓), Saŭnjŏng (思雲亭), and Ch’osŏnjŏng (樵仙亭), which are the elements that deaden the originality of Sangnim, were built after the 1900s (Figure 5).
Thus, Sangnim is a natural structure, that is, a natural heritage forest, and at the same time, a cultural heritage related to the practice of Confucian values. In such a context, Sangnim Forest is evaluated as one of the world’s rare and precious “natural-cultural heritage forests.”
Kyerim (鷄林) is a mythical relic forest associated with the birth legend of Kim Alchi, the founding ancestor of the Kyerim (Silla) nation. Kyerim, a summergreen broad-leaved forest consisting of various broad-leaved plant species and Najŏng, an evergreen needle-leaved forest consisting of
Pinus densifloraonly, show their ecological, socio-political responsiveness to the forest origin, respectively (Kim Jongwon et al. 2011, 167–214). Kyerim is generally considered to have originated from “afforestation,” (Hwang Junghwan 1999, 443–464; Jang Dongsoo, Kim Hakbeom and Hwang Junghwan 1996, 37–49; Tokumitsu 2007, 217) but there is no literature or scientific grounds that confirm this.
The fragment of
Salix chaenomeloidescommunities have spread around the waterway naturally flowing down in the Kyerim area that has site conditions similar to alluvial lowland, and on the plain of an alluvial highland and protruding land, a Celtis sinensis-Zelkova serratacommunity, including the diagnostic species of Ulmus parvifolia, is widespread. Thus, this means that Kyerim originated from natural vegetation consisting largely of two forest types of a Salix chaenomeloidescommunity and a Celtis sinensis-Zelkova serratacommunity.
Among the major species comprising the actual forest of Kyerim, the PNV of the alluvial plain and lowland that ultimately forms in the environmental conditions of Kyerim is the cold-temperate southern/submontane forest or the warm-temperate summergreen broad-leaved forest consisting of
Salix chaenomeloides, other Salixspecies, Celtis sinensis, Zelkova serrataand Ulmus parvifolia, etc. Thus, the existing woods in Kyerim comprise a relic forest that is a historical forest associated with the birth legend of the founding ruler Kim Alchi and a remnant forest of the PNV.
Plant species, except the elements of the PNV, are a heterogeneous species group that belongs to the ecological categories of introduced and foreign species to the habitats of Kyerim Forest. Especially,
Sophora japonicaand Ginkgo bilobaare Chinese plant species that are classified into Apophyten. The year of introduction to Korea is assumed to be around the unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla when Tang Chinese institutions were actively introduced. The period of plantation of Sophora japonicais assumed to be around the 1430s–1630s after the founding of the Confucian Chosŏn Dynasty (Kim Jongwon et al. 2011, 167–214). Sophora japonicain Chosŏn no moriyabu(Tokumitsu 2007, 52–60), and the trees are still located on the left (east) and right (west) of the Kyerim monument house (1803) respectively, which is judged to be an intentional spatial plantation around the Kyerim monument house.
The Kyerim monument house is micro-topographically located in the highest place in the Kyerim area, and is the key site from which the liveliness and ecological properties of the habitat of Kyerim forest are derived. In this way it is like the area’s navel. At the rear of the Kyerim monument house are cut granite stones that resemble the Chinese character
chŏng(井), meaning a well, which confirms the existence of a spring that symbolizes the origin of life. Later, the Silla people would hold rituals commemorating the birth of Kim Alchi there. The site environment, in which a spring wells up from the alluvial plain with everlasting water, is an environmental condition suitable as a habitat for Ulmus parvifolia. The flagship species representing the forest, which is the site of the birth of the founding ruler of Silla, is Ulmus parvifolia. This elm species, as solid as a rock neither bending nor flinching, is a quick-growing tree when young, but once grown is awesome in appearance and persistently survives a long time once rooted. Ulmus parvifoliais one of the plant species indicative of the natural wishes (birth-giving, life-giving and fertility-giving) of the ancient human society in the southeastern part of the Korean peninsula.
Currently, however, the
Ulmus parvifoliaof Kyerim has been severely damaged, so only two individual trees survive pressed down by the wall enclosing the Kyerim monument house (Figure 6). Zelkova serrataand Celtis sinensisfill the space instead. Since, like most elm species, Ulmus parvifoliahas been considered to be a useful plant resource from ancient times, it has been recklessly cut down over a long period of time, and instead Zelkova serrataand Celtis sinensishave been preserved or planted on purpose to form the current forest structure of Kyerim.
The matrix of Kyerim is widely occupied by a
Zelkova serrata-Celtis sinensiscommunity, and the waterway in which the Salix chaenomeloidescommunity has developed is a corridor in which Yongch’ŏn stream, originating between Anapchi and Hwangyongsaji, flows from left (east) to right (west) and south to Namch’ŏn stream. The Kyerim monument has settled down at the core site like a hole (穴處) in fengshui. Consequently, the space is structured as follows: the Kyerim monument house has settled in the remains of the well, Sophora japonicais arranged on the left and right (east and west) in the front yard around the monument combining with Ulmus parvifoliaand Zelkova serrata-Celtis sinensiscommunity surrounds the outside, and a Salix chaenomeloidescommunity has developed in a depression where water flows like a natural moat (Figure 7).
Kyerim has been preserved as a protected forest in a historical site (Cultural Heritage Administration designated an area of 23,023 m² in 1963). However, the site management has included serious anti-ecological and anti-historical elements. As there was no chance for
Ulmus parvifoliato reproduce itself due to excessive interference on the forest floor, major species ( Alangium platanifoliumvar. trilobum, Evodia danielliiand Euonymus bungeanus) of the PNV have all been removed. The forest of Kyerim does not have a multilayered structure but a single layered one that includes the introduction of foreign or introduced species ( Lagerstroemia indica, Cornus officinalis, Ginkgo bilobaand Sophora japonica, etc.) and off-site species ( Acer palmatum, Forsythia koreana, Chionanthus retusus, Buxus microphyllavar. koreanaand Juniperus chinensis). Accordingly, it is no longer a natural forest but an amusementpark-like landscape. Furthermore, the hardening of the ground by excessive treading and the introduction of exogenic soil have changed the microtopography and as a result have fundamentally damaged the original habitat.
In conclusion, it is recognized that the identity and ecological properties of Kyerim have been thoroughly damaged due to the perception of its origin as an artificially created forest and due to excessive management caused by its objectification as a cultural heritage site. This has occurred in tandem with the decline of human- and nature-friendly Confucian values caused by Korea’s rapid entrance into the industrial era along with the downfall of the Confucian state, Chosŏn.
The driving force behind surviving relic forests originates in Confucianism, the ideological base of the modern times (historical period closest to contemporary times–Chosŏn Dynasty), and these forests have been preserved by the prophetic wisdom of the classical scholars of Confucianism. Furthermore, most relic forests remain in Yŏngnam province where Confucianism is rooted most deeply and widely.
In Confucianism, great importance is attached to customs related to community morals, which have been led by the virtuous example of Confucian scholars who have always advocated benevolent rule. Thus, scholars became the masters of community rituals and Confucian saints. As such they were the ones who best embodied the community, in other words, they were ideal men and sages (Choi Jaemok 2004, 52–67; Kaji 1999, 70–103). In this sense, the Confucian values of T’oegye (退溪) Yi Hwang (李滉, 1501–1570) or Nammyŏng (南冥) Cho Sik (曺植, 1501–1572) are connected to eco-sociology that pursues the completeness and happiness of nature, including humans, by exploring the ultimate principles of vitality and the ecological properties of nature. Here, nature would mean “good mountains and rivers,” “good forests” and “good plants” with ecological completeness. The relationship between Confucian scholars and nature may be found in the name
sallim(山林: mountains and forests), which was also used to refer to Confucian scholars in the Chosŏn period.
In the phrase “
Nagŏsallimja(樂於山林者)” in T’oegye’s Tosan chabyŏng(陶山雜詠) in Tosan’gi(陶山記) (1573), the term sallimwould not be limited to the meaning of ‘forests in mountains,’ but rather, any unmanaged, natural and less artificial forests, that is, natural vegetation rather than artificial vegetation and naturally existing wild forests. Forests of more complete natural vegetation may develop near living environments and may be traditional rural forests that have been managed without any intention recently.
To Confucian scholars, these forests were places for seclusion and pursuit of study, and the more complete forests they were, the better they were as spaces for their self-cultivation in which they practiced and confirmed the contents of the scriptures of their sages (Choi Jaemok 2004, 52–67). Thus, probably in the same vein, Nammyŏng wished that he could be a scholar in the mountains and woods without taking up public office himself (Kim Chungyull 2008, 89–94/486–488). Here,
sallimis the very forests and nature itself. T’oegye said in “ Man’gosangch’ŏng(萬古常靑)” in Tosan sibigok(陶山十二曲), that since nature is a scripture by which one gropes for the truth and living truth, one has to treat nature with respect just as one does the scriptures and saints. Forests are a part of the natural world. Moreover, if they were forests of potential natural vegetation generated from the integration of all the conditions of the place, as natural forests or nearly natural forests which were undamaged and remained close to their natural state, that is, having complete mutual relations, they would have been a space of precious opportunities in which one could “come face to face with the sages.”
All the five target relic forests in this study are places where Confucian ideology and philosophy have long been practiced, and the Confucian customs remaining until the beginning of the twentieth century contributed to the survival of the relic forests. As consequential evidence, in the five relic forests of the study, there were no facilities that could prove that they functioned as spaces of play and amusement, such as pavilions or towers. This shows that relic forests protected peace (life and property) as concrete practices of love for the people, and furthermore, were perceived as “good forests” that enabled people to come face to face with the sages, showing a long tradition based on Confucian values. But the traditional culture of these relic forests was definitely spoiled during the Japanese colonial era, and ultimately, they hardly survive due to the process of industrialization and urbanization today.
The origin of the relic forests culture can be found in that the survival of village communities definitely depended on them. The relic forests that maintain the life, property and peace of the clan communities or village communities do not originate from artificially formed forests (Kim Hakbeom and Jang Dongsoo 1994, 30–33). In other words, a relic forest culture appeared due to a series of processes. There was initially a forest originating from a natural forest. A place where humans could settle was provided thanks to the existence of the forest, so a village was formed, and the village community came to manage the forest with an awareness of its functionalities. Thus, in the results of this research, the origin of relic forest culture has been proven to be related to the type of the source of the relic forest. The target relic forests of this study are classified into five types of cultural relic forests, namely,
piboforests, yŏpsŭngforests, windbreak forests, poŏnforests and religious forests (See Table 1). Among them, piboforests and yŏpsŭngforests can be said to be the most typical Korean relic forests.
piboforest is one that obscures parts of the open view from a traditional Korean geomantic view of location and surrounds the space to enhance its good qi(氣). In addition, a yŏpsŭngforest is one that improves qiby blocking evil spirits from encroaching (Park Jaechul 2006, 223–262). A windbreak forest is one that serves to block and buffer the prevailing wind, while a bank-protection forest is one that prevents flood damage.
These various cultural types of relic forests are categorized according to two functionalities: 1) the issue of biological survival by responding to natural disasters; and 2) that of social survival centering on absolute power. Nach’ŏng called the first
ŭpsuin Silla (Jang Dongsoo, Kim Hakbeom and Hwang Junghwan 1996, 37–49) is a typical example of the latter. Among the target relic forests in this study, Kyerim alone falls under the category of social survival while all the rest are related to biological survival. Nevertheless, both socially and biologically, the cultural origin of the relic forests results in one essential premise; namely, the struggle for the sustainability of human communities. In the long historical process, a community with an ideal form of survival transcending interests is called a ‘ Gemeinschaft’ while one that exists and operates with an ego-centric, calculating relationship of mutual interests is called a ‘ Gesellschaft(Tönnies 2001, 17–19). ’ In this sense, in Braun-Blanquet’s phytosociology (Braun-Blanquet 1965, 5–25), a plant community or a relic forest is not a ‘ Pflanzengesellschaft’ but a ‘ Pflanzengemeinschaft(Braun-Blanquet 1965, 5–25).’ However, relic forests and traditional villages are ecotopes that are maintained by mutual interests, which are characterized by the elements of Korea’s traditional cultural landscape, which is rare in the entire world. Here, the term ecotope refers to the middle unit between ecosystem and ecoregion, meaning the integration of the natural ecosystem of the relic forests and the artificial one of the traditional villages.
Korea’s relic forests’ traditional village ecotope is, in fact, completely transitioning from the ‘Gemeinschaft’ of the ancient prehistoric era to the ‘Gesellschaft’ of the urban industrial era (Lee Younghee and Lim Hunyeong 2010, 522–523).
The disorder of species composition within the original phytocoenosen in each relic forest is not caused naturally but by humans. Although the species composition in relic forests surely derives from the properties of the integration of the relevant habitat conditions, they have been managed from a human perspective that has regarded their formation as being artificial. Foreign and exotic plant species, which never suited the ecological properties of the relic forests, have been introduced and continue to be introduced until now. Management even more violent than this has resulted in the removal of the forest itself, excluding the ecological and historical properties of the relic forests. Seven out of the eleven relic forests around the Kyŏngju area have disappeared altogether, and these are examples of the disappearance of forests due to the straightening of the river (Hwang Sookyoung 2011, 9–11).
There is a passage in
Samguksagi( The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms) that shows Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn’s taste for the arts and recounts that mountains, temples and pyŏlsŏ(artistic spaces) (Lee Jaekeun 1996, 213–233) were his favorite places. The term pyŏlsŏrefers to a quiet house built separately near farmland, which might be similar to a vacation home but different in that people cultivated themselves there (The National Institute of the Korean Language 2011). Ch’oe’s pyŏlsŏwas an aesthetic space where he explored a beautiful natural ecosystem or scenery. Thus, it is a concept fundamentally different from a Korean garden in a yard or a Western garden in which the vegetation is artificially planted, so it is appropriate to regard “ pyŏlsŏas another type of a pavilion or tower that accepts nature intact.” Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn, who was involved in management of forests, rivers and beaches, and pavilions or towers, planting Pinus densifloraand bamboo trees, is said to have taken books as his pillow while appreciating nature (Kim Pusik 2009, 433/439). This has been generally accepted as a sign of realistic agonies and frustrations: (Lee Eunsun 1996, 214–215) a consumptive wandering, blaming the world, eating, drinking and playing around. However, it was both an intellectual tour defined as ecotourism and productive tourism, and most of all, responsible tourism respecting the local characteristics, natural ecosystem and natural scenery. People were greatly consoled and inspired by the respect for life of the wild natural ecosystem. For example, Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn did not take Hamyang Sangnim Forest as a space for amusement where he could build a pavilion, outlook tower or artistic space such as a pyŏlsŏ. We would recognize that people in the past perceived the strictly distinguished functions of relic forests according to their type. Also, there are no facilities such as pavilions, outlook towers or pyŏlsŏinside Andong’s Mansongjŏng, Sŏngju’s Sŏngbaksup, Ŭisŏng’s Karosup, or Kyŏngju’s Kyerim. Therefore, the culture of relic forests such as the piboforest, yŏpsŭngforest, windbreak forest, poŏnforest and religious forest are different from public spaces such as amusement parks that can be created artificially.
Relic forest culture being misunderstood as a
landscapedspace for amusement is connected to the disordered Confucian values of the late Chosŏn Dynasty and the decline of community consciousness in modern and contemporary times. As a result of the weakening of the virtues of classical Confucian scholars, anti-Confucian outcomes occurred which distorted the Confucian moral base of small communities and villages. Additionally, due to a market-based economy that underestimated or overlooked the value of the ecosystem services of the relic forests and quantified them according to their monetary value, the relic forests that have been handed down from ancient times have finally begun to disappear.
The value of the ecosystem services of relic forests are summarized as follows: (1) they are important places for feeding wildlife, providing spaces for breeding and resting shelters, for securing biological diversity and gene banks, and contributing to the ecosystem’s productivity through complete mutual relations; (2) they are important for air purification and material decomposition; (3) they act as buffers against natural disasters and are useful for monitoring environmental change; (4) they are spaces for buffering the local climate and fixing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide; (5) they preserve aspects of the symbolism, originality and historicity of the traditional geography and culture such as
fengshuiand yŏpsŭng; (6) they provide opportunities for ecological education and ecological tours; and (7) they provide us with resources and stages for aesthetic and cultural activities concerned with biophilia originating from human nature.
Relic forests are a key ecosystem preserving local environmental conditions and highly valuable forests in terms of conservation biology and humanities. Therefore, relic forests are a model that will allow humans and nature to live a sustainable life in cities if they are recreated through ecological preservation and restoration.
[Figure 4.] The natural condition of the micro-topography on the Sangnim forest floor. The dominant species of the forest canopy is Carpinus tschonoskii, which is a major element of the potential natural vegetation of the Sangnim area (May 20, 2011).
[Figure 6.] Two elm trees barely surviving by the wall of the Kyerim monument house (left photo, September 5, 2008), and king willows (Salix chaenomeloides) occurring on low-lying ground in the Kyerim area (right photo, July 16, 2010).
1Editor’s note: In this section of the references the preferred romanization of the authors’ names and the original English translations of the titles of their articles have been used at the request of the authors of this article.
[Table 1] Relic Forest Types and Examples
[Table 2] Habitats of Relic Forests and Major Tree Species Performances in the Forest Canopy
[Figure 1.] Mansongj？ng, a red pine (Pinus densiflora) forest spontaneously occurring at a sandbar of the slip-off slope in a river channel (May 4, 2011).
[Figure 2.] S？ngbaksup, a relic forest characterized by king willow (Salix chaenomeloides) sprouting naturally at a slip-off slope floodplain of Ich’？n stream (August 1, 2006).
[Figure 3.] Karosup, cutting across a broad plain north to south along the western part of Sach’onri village (September 16, 2006).
[Figure 4.] The natural condition of the micro-topography on the Sangnim forest floor. The dominant species of the forest canopy is Carpinus tschonoskii, which is a major element of the potential natural vegetation of the Sangnim area (May 20, 2011).
[Figure 5.] Sangnim, a relic forest threatened by introduction of various facilities and exotic species (April 5, 2008).
[Figure 6.] Two elm trees barely surviving by the wall of the Kyerim monument house (left photo, September 5, 2008), and king willows (Salix chaenomeloides) occurring on low-lying ground in the Kyerim area (right photo, July 16, 2010).
[Figure 7.] A map of the potential natural vegetation of Kyerim. The location of Kyerim monument combining with Ulmus parvifolia shows the ecological properties and identity of Kyerim.