View of observatory Miradouro designed by Alvaro Siza from a distance © Kim Zun

Garden of Thought, Sayuwon
A place of contemplation where the forest and trees coexist with beautiful architecture. We walked and paused to rest and think, and walked again as we greeted the forest.
As the saying goes, “An ugly octopus spoils the fish shop, and a quince the fruit.” Quince is a fruit that is underappreciated on account of its appearance despite its fragrance and effect. In Gunwi, Gyeongbuk Province, quince trees contributed to the birth of an arboretum found nowhere else in the world. It all began when entrepreneur Yu Jae-sung running a steel company bought four old quince trees after hearing the story of how the giant trees were about to be sold to Japan via cargo ship. He continued buying the quince trees that were in a similar fate, and soon he owned well over 100 of them. He then started looking for a place to serve as a home for the trees, and that’s how Sayuwon was founded. The four old quince trees over time grew to form an arboretum spanning 323,082㎡, equivalent of 45 soccer fields.

So Yo Heon seen from the sky ©Kim Jongoh / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Forest Brings Thought and Reflection
Sayuwon. ‘Sayu’ means ‘to contemplate’ and uses the same Chinese characters as the letters in national treasure ‘Pensive Bodhisattva.’ The huge arboretum named ‘a garden of thought’ has 108 quince trees, and many Korean hornbeams, pine trees, crape myrtles, and zelkova trees across the ground, offering a forest, yard, and garden. It’s not just trees and the forest that fills the space. Buildings and landscaping, calligraphy placed in the right spot and philosophy and contemplation, albeit intangible, welcome visitors.
Visitors walk along the trails in the forest as they observe trees, architecture and landscaping that blend with nature, and get to understand why they are placed exactly there and see the whole space. Without anybody nudging you, you get to find yourself thinking deeply like a pilgrim on a religious quest while following the forest trails.

Scenery of zelkova forest Han Yu Si Kyeong © Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

View of outside from Wa Sa © Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Trees, Buildings and Landscaping Meet Forest
The founder of the arboretum wanted to make the place more than just a large, pretty garden. To build the exact space he had in his mind, the businessman recruited the help of architects, landscape experts, and calligraphy artists. Professionals from various fields, including Seung H-Sang, Albaro Siza, Jung Young-sun, and Matsunobu Kawagishi, were commissioned to remake and polish the space.
One of the characteristics of Sayuwon is that buildings, each with a unique name, stand in the middle of forests, but from a layman’s perspective, the buildings are not of great use.
‘O dang(pond of awakening)’, ‘Pyeong jeon(wide field)’, and ‘Nae sim nak won(garden in the mind)’ are empty spaces that are named. They are open to anybody who wishes to sit down for a break or a prayer. They  are not cafes for teas or baked goods. They are definitely not souvenir shops. They quietly stand in various corners of the forest, blend with the trees and the trails, making Sayuwon complete.

Pung Seol Ki Cheon-yeon, a garden of quince trees that have endured wind and frost © Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Quince trees at Pung Seol Ki Cheon-yeon © Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Cheom Dan, the highest observatory in Sayuwon ©Kim Jongoh / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Watch, Walk, and…
It may not sound sensical, but for a more efficient tour of the arboretum, we encourage visitors to select one of the courses recommended by Sayuwon. Viewing time is not unlimited, and it will take well over three hours to see each and every aspect of the arboretum. The recommended courses are three types, so you can choose the one that suits your style.
‘Viewing the Forest’ is a course offering a visit to the observatories. ‘Miradouro’ designed by Alvaro Siza and ‘Geum o yu hyeon dae’ by Seung H-Sang offer spectacular views of surrounding mountains and scenery around Sayuwon.

Myeong Jeong, a place of performance and meditation ©Kim Jongoh / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Byeol Yu Dong Cheon, a home of crape myrtle trees ©Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

‘Walking in the Forest’ is a course focused on the wide range of plants and trees in Sayuwon. Gardens like ‘Pung seol ki cheon-yeon,’ where 108 quince trees are growing and ‘Byeol yu dong cheon,’ a home to crape myrtle trees, provide opportunities to see various tree species found deeper in the forest from a close distant, as well as the sweeping view of Sayuwon.
Lastly, ‘Painting the Forest’ is a course touring the buildings and spaces designed by world-renowned architects and landscape artists. Architecture by Alvaro Siza and Seung H-Sang and landscape architecture by Jung Young-sun are included in the course.
Spaces of Sayuwon

View of Sayuwon seen from Hyeon Am ©Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Hyeon am
Designed by Seung H-Sang, the name means ‘a mysterious and beautiful house.’ The first building to be constructed in Sayuwon, the place boasts a commanding view from the three sides. Through the picture windows, a sublime sunset and seasonally changing landscape offer you serenity. The rooftop deck provides a bird’s eye view of the distant Changpyeong Lake and the entire Sayuwon.

Work of art featured at So Yo Heon © Kim Zun

Artwork by Alvaro Siza hangs over visitors touring So Yo Heon. © Kim Zun

Photograph exhibited at So Yo Heon © Kim Zun

So Yo Heon
Designed by Alvaro Siza, the name is borrowed from the Xiaoyuyu(Happy Wandering) of Zhuang Zhou to mean ‘a house that one can happily wander around in absolute freedom’. Comprising book cafe Insight and the main building, the design was originally intended for Madrid, Spain, but after a continued persuasion by the founder of Sayuwon, the architect agreed to build the structure in Korea. Inside So Yo Heon stands a large sculpture by Alvaro Siza, which is a popular photo spot where visitors spend the longest time.

View of Pung Seol Ki Cheon-Yeon, the starting point and trademark space ©Gang Weewon / Courtesy of Sayuwon

Pung Seol Gi Cheon-Yeon
It is a garden where the original quince trees from which the idea of Sayuwon sprouted are planted. A total of 108 quince trees are scattered across a 6,000-pyeong(19,834㎡) site, while the ponds placed around the trees quietly reflect the shadows of the old trees. There also is a wooden bandstand called ‘Nong wol dae’ in the center garden area, where outdoor performances take place.

Exterior and interior of Nae Sim Nak Won, a chapel designed by Alvaro Siza © Kim zun

Nae sim nak won
Designed by Alvaro Siza, the building serves as a chapel. Its name was inspired by the catholic book titled translated by Francis Kim Igchin, who gave out most of his wealth to his tenant farmers and devoted his life to Catholicism. The place is good for those wanting quick prayers. The morning sun rising above Mount Bohyeonsan at a distance is fascinating when seen through the narrow entrance. The signboard of the structure was written by Chinese calligrapher Wei Liang.
Sayuwon accepts morning and afternoon reservations from visitors in advance. It takes about three hours to tour the entire property. A separate course can be chosen for those who want to have a meal at a restaurant inside Sayuwon.
Recently more visitors are coming from Seoul and other regions in addition to the existing regulars who enjoy hiking and walking in the mountains. Advanced bookings should be made at least three days prior to the planned visit. For a weekday trip, we recommend booking a week early at the latest. Weekend spots are fully booked for the time being, requiring a great deal of patience.

Address 1150 Chisanhyoryeong-ro, Bugye-myeon, Gunwi-gun, Gyeongbuk Province
Inquiry +82-54-383-1278
Hours So Yo(Morning Viewing) 09:00~12:00 / Sa Yu(Afternoon Viewing) 14:00~17:00

Film Courtesy of Sayuwon

Where to Stay near Sayuwon: LOTTE HOTEL ULSAN
LOTTE HOTEL ULSAN is located approximately 110km, or an hour and 20 minutes away by car, from Sayuwon. Situated in Ulsan’s new city center, the hotel has 200 rooms and suites overlooking Taehwagang River crossing the city and the Onsan Industrial Complex, one of the 12 scenic places of the city. The hotel offers various facilities including a fitness center, a swimming pool, and a golf range. Spa EIR, among others, provides a relaxing Scandinavian-inspired premium spa service, perfect for those who want to unwind after a day of hiking.

Address 282 Samsan-ro, Nam-gu, Ulsan
Inquiry +82-52-960-1000
March 2022 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Photographer:Kim zun Cooperation: Sayuwon

Where to stay?

  • March 2022
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
  • Photographer: Kim zun
  • Cooperation: Sayuwon
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