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One of Virginia's great cultural attractions is found among the rolling hills of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. The Korean Bell Garden, installed in May of 2011, serves as a cultural landmark for Korean Americans and is the only one of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere. It is also the only public Korean Bell Pavilion on the entire East Coast. According to an old saying in Korea, "A bell implants a righteous spirit and gives a rise to a hope and a cherished desire in a person, alarms people against a disaster and gathers people for a united action, in order to bring prosperity, happiness, friendship, freedom and peace for the people." Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is open year-round but operating hours change with the season. Visit their website for a complete list of operating hours and entrance fees.
1. One-of-a-Kind Cultural Icon
Meadowlark's concept for its bell garden is unique because it places one of those traditional bell pavilions in a garden that is overflowing with associated cultural icons. The bell in place, weighing in at three tons, was hand-crafted by Korean artisans and created by Kwangsik Won (considered a National Treasure by the South Korean government). It is globally unique in its design of combining images of nature (plants, animals, birds) from both Korea and Virginia. Please plan a trip to the garden to see the expert craftsmanship of the pavilion, the simplicity of the landscape and the breathtaking view of the rest of the gardens.
2. Celebrating Nature
Traditional Korean gardens are influenced by several different themes, including yin-yang, the Five Elements, feng shui, and other meditative mediums. These beliefs have taught Koreans as a culture to revere nature and celebrate its effects on the human condition. The bell pavilions have been built for hundreds of years as focal points for gatherings that celebrate the natural world, friendship, and community. The Korean Bell Garden fits perfectly within the surrounding beauty, conservation, education and discovery which flourish throughout the year at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, a 95 acre complex of large ornamental display gardens and unique native plant collections.
3. A Grand Pavilion
Of the typical Korean traditional architectures that have been utilized for thousands of years, some of the most beautiful and biggest are the historical Korean traditional pavilions. The Korean traditional pavilions (including the one at Meadowlark) 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 pavilion is handcrafted by hwangto, or ocher, a type of clay made of yellow mud.
4. Totem Poles
Usually presented as a pair (Meadowlark has four) "jangseung", or Korean traditional totem poles, were erected to protect Korean villages again evil spirits, fire or other disasters and to be worshipped as village guardian deities. Though the origin of jangseung is not clear, they might go back to the presistoric age when people resided near trees or rocks. Placed at the edges of villages, the jangseung typically marked the village boundaries and were used as mileposts. It was also not unusual for village womenfolk to pray to janseung for a male child. In addition to the main janseung, commonly other old janseung would be standing around them. That's because old ones were not taken away when the new ones replaced them.
5. Bell of Peace and Harmony
The Bell of Peace and Harmony that resides in the pavilion commemorates the equality, opportunity, and freedom Korean immigrants have found in the United States. It is 2.18 meters high and weighs 3 tons. The ten traditional 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 (the national flower of Korea) and the Dogwood (flower of Virginia). The words "Peace and Harmony" are engraved on the bell, signifying the peace and harmony that exists between all the people in our multicultural community.
6. Korean Symbolism
There are many historical structures in the Korean Bell Garden as well. You'll find symbolic statues called Dol Hareubangs, which are carved from volcanic rock and serve as gatekeepers and protectors. A Flower Wall, which depicts the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. On the bell garden's flower wall you find that an apricot represents spring, the orchid represents summer, the chrysanthemum represents autumn, and the pine tree represents winter. Also within the garden you'll find a wall that includes the ten symbols of longevity (sun, mountain, water, cloud, stone, pine tree, white crane, turtle, mushroom of immortality, and deer), and carvings of the Hangul (the Korean alphabet).