Ecosystem and Illustrated Essay │ Winter Lotus, Winter Forest __ Lee Ho-sin

Winter Lotus, Winter Forest
Lee Ho-sin | Korean Folk Artist


Winter Lotus
139cm×69cm, Korean ink drawing on Korean paper


Winter Forest
60cm×94cm, Korean ink drawing on Korean paper

As I arrived at Seongyo-jang (船橋莊) House  in Gangneung city with the sharp blade of winter breeze after driving all the way along the long east coast of the Korean peninsula, I couldn’t find anyone but the empty Hwalrae-jeong (活來亭) guest house welcoming my visit. My eye quickly re-directed my feet towards the lotus pond. As I got closer to the water, the pond’s surface was so frozen that it almost looked like a sheet of music notes filled with frozen lotus stems and leaves on the icy crust. This spectacular scene of thousands of notes on the ice caused me to reflect upon the true beauty of ‘life after death’. The nature scene of those frozen lotus leaves and stems does not appear like other festivals celebrating the buds of life, namely blooming; when summer matures, all things live in lush green forests.  But this time it looks rather like a tranquil requiem around an anonymous winter pond.

Well, I feel strongly enough to believe that the beauty of life does not only exist, not in blooms only, but that it persists after the blooming stops, just like this scene at the lotus pond. In fact, the lotus flower carries a symbolic meaning of ‘infinite purity in any circumstances’ as Buddhist philosophy goes.  Admiring the breathtaking beauty, the abstract symbolism of lotus flowers resonates with me, reminiscent of an important Buddhist practice of humble-mind. At the dawning of the sun, the night dismantles its darkness. Just like that. The winter lotus begins an eternal journey of life after summer by returning to nature to be re-born.

It is a stirring moment viewing the transcendent arena of life and death that orchestrates the infinite cycle in the midst of the tranquil winter pond. It feels like the pond plays its own requiem throughout wintertime, reflecting the indefinite cycles of never-ending lives.  As I discovered this tranquil inner dharma-music, I couldn’t resist, as an artist, opening up my sketchpad to capture this sacred true winter moment.  All of sudden, I understood this silent wheel of dharma as I stared at the complete transformations of nature’s cycle, as if I became part of the lotus plants, expecting to be re-born in another new cycle of life.

And on another winter day, I climbed up Mt. Jirisan. It was breathtaking to see Cheonwang peak, which embraces the whole scene of Jirisan’s thousand summits, on the way to Ungseok peak in the midst of the winter forest. The glittering skylights are spread tightly into all the gaps between in the densely packed forest as quickly as I was climbing through. It feels like all the light is about to melt down all around those tightly grown trees if I ever attempt to touch it. I was walking through the white sunny forest in the snowy winter, devoid of any bird sound. The moment I was in quickly inspired my imagination so that the bright light in the sky suddenly melted its colour into blue liquids for fertilizing the forest’s shiny snow-ground.  As I saw the trees in the forest growing up very high, my imagination also roared up high in the wild bush. The sunshine reflects onto the ground as if it breast-feeds the naked forest from the sky. It reminded me that many trees in wintertime become lifeless and leafless. Yet it also quickly rolls my mind up to re-think that this never-ending life, death, and re-birth cycle exists only by living in the moment permanently. Perhaps that is how I can visualize a resemblance between lifeless winter trees and the afterlife. This clarity and tranquility I found in an anonymous winter forest on this trip could be a path of understanding. I feel it was a clear blood injection for my empty soul. I could leave behind everything that used to cloud my thinking when I lost my directions of life. 

With a fresh mind, I lifted up a brush and began to cleanse time past, to a purity felt when I got lost in the winter forests of yesterday. I dream of new days by forgetting all dark memories and I wish to paint with a new mind of the first snow in forest. 

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