Namsacheon Stream and White Herons __ Lee Ho-sin

Namsacheon Stream and
White Herons
Lee Ho-sin | Artist of Korean Painting


Yongso Rock and a White Heron
(37 x 75 cm, light coloring with ink on hanji)



“I used to wander around the country in search of migratory birds which I had seen in Joseon era paintings. Giant pussy willows blowing in the wind near a river in which
stepping stones were laid. A pair of white herons sitting on willow branches resembled a painting by Kim Hong-do, a celebrated painter of the Joseon era. Walking across a pasture near a river village, I saw a white heron rising into the sky, exuding life. As if to
cut a path through the darkness of ignorance, it flapped its white wings against an azure
sky; a shadow play in white. Shall we go toward the blue mountains, white heron?” (From
my essay titled “Ecology Pictures of the Four Seasons” in the Monthly Mountains)
The “Exhibition of Flowers and Birds Paintings of Late Joseon,” held a few years
ago in Seoul, was visited my many art lovers. Of all the diverse paintings on display,
the ten-panel folding screen featuring white herons, painted by Jeong Seon (1676−1759;
pen name Gyeomjae), drew the most compliments. It features white herons in various poses and was drawn with powdered calcium carbonate on dark blue hanji dyed with
I also went on a trip a while ago. I described it in the chapter titled “In Search of White Heron Nests” in my book The Heart Yearning for the Forest. I joined a
birdwatching class led by Prof. Yun Mu-bu of Khyung Hee University, and we went
on field trips to search for white herons and sketch them. Apparently my karmic affinity with white herons still endures. In Sancheong, where I live, is Namsacheon Stream which curves around Mt. Igusan. The landscape stimulates my imagination and reminds me of a passage from the poem Nostalgia by Jeong Ji-yong. It reads: “Toward the eastern end of a vast field a thin stream meanders, spinning an old story…”
On the river bank in midsummer, fleabane flourishes and white herons leisurely fly along the river. In particular, white herons flying toward Yongso Rock at the river’s bend provides a scene of artistic elegance. And around dusk, the white herons
disappearing into the dark crimson sky over Mt. Igusan exude a feeling of loneliness
and grandeur at the same time.
I walk along the river bank in leisurely solitude as usual and hope the white
herons will visit Namsacheon Stream forever. And in my mind I tell them silently, “White herons, I want to live with you in the blue mountains.”

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