Korean Viewing Stones - Suseok (Suiseki)
by Juneu Kim
(Depicting classical Korean Viewing Stone in comparison with American Viewing Stone and European Suiseki, as part of American and European Viewing Stones art. All natural California Viewing Stones.)
Adding luster to already beautiful American and European Viewing Stones.

Evaluation Criteria of Korean Viewing Stones-Suseok (Suiseki) by Juneu Kim 7/7/11

1. Basic requirements for quality, shape, and color

2. Evaluation of CHI energy (most important)

3. Examinations based on criteria that are used on landscape stone paintings
  a. Skin
  b. High and low
  c. Thick and thin
  d. Protrusions and cave-ins
  e. Light and shade areas

4. Additional considerations for Suseok
  a. Graceful beauty and balance
  b. Geomorphic concepts
  c. Thematic symbolism
  d. Scholastic ideas and traditions
  e. Dead stones

5. Display idea and method

Characteristics of Korean Suseok

The Korean Literati arts including Suseok Viewing Stone reflects naturalism based on humanistic ideology. They were illustrations of the Korean emotions and thoughts that were transformed into the way of real life.

From the point when Choson Dynasty was founded around 1400 AD, all forms of Buddhism were suppressed by Neo-Confucian (Zhu Xi) followers. They believed that Buddhism was a non productive religion. Buddhism did not co-exist alongside Neo-Confucianism, contrary to how it was in Japan, which is where the difference exists in stone appreciation (ex. meditation approach of Wabi-Sabi).

The Korean Suseok was not displayed for the purpose of viewing (never central objects of display) in yang-ban scholar's study room. Few stones were shown unobtrusively near books or the calligraphy brush table. I believe that Korean Literati Viewing Stone is best displayed with a book of classical text, preferably an antique to show the scholastic tradition.

The Suseok Viewing Stone art puts more emphasis on what is collected (the stone itself), rather than stressing the method of display.

Natural beauty of the stone must not be compromised by human manipulations and distractions.

For more information please see Underlying Concept of Korean Suseok at the end of this website.

CONTENTS (Click for enlarged photos)


e-mail: sun.juneu@gmail.com



Nogil Suseok Dai


Juneu Kim Collections
Edited by Ian Kim

e-mail address:
The book is not pubished for profit motivation


Presentation: Underlying Concepts of Korean Suseok



Above are a few examples of very collectable Korean antique books.
The collected books and stones will be donated to an appropriate museum or a well known U.S. university that houses fine Korean art.

For more information please follow the following links:

-  ItalianSuiseki.it - Korean Suesok, by Mr. Juneu Kim
-  ItalianSuiseki.it - Photo Gallery : i Suseok di Juneu Kim.
-  ForumSuiseki.org (French, Registration required)


The classical Korean Suseok Viewing Stone art is about more than merely putting a Korean name over the Stones that are collected and classified based on Japanese methodology.

The purpose of this study group is to preserve the classical concepts of Li Stones (Korean Scholar Stones) that reflect real world ideology (not mystical) based on rationalism. This concept was studied and followed by Chu Xi (not Wang Yang Ming) neo-Confucian scholars in Korea.

This study group puts emphasis on academic presentations at well known universities that house valuable Korean arts to promote Korean culture.

All group participants (invintation only) are not encouraged in commerce activities relating to stones.

- Juneu Kim
March 11, 2012



Nogil Suseok Dai

Developed by Juneu Kim. Date: 09/29/2010 - "Nogil" is the pen name of Juneu Kim
(Legality Pending)

Nogil Suseok Dai is a metalic Daiza created to elevate aesthetics of viewing stones, Suiseki, Gonshi, and Suseok.

The Dai shown below is gold color-brass plated over aluminum casting.

Numerous combinations of metals and non-metals can be used to create the metalic Dai, even bronze and 24K gold.

The process of product development will be explained in the Internet medium.

American Contact: Juneu Kim at sun.juneu@gmail.com




Dr. Brainered is a retired physician, and is now teaching and mentoring Bonsai and Suiseki at local colleges in Sacramento, CA, USA.

"Juneu Kim's collection of 100 natural viewing stones with classic Korean aspects presents and interesting addition to new books for suiseki enthusiasts. This work published in 2009 contains only uncut natural stones with mountain forms of images of pine, bamboo, and plum, all collected in southern California.

I was particularly impressed by some of his image stones, as well as his abstract stones. His Longevity Symbols Stone defies description. Four stones representing the four seasons (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo) are extraordinary.

The presentation of stones was free-flowing with encouragement by the author to try and visualize multiple interpretations of what is seen in each stone.

It's refreshing to hear that in his opinion, "collectors should not try to sell or purchase stone, cut stones, or collect stones according to preset classifications based on appearance. If so called American viewing stones are referred to stones found in North America, they should eventually contain the soul and spirit of America including Judeo-Christianity, Amerindian, and historical contexts."

The presentation of American viewing stones from a Korean perspective gives a lot of food for thought."


The stones presented here is American Viewing Stones, collected in Southern California, USA During 1980 through 2000, in order to depict the Classical Korean Literati arts.

All my stones are collected according to my purist belief that viewing stone collectors shall not:

1. Buy or sell stones
2. Cut stones
3. Collect stones following the preset classifications based on external appearances.

The classical period in Korean history is refered to a time (approximately before 1800) when scholars were required to pass a rigorous civil service exam to maintain the Yang-Ban status.

I have attempted to demonstrate the ideology of the learnred scholars of Yang-Ban, depicting the following subjects:

1. Concept of Trinity;
2. Mountain shapes representing the five elements;
3. Complex near view mountain shapes;
4. Center of engery and four directional animal symbols;
5. Three friends of winter;
6. Noble symbols of four seasons;
7. Also, I have shown the stones found in scholarly landscape paintings and poetry.

My presentation is intentionally designed to avoid over beautification of viewing stones using fancy wood Daiza, table, and additional display materials. Also, I have avoided describing stones using fancy words to not influence subjectivity of the individual viewer.

I am hoping my book will awake young talented Westerners to find and create their own way (not just copying other cultures) to express the Western spirit (ie. Judeo-Christian tradition).

Factors Used in Evaluating Viewing Stones
(Beyond shape, color, and quality requirements)

1a. Graceful Beauty and Balance

Height: 9"

1b. Geomorphic Concepts

Width: 17"

1c. Thematic Symbolism

Width: 23"

1d. Scholastic Idea and Tradition

Width: 6"

Height: 9"

The following stones represents a few examples to depict geomorphic ideology and scholarly landscape paintings and poetry.

Three Friends of Winter:

Noble Symbols of the Four Seasons:


I have submitted two stones for exhibition purposes, using Korean-Style Whadae.

Also, I made a 1 hour presentation regarding the following subjects relating to the underlying concepts of Korean Suseok:

1. Scenic landscape stone and scenic landscape painting.
2. Concept of Chi and Viewing Stone.
3. Ideology of Korean Literati during 1300-1850.
4. Yang Ban Literati scholars.
5. Character of Literati art.
6. Myth of stone appreciation by Korean literati scholars.

It was a pleasure meeting stone enthusiasts from all over the world.

With Igor Barta. President of European
Suiseki Association

With Luciana Queirolo, Italy

With Jesus Quintas, Spain

With Karel Serak, Czech Republic

With Fabrizio Buccini, Italy

With Daniela Schifano, Italy

Especially, it was an exciting opportunity to meet Mr. Igor Barta and his friends.

Also, my friends.


Subjects of the presentation were:

1. Difference between American Viewing Stones and European Suiseki.
2. Difference between Korean Suseok and Japanese Suiseki
3. Display method of Korean Suseok

The following presentation notes are written by Linda Gill, California Aiseki Kai and shown in the September 2011 issue of Aiseki Kai's newletter:

(please click to enlarge)

Underlying Concepts of Korean Suseok

1. Scenic Landscape Stone and Scenic Landscape Painting

Scenic landscape stone is called San Sui Seki in Japanese and San Su Seok in Korean. The same Chinese characters are used in both the Japanese and the Korean languages, but are pronounced differently. In short, It is called Suiseki in Japanese and Suseok in Korean.

Scenic landscape painting is called San Sui Goh in Japanese and San Su Wha in Korean. The same Chinese characters are also used in the Japanese and the Korean languages.

Why is landscape written with letters representing San (mountain) and Su (water)? According to geomorphic discipline (poong-su or feng-shui), it can be explained that San represents where Chi energy is collected, and Su represents where Chi energy stops flowing. San Su represents where life is formed.Therefore, it can be said that landscape paintings and landscape stones are transcribed in living form.

What are the main contributing factors in composing landscape painting? These factors must be considered when collecting artistic landscape stones.

What is literati painting? It is a scholastic art that is metaphysical and symbolic. It is a subjective vision (view) painting. It is not a painting that is exactly duplicated from landscape scenes.Therefore, literati stones must be subjective vision (view) stones, and they must contain scholastic ideology. They must be more than a "look alike" stone, which means that they must be more than a stone collection based on external appearances.

2. Concept of Chi and Viewing Stone

It will be difficult for Westerners to understand and feel the concepts, but you cannot appreciate the Asian culture (including stone culture) without the understanding of the Chi concept.

It is my understanding that according to Archaic Roman religion, the Romans believed every person, place, and thing had its own "Genius" or divine soul. Therefore, the CHI concept is not only an Asian concept, but also a European concept.

It was very surprising to find what Mr. Willi Benz (renowned Suiseki collector, past president of the European Suiseki Association) wrote in his book, The Asian Art of Beautiful Stones, ISBN 3-00-0115-20-X, "Certainly stones of unusual shape and color were admired solely for their beauty but a decisive factor in this inclination were thousand year old religious and cosmological concepts, supplemented by the close relationship of man to nature. According to the ancient Chinese view, all objects and living beings in its entire world were filled with a pervasive, vital energy called QI."

I am glad to find that someone in Suiseki Arina wrote this. I have followed this ancient concept when I collected stones and when I wrote my book.

3. Ideology of Korean Literati during 1400-1850

It was the period when Neo-Confucianism (founded by Zhu-Xi) flourished. The goal was to teach the Neo-Confucian classics in order to accomplish the harmonious and humanistic natural orders for establishing a tranquil and moral society.

The classics were written by Zhu-Xi scholars to explain the ways of nature and its influence on humans, putting much emphasis on the code of proper personal conducts. The main doctrine was based on the concepts of Chi and it "self directed way" called Li.

During this period, there was rapid growth of the Neo-Confucian Yang-Ban literati class, while Buddhism was oppressed. The claim was that Buddhism was a non- productive religion. At a later period, Neo-Confucianism became dogmatic (theoretical) so as to prevent social change and economical development, resulting in late industrial modernization.

It is to my knowledge that in Japan, the official philosophy of the Tokugawa period (1603-1867) was also Neo-Confucianism. Zen Buddhists introduced the concept in Japan. Buddhism co-existed alongside Neo-Confucianism in Japan, but not in Korea; that is where the difference exists in stone appreciation. Korean Suseok put less emphasis on meditation (Zen Buddhism) as part of "Wabi-Sabi".

4. Yang-Ban Literati Scholars (15-20% of the population)

The Yang-Bans were Confucian scholarly officials of the ruling class. The title was designated to those people who passed the difficult dynasty-sponsored civil service exam.

Korean Neo-Confucianism was the fundamental ideology that shaped the way of life including moral systems as well as legal systems, putting much emphasis on royalty, filial piety, benevolence, and trust.

The rules that governed Yang-Bans were severely rigid. They were expected to follow the code of conduct based on appropriateness and righteousness in order to be prepared to sacrifice their lives.

5. Character of Literati Art

Most of the seniors in the Yang-Ban class were accomplished artists, practicing calligraphy and black ink painting. The two skills required much practice and were considered to be the most appropriate for literati scholars.

The desired motifs representing the Confucian scholars were monochromatic black ink paintings of bamboo, orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum. These four plants were called the four gentleman, originally associated with the four seasons. They symbolized the ideology of the scholars. So the most important criteria in classical Suseok is the three friends of winter, the four gentlemen, the 10 longevity symbols, and mountain forms.

The Confucian aesthetic value of Korean art is restrained and understated. It should also be unforced natural forms. If my viewing stones do not contain these two characteristics, then I have failed.

6. Myth of Stone Appreciation by Korean Literati Scholars

There is a tendency to relate the stone appreciation with literati scholars to elevate the status of viewing stones.

Usually, scholars did not have time to enjoy the stone appreciation due to lack of time from having to study to pass the civil service exam. Even after passing the exam, it took a long time to be promoted to a ranking scholar. The wise scholars did not accumulate wealth (ex. decorating the house with stones) to avoid criticism from political enemies.

It was inappropriate for scholars to do physical work. They had long finger nails to show off their status, and so they did not collect stones and they did not make wooden bases.


>>This website is still under construction, but please keep checking back for updates. I appreciate your interest, and would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at sun.juneu@gmail.com.
LAST UPDATE: 03/11/2012