Challa Cafe, Jungmun Resort, Jeju, South Korea
Right next door to Yeomiji Botanical Garden in Jungmun lays the Challa Meditation Gallery. The brainchild of Korean artist Chung Gong, Challa is both an art gallery as well as a café. It offers organic foods and Italian coffee on a scenic local overlooking the valley just beyond Cheonjiyeon Falls. It’s an oasis of calm amidst the unrelenting tackiness and excess of Jungmun.
Challa is a celebration of the possibilities of meditation and respect for nature. Past galleries have focused on farmers and organic farming along with works of modern Buddhist meditative art.
Through June 3rd, the gallery will be presenting the works of Masan painter Lee Kang Bu. His paintings feature colourful re-imaginings of traditional Buddhist art. Portraits of the Buddha tend to be highly standardized. Strict guidelines direct artists on everything as to how large the Buddha ears should be to how far apart his eyes ought to be located. Lee however breaks through those restrictions, painting the Buddha in traditional style portraits, but often depicting the Buddha himself as everyday people like homeless beggars and construction workers. They express in a subtly comedic way the Buddhist notion that anyone is capable of achieving enlightenment, while at the same time rejecting the strict formality of religion.
The gallery nicely compliments Chung Gong’s own artistic works. He specializes in what he likes to call “meditation art,” the ideal of which is to imbue a sense of calm and understanding through art and poetry. Exemplary works will express a sense of goong guk shil jae (ultimate fact) without explanation or clarification.
Challa also has a very warm and welcoming café with a good selection of traditional teas and Italian coffee. Vegetarians on the island will be happy to hear that Challa has a purely vegetarian, organic menu. The house specialty is a baguette with veggie-ham or veggie-chicken. The food is prepared without milk, but they do use eggs. Though the choice is limited, it should satisfy those vegetarians looking for a unique alternative to the standard bill of fare found round the island.
Although the gallery is sadly lacking in English translation, director and environmentalist Yeo Bin is often on-hand to answer your questions about the galleries and food. She spent some time in California and speaks a good amount of English. She says Challa is building an art museum to permanently house artistic works on the premises, which they hope to complete by May or June of next year.
Challa is a rare bastion of sophistication, art and culture in a sea of campy museums and tourist traps. It is a pleasant and thought provoking way to pass your time in Jungmun.
Finding Challa Cafe
Next to Yeomiji botanical gardens in Jungmun resort.