The Cultural Landscape, a description from National Park Service, provides a sense of place and identity; they map our relationship with the land over time; and they are par of our national heritage and each of our lives. They are sites associated with a significant event, activity, person or group of people. They range in size from thousands of acres of rural land to historic homesteads. They can be grand estates, farmlands, public gardens and parks, college campuses, cemeteries, 
scenic highways, and industrial sites. They are works of art, narratives of cultures, and expressions of regional identity.

Cultural landscapes are a legacy for everyone. These special sites reveal aspects of our country’s origins and development as well as our evolving relationships with the natural world. They provide scenic, economic, ecological, social, recreational, and educational opportunities helping communities to better understand themselves.

The cultural landscape can be divided into four types.

1. Designed Landscape:
a landscape that was consciously designed or laid out by a landscape architect, master gardener, architect or horticulturist according to design principles or an amateur gardener working in a recognized style or tradition.

2. Vernacular Landscape:
a landscape that evolved through use by the people whose activities or occupancy shaped that landscape. Through social or cultural attitudes of an individual, family or a community, the landscape reflects the physical, biological, and cultural character of those everyday lives.

3. Historic Site:
a landscape significant for its association with a historic event, activity or person.

4. Ethnographic Landscape:
a landscape containing a variety of natural and cultural resources that the associated people define as heritage resources.

Among these four types of cultural landscapes, I want to write about the “Vernacular Landscape.” Since vernacular landscape is largely affected by social and culture, this kind of landscape supposed to differ from regions, which may have different history, environmental condition, race, religion, etc. In this writing, I will give an example of difference of vernacular landscapes according to different country. For this, I picked South Korea to compare the cultural landscape to United States.


The history, environmental condition, race, major religion, and many other elements related to the culture of each country are largely different. Especially, among them, I think the major religion caused a big difference in landscapes of the countries. While many United States citizens believe in Catholic, high portion of South Koreans believe in Buddhism. In the United States, when you are walking a road, you can see churches frequently around you both in the cities and in the small countries. And the churches are located in the middle of the cities beside the road next to other non-religious buildings. The landscape of the city mixed with official buildings and churches are not weird in the United States. On the other hand, in South Korea, the main religious building is a temple. You can sometimes see the temple in the middle of the city, but most of temples are located in the middle of mountains. The difference of religion changed the landscape of the city as well as the mountain. Although I compared the cultural landscape of South Korea and United States, it can be the comparison of that of Asia, where mostly believe in Buddhism, and America & Europe, where mostly believe in Catholic.

Trinity church in NYC

Trinity church in NYC

Bongeun Temple in Seoul

Bongeun Temple in Seoul

Temple in the mountain

Temple in the mountain


The other difference because of the culture, which is not about the religion, is the landscape of cemetery. Historically South Korea has made the graves stick out up to the ground, whereas the United States has made them flat. I still don’t know the reason why they made the graves like that, I was surprised when I first saw the flat graves in the United States. I also thought that the flat graves are more friendly and not scary because the Korean style graves always scared me.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Cemetery in South Korea

Cemetery in South Korea


Any cultural landscapes are important and effectively reflected the culture of the region even they are largely different and not fitted to each other’s criteria. Actually they are more valuable because of their distinctiveness according to the region. Continuing care and interpretation of cultural landscapes are necessary and it will improve the quality of life and deepens a sense of place and identity for future generation.


One thought on “Church vs. Temple

  1. What a great observation – love the comparison!

    I’d never thought about the american city’s adjacencies like that before!

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