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DATE September 3-October 20, 2013

VOL.24 SUMMER 2013

VENUE Gyeongju National Museum, Special Exhibition Hall

A city filled with the heritage of a resplendent ancient culture, Gyeongju has been widely known as the millennium-old capital of Silla. But even during the Goryeo and Joseon periods, the thousand years following the fall of Silla, Gyeongju maintained its status as a historical city and its culture continued to flourish. Despite the citys importance in a more modern context, Gyeongju of the Joseon period has received much less attention compared to Gyeongju as the capital of Silla. Hence the Gyeongju National Museum is planning an exhibition that gives a more balanced view of the city. The exhibition will focus on the status of Gyeongju in the Joseon period and other aspects such as academic progress, the efforts of the people during the Japanese invasions (1592-1598) and other crises, and development of Buddhist culture. It will feature some 120 items including related documents and diverse materials that shed light on way of life, philosophy, and faiths of the people of that time. This special exhibition is expected to enhance understanding of the Gyeongju peoples perception of the cultural legacies of Silla and their inheritance of tradition.





ISSN: 2005-1123



DATE September 3-October 20, 2013

VOL.24 SUMMER 2013

VENUE Gyeongju National Museum, Special Exhibition Hall

A city filled with the heritage of a resplendent ancient culture, Gyeongju has been widely known as the millennium-old capital of Silla. But even during the Goryeo and Joseon periods, the thousand years following the fall of Silla, Gyeongju maintained its status as a historical city and its culture continued to flourish. Despite the citys importance in a more modern context, Gyeongju of the Joseon period has received much less attention compared to Gyeongju as the capital of Silla. Hence the Gyeongju National Museum is planning an exhibition that gives a more balanced view of the city. The exhibition will focus on the status of Gyeongju in the Joseon period and other aspects such as academic progress, the efforts of the people during the Japanese invasions (1592-1598) and other crises, and development of Buddhist culture. It will feature some 120 items including related documents and diverse materials that shed light on way of life, philosophy, and faiths of the people of that time. This special exhibition is expected to enhance understanding of the Gyeongju peoples perception of the cultural legacies of Silla and their inheritance of tradition.

ISSN: 2005-1123





Goryeos Selective Acceptance of outside Cultural Influences


The Uigwe of the Outer Gyujanggak and the Eoram Uigwe In and around the grounds of the National Museum of Korea the sweet scent of summer is already in the air. Like the leaves on the trees which grow greener as time goes, the NMKs international relations are becoming more substantial, and our efforts to make the museum a friendly and comfortable place to visit are beginning to show results. Varied exhibitions and cultural programs are being prepared to turn the museum into a refreshing haven in the middle of the city.


Art from the Islamic Civilization from The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait


First, convenience facilities have been added in time for the summer holidays so that children can enjoy learning in a pleasant environment. At the entrance of the Childrens Museum, a new place where children with their teachers or parents can sit down and rest has been created. Moreover, we have improved accessibility for those with physical difficulties. For example, six special exhibition spaces have been established in the Permanent Exhibition Hall on the first floor to provide various activities for the blind and visually impaired.

300th Anniversary of the Birth of Kang Sehwang A Painters Life: Kang Sehwang and Literati Culture in the 18th Century


Buddhist Guardian Deities of Late Joseon


Soban, Small Dining Table of the Joseon Dynasty

Indeed, summer promises to be lively thanks to diverse exhibitions which are scheduled to continue through late autumn. Art from the Islamic Civilization, organized as part of the NMKs World Civilizations exhibition series, takes on greater meaning as it marks the 30th anniversary of a cultural agreement between Korea and Kuwait. In addition, the museum will highlight the life and work of the late Joseon literati artist Kang Sehwang to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth in the special exhibition A Painter's Life: Kang Sehwang and Literati Culture in the 18th century, which features 100 works. Besides, the contents of an open lecture series for 2013 titled Saturday Afternoon, Garden of the Humanities are also introduced in the pages of this magazine. These lectures, which take an easy and interesting approach to the humanities, are an enjoyable way to learn about Koreas literary classics.


Beyond Museum


Classics that Everyone Should Know: In Search of Emotional Resonance




In the future, the NMK will focus its energies on improving service for the general public and promoting active international relations. Through continued high-quality exhibitions the museum will be a place where history lives, breathes and the power of culture can be felt.
Publisher: National Museum of Korea 137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 140-026, Korea Tel: (82 2) 2077-9251 Fax: (82 2) 2077-9936 E-mail: Editorial Direction: National Museum of Korea Publishing Team Design and Production: Ahn Graphics Inc., Editorial Team Translation / Revision: Timothy V. Atkinson / Cho Yoonjung / Lee Mi-jin / Hwang Chi-young National Museum of Korea, a quarterly magazine, abides by the principles set forth by the Korean Committee for Ethics in Book and Magazine Publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in Korea Copyright 2013 National Museum of Korea. All rights reserved. ISSN: 2005-1123 HIDDEN PLACE

National Museum of Korea Library

Thank you.

Kim Youngna Director-General The National Museums of Korea Summer, 2013









look back at history reveals that most countries have interacted continuously with their neighboring states, developing their own cultures in the process.

We who live in the modern age may have difficulty in imagining how such exchanges took place when modes of transportation were still undeveloped. However, the nomads who lived on the steppes rode horses, and countries that border the sea had ships. Moreover, the people who lived in the regions in between got around on camels, trading their specialty goods with other regions and conveying aspects of their culture at the same time. Traces of foreign cultural influences, transferred in this way, can also be found on Korean cultural properties. Lets examine some items in the National Museum of Korea collection and see how such outside cultural influences left their mark on the people of Goryeo. 918-1392 Goryeos foreign exchanges were mostly with China, which has maintained a profound relationship with Korea since ancient times. Chinas historical circumstances were very complex between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. The north of China was ruled by the Liao, 916-1125 followed by the Jin. 1115-1234 To the south, were the Northern Song, 960-1127 after which came the Southern Song. 1127-1279 Then, the Mongol hordes invaded from the steppes to overrun the Jin and Southern Song, and once again China was unified under the Yuan. 1260-1368 The nomadic tribes brought with their traditions that were much different from those of the sedentary Han people whom they conquered, and something new was created through their contact. The changed ways of life that resulted would affect national cultures. Over time, distinguishing the indigenous cultural elements from those that were imported became very difficult. The situation in China was thus complicated, and Goryeo historically and culturally had exchanges with all these various
Reliquary Set Offered by Yi Seonggye

states. Therefore, it is also indeed difficult to identify exactly those elements of Goryeo culture that originated outside the country. However, some pieces from the period may help to shed light on this issue.

Goryeo, ca 1390-91 H. 15.5 cm Excavated at Geumgangsan Mountain




Lacquered whisk handle inlaid with mother-of-pearl and turtle shell

Goryeo, 12th century L. 42.7 cm, C. 1.6 cm


In 1975, a fisherman was working in the waters off Sinan, Jeollanam-do, an area dotted with countless small islands. He recovered several pieces of ancient porcelain ware entangled in his fishing net, and the discovery of the centuries-old artifacts led to a series of underwater exploration projects between 1976 and 1984. This Undersea Treasure of Sinan eventually yielded more than 20,000 celadon and white porcelain pieces, mostly from Song and Yuan. Only seven, including a maebyeong prunus vase and ceramic pillow, were of Goryeo origin. Celadon ware was first made during the Northern Song at the Longquan kilns, in what is now southwestern Zhejiang. However, Chinese celadon production did not reach its peak until the Southern Song period. Thick layers of glaze were coated onto a thin clay body to product a translucent yet soft bluish-green. Vase, Celadon with fish-liked dragon handles recovered from the sea at Sinan first appeared in Southern Song but became hugely popular in Yuan. However, pieces produced at Longquan kilns were not used in Goryeo. The cargo ship sank off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, but its destination was apparently elsewhere. A careful study of the vessel laden with Chinese-made ceramics has found that it was from the Yuan period, departed the Chinese port of Qingyuan (in present-day Ningbo, Zhejiang) in 1323, and was en route to the port of Hakata in Kyushu, Japan. In other words, the Undersea Treasure of Sinan was a 14th century shipment of more than 20,000 ceramic pieces made in China and bound for Japan. Considering this historical fact, one can easily conclude that the volume and variety of Chinese items imported by Goryeo were not small, and that these items had direct and indirect influences on Goryeo culture. Conversely, the Chinese were well aware of cultural products from Goryeo. The historical records state that Jo

lain ware to the Yuan court in 1297. These were pieces of Goryeo celadon with decorations painted on in gold, and an actual inlaid celadon piece decorated in this technique was found at Manwoldae, the site of the Goryeo palace. Flattened celadon jar with inlaid and gold-painted decoration of a monkey under a tree has the image of a monkey holding a peach inlaid within the diamond-shaped section of the surface. Gold powder without an adhesive was laid over the glaze along the inlaid lines and the piece was refired at low temperature to make it stick to the slightly melted glaze. The gold coloring on top of the black and white background makes this celadon very ornate. Celadons were not the only craft that Goryeo artisans were expert at making. Lacquer ware with mother-of-pearl inlay is one for which they were most famous. The records state that gifts inlaid with mother-of-pearl were sent to the Liao court as early as 1049. In addition, ink-stone cases and writing-brush boxes so decorated are said to have been bestowed on the Song court during the reign of Goryeo King Injongr. 11221146 in the 12th century. Goryeo lacquer ware with mother-of-pearl inlay was well known in China for its detailed and elaborate decoration and sophisticated production techniques. Unfortunately, only twenty odd pieces are known to have survived from the Goryeo period. The only entirely intact piece remaining in Korea is part of the National Museum of Korea collection. The lacquered whisk handle is decorated with mother-of-pearl and turtle shell. The translucent turtle shell slices were painted red or orange on the underside before being inlaid into the wooden handle. The Chinese were first to produce both celadon ware and lacquer ware with mother-of-pearl inlay, but the craft genres were reinvented in unique styles by Goryeo artisans, who then exported some of their wares to China. These examples show that one nations culture does neither move unilaterally nor is accepted wholly by another nation. Rather it is transferred abroad partially and then exchanged back again as needed.
Vase, Celadon with fish-liked dragon handles

Flattened celadon jar with inlaid and gold-painted decoration of a monkey under a tree

Yuan, Longquan kilns H. 25.6 cm C. (mouth) 9.8 cm, C. (foot) 9.3 cm Excavated at sinan

Goryeo, late 13thearly 14th century H. 25.5 cm, C. (foot) 9.3 cm Excavated at Manwoldae, in Gaeseong

In-gyu 1227-

of Goryeo presented Yuan Shizu, r. 1260-94 Khubilai Khans

title as Chinese emperor, with gold-painted porcelain ware and that Goryeo King Chungnyeolr. 12741308 sent gold-painted porce04 05



Silver ewer with young boys motif

Liao H. 17 cm


Many people who were displaced after Tang and Balhae collapsed where absorbed into the Khitan Liao Dynasty, which ruled Northern China, and Liao craftsmanship advanced further as a result. Tang goldware and silverware traditions were fused with the special metalworking skills of the Khitans (a confederation of nomadic tribes from what is now Manchuria and eastern Mongolia) to produce pieces of exceptional quality. A similar example can be found in Goryeo, too. The Khitans invaded Goryeo three times between 993 and 1018. Some Liao prisoners of war captured in Goryeo during these invasions were highly skilled craftsmen, who were sent to Gagyeong (the capital, present-day Gaeseong) to make dishes and other items. Having the foreign artisans in ones country to make the goods with their own hands has a more direct effect on the local culture than simply having the foreign goods flow in. Thus, Goryeo

handicraft making was influenced by the techniques and design patterns of Liao. Buddhism was the state-sponsored religion in Goryeo, and many small boxes were produced to carry the portable sutras that contained the teachings of the Buddha. The design patterns on these boxes deserve special attention. The finely detailed scene on the front and back sides depict young boys holding onto lotus stems, which densely occupy rest of the surface. The convex presentation adds depth. The huge lotus leaves and flowers indicate the presence of a lotus pond, while very thin lines have been etched into the surface to enhance realism. Several duck-like birds are also shown. Handicrafts from the Tang period typically feature strong design elements and patterns that are presented symmetrically, but the designs on this sutra box are asymmetrical and are in the style of a realistic paint-

ing. Natural compositions such as this were frequent on handicrafts from the time of the Northern Song on. Interestingly, the motif of a young boy and lotus stems has also been found on silver ewer produced in Liao. The example shown here was first produced out of silver and then the gilt decorations were added on. The ewer body is adorned with the images of large lotus leaves, and six circle designs are arranged around the shoulder. The image of a playful young boys clutching the long lotus stem appears inside each circle, which are filled with small beadlike figures. Virtually no background is to be seen. This motif itself is ancient, but careful study is needed to ascertain why the repouss technique has been found on metal crafts from both Goryeo and Liao during the same historical period. Meanwhile, the inside surface of the Jin Dynasty white porcelain dish is completely covered with the images of playful young boys holding onto peony stems. The same motif can be found on metal craft from Northern and Southern Song. What al crafts decorated with repouss were seen in Song because the production of pottery proliferated while gold and silver were in short supply. In Goryeo, on the other hand, pottery-making advanced and repouss technique was applied extensively to produce extremely ornate metal crafts. The gourd-shaped bottle was first crafted out of silver and then the decorative elements were gold-plated on. Bottles shaped to resemble gourds were very popular in Goryeo and many were made with ceramics, in addition the metal ones. The surface of the small sutra case introduced above is crammed with decorative elements, which were produced using repouss. These elements are very ornate. The work patterns were all produced in relief, providing a sense of depth to the piece. Virtually no flat background is to be seen. The repouss work in Goryeo is most likely linked to the metalworking techniques employed in China as well as Liao. Magoksa, a temple in Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do, has a five-story pagoda, which is rarely found in Korea. The overall shape resembles that of most other Goryeo pagodas, but

Small gilt-bronze sutra box with lotus pond and young boys motif

White porcelain dish with stamped design of interlocking peonies (peony scroll) and playing young boys

is important question is how variations of the young boy motif, which was not seen in Tang, came to appear on the handicrafts made in numerous countries from the time of the Liao onward. Therefore, more examples need to be brought together and carefully studied to ascertain the stylistic differences among them. Another issue worthy of examination is the repouss technique of ornamenting or shaping a malleable metal by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. Its development in East Asia was influenced by the silverware production methods used in the Sassanid Persian Empire226-651 and its use originated in Tang and was extended from the Song through the Liao and Yuan. Goryeo also acquired the technique from Khitan craftsmen around the 11th century. As such, the linkage of technical influences from Tang through Liao and Goryeo need to be considered seriously, too. On the other hand, repouss did not develop in Song to the same extent that it did in Liao and Goryeo. Other studies have concluded that few met-

Goryeo L. 10.3 cm

jin, dingyao H. 3.6 cm, C. (mouth) 19.7 cm, C. (foot) 6.5 cm Excavated at Gaeseong




Repouss silver gourd-shaped bottle

Goryeo, 12th-13th century H. 8 cm

the topmost section differs from the traditional Chinese tower look. Instead, the finial is in the so-called Lama pagoda style used in the Lamaistic form of Buddhism, which was chiefly practices in Tibet, Mongolia and the smaller Himalayan States. This style found its way into Goryeo during the Mongoldominated Yuan, as Lama Buddhism received Chinese imperial support from the second half of the 13th century. The Lama pagoda style features pagoda body shaped like an upturned bowl, which is placed atop the base stone. Lama Buddhism came to Goryeo after the Goryeo royal family and Yuan imperial family intermarried, and Goryeo Buddhist art was influenced accordingly. According to extant records, four monks from Mongolia and Tibet visited Goryeo in 1271, and that Goryeo King Wonjongr. 12591274 came out from the palace to meet them. This event appears to mark the time when Lama Buddhism was formally introduced to Goryeo. The records also state that Goryeo kings who had spent time in the Yuan capital (before ascending the throne) and Goryeo queens from the Yuan imperial family attended ceremonies led by Lama monks. Such ceremonies would require certain ritual instruments, suggesting that Lama-style Buddhist handicrafts make their way into Goryeo as well. At the same time, traces of the Lama Buddhism imparted from Yuan to Goryeo in the late 13th century can still be seen on the finial of the five-story pagoda at Magoksa. The Lama pagodas from Yuan were not entirely reproduced in Goryeo, but some of the reliquaries inside Goryeo pagodas were manufactured in the Lama style, a fact that deserves our attention. The pagoda itself was originally a tomb for enshrining body parts of the historical Buddha. These relics were kept in special containers of various types that were preserved inside the pagoda. Some of these reliquaries were themselves crafted in the shape of a pagoda, and examples can be found from late Goryeo. One of these reliquary set was offered in 1390 to buddha by Yi Seonggye, who founded Joseon in 1392. It is somewhat different from the traditional Lama pagoda style. Beneath

the lotus pedestal on the base is a triangular ornamentation. Meanwhile, the inverted bowl body, normally round, has been elongated to produce an ovoid figure. The number of discs on the finial, which on a Lama pagoda usually totals thirteen, has been reduced to just four. Lotus figures adorn the shoulders of the inverted bowl, and a figure of the Buddha with hands joined has been engraved between them. The shape of the inverted bowl and the addition of the Buddha image represent stylistic changes that were made in Goryeo to a Lama pagoda that originated in Yuan. Extant handicrafts reveal that Goryeo was engaged in various forms of exchange with foreign peoples. China at the time of Goryeo (10th through 14th centuries) had a succession of different ruling dynasties, to include the nomadic Liao, Jin and Yuan as well as the Han (ethnic Chinese) Northern and Southern Song. Goryeo interacted with all these states, providing opportunities to come into contact with diverse cultural traditions, and some of these cultural ways became mixed in with the Goryeo traditional practices to produce a new Goryeo style. Cultural exchange is never a one-way affair, and the Goryeo people selectively embraces certain elements from outside as needed, enriching the indigenous culture along the way.




he uigwe , which detail specific state-sponsored projects and ceremonies, represent an important record genre unique to Joseon. Even the king would

refer to these texts. To ensure the preservation of the contents, uigwe were produced in multiple copies and stored at multiple locations, including the government office in the capital that oversaw their compilation. These copies were referred to as bunsang, for distribution, and kept in the hall called sago, which also stored other royal family records at the special repositories, built around the kingdom to preserve the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, Joseon Wangjo Sillok. Officials would travel periodically to these special repositories, which were located in remote parts of the kingdom, to expose the various texts, to include the annals and the uigwe, to sunlight and air them out. This activity, which was called poswae, helped to prevent their degradation from insects or mold. The process is detailed in a report called Sillok Poswae hyeongjian. In addition to the bunsang uigwe , a special edition called eoram, royal perusal, was made for the kings personal use. The uigwe directorate dogam, an ad hoc body organized for each uigwe compilation project, would ask the various government offices to provide with the very best materials, to include the finest quality paper and silk coverings, and most skilled artisans to produce these special volumes. Such requests are clearly evident in written orders called gamgyeol , willing agreements, issued from high-level offices to subordinate offices. Such details are rarely found in other types of records and the extant uigwe are testimony to them.
BY L EE MOON H Y U N, CU R ATOR OF J EONJ U NAT IONA L MUSEUM Uigwe for the Construction of King Heonjong's Tomb, Gyeongneung. Version for Kings 1849 (King Cheoljong, Year of Accession) 45.0 x 32.4 cm


The deluxe eoram uigwe differed from the ordinary bunsang versions in various respects, starting with the cover, which was usually covered in green silk. A strip of white silk bearing the title was attached, and the cover was bordered with strips of red silk. Thus much greater craftsmanship went into the eoram uigwe than into the bunsang uigwe texts, which were simply covered with dyed hemp cloth. In addition, each volume was attached to a brass binding with brass tacks decorated with chrysanthemum petal design, and rings. The paper used for the eoram uigwe is called chojuji, the highest grade known of Korean traditional mulberry paper. It cost for to six times more than the lower grade jeojuji found in the bunsang editions. Chojuji is heavy and has a glossy surface, therefore the black ink and color pigments appear with great clarity and in most cases have not faded appreciably until the present day. The lines for the text were had drawn by court artists using a red pigment imported from China called dangjuhong. By contrast, the text for the bunsang editions was printed from woodblocks. For the kings deluxe edition, dedicatUigwe for the Construction of King Heonjong's Tomb, Gyeongneung. Version for Distribution 1849 (King Cheoljong, Year of Accession) 44.2 x 31.7 cm Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies





ed government copyists meticulously brushed the calligraphy inside the red lines, usually in the tidy block-style. Thus much more time and effort went into the production of the eoram uigwe than the rest. Characters that referred to the king or the royal family in the eoram uigwe were raised one or two spaces above the column as a mark of distinction, a practice is known as daedu, raise the head. In the bunsang versions, this deferential gesture was often accomplished simply by leaving one space blank. As a result the total number of paged would differ between the two text types; extant requests by the uigwe directorate indicate that 10-20% more paper would be required for the deluxe edition that would be used in the regular one. Differences can also be found in the illustrations. Take, for example, the banchado, which show where and how the participants and various kinds of equipment were positioned during royal processions and ceremonies. Artists from the Royal Bureau of Painting would draw and then paint each figure that appears in these illustrations for the kings version. The same illustration in many bunsang versions have the figures of people and horses stamped onto the page and then colored. Even the quality of the pigment used in the eoram uigwe was better, producing clearer colors. Great effort was also taken in the preservation and maintenance of the uigwe for the king. King Jeongjor. 1776-1800 had

Gyujanggak installed on the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace immediately after ascending the throne in 1776. This institution served as both a library and research facility. Initially the writings and drawings of previous kings, royal genealogies, and other important documents were kept here, but as the research function took on greater importance, another place became needed as an archive. Thus, the Oegyujanggak, Outer Gyujanggak was built on Ganghwado (Island) in 1782, and the documents related to the royal family as well as the eoram uigwe were relocated there. The Oegyujanggak had six bays (kan, the area between four pillars) and was located east of the temporary palace on Ganghwado. During the reign of Cheoljongr.

as many as 6,000 texts were stored there, making this a

treasure trove of records documenting the royal family in late Joseon. A record of the facilitys status called Ganghwa-bu oegyujanggak hyeongjian was completed in the ninth lunar month of 1857. It says that most of the uigwe were kept on tables placed at the north end of the hall. French troops invaded Ganghwado in 1866 in retaliation for the Joseon governments killing of French priests. This incident was officially termed the Byeong-in Foreign Disturbance;

the year byeong-in according to the traditional calendar

is equivalent to 1866 on the Western calendar. The invaders set fire to the government buildings on the island as well as to
Drawing of Palace in Ganghwa-bu Prefecture Late 19th century 25.7 x 36.8 cm National Library of Korea

Uigwe for Crown Prince Hyojang's Investiture Ceremony. Version for Kings 1725 (King Yeongjo, 1st Year of His Reign) 48.1 x 34.8 cm

Uigwe for Crown Prince Hyojang's Investiture Ceremony. Version for Distribution 1725 (King Yeongjo, 1st Year of His Reign) 46.3 x 33.6 cm

and Oegyujanggak, and all were destroyed. Most of the archives were lost at that time, but the French did take away more than 340 books and other documents in 189 types back home with them. Those materials were finally repatriated to Korea after 145 years. Korean historian Park Byeongseon first went to France as an exchange student in the 1950s and began working as a librarian at the National Library in the 1970s. She located the lost uigwe texts in 1975 and informed the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the French Republic of her discovery. Thereafter, talks on sending back 297 volumes to Korea including the uigwe, began between the two governments. The first item, Volume 1 the record of the project to relocate the tomb of a royal concubine, Hyeonmok subin. In 2011, the remaining 296 volumes finally arrived on Korean soil once again. Most of the uigwe that were kept at the Oegyujanggak were

deluxe editions, made especially for the king. As such, both their artistic value and quality are great, and they demonstrate the very essence of this recordkeeping genre. Importantly, thirty of the volumes that were returned to Korea are the sole extant copies of this precious legacy.






n 2013, the National Museum of Korea will host Art from the Islamic Civilization as part of the World Civilization series. The pieces on display are part of the al-Sabah Collection of

Islamic art, one of the most beautiful and comprehensive collections of its kind. It was begun in the 1970s when Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah of the Kuwaiti royal family started buying art objects as a hobby that he shared with his wife, Sheikha Hussah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah. These items have been on long-term loan to the Kuwait National Museum since 1983, when they were relocated to one of the museums four buildings, Dar al-Athar alIslamiyyah (DAI). This exhibition is divided into two main sections. The first features Islamic art items that are arranged in chronological order, from the 8th through 18th centuries, while second organizes the displays by theme, thereby highlighting key characteristics of Islamic art. Therefore, visitors can grasp the features of Islamic art as explained through Arabic calligraphy, geometry, and arabesque patterns. In addition, they can see how Islamic art is expressed figuratively and view the elegantly crafted jewellery that is the pride of the al-Sabah Collection.







n 2013, the National Museum of Korea will host Art from the Islamic Civilization as part of the World Civilization series. The pieces on display are part of the al-Sabah Collection of

Islamic art, one of the most beautiful and comprehensive collections of its kind. It was begun in the 1970s when Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah of the Kuwaiti royal family started buying art objects as a hobby that he shared with his wife, Sheikha Hussah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah. These items have been on long-term loan to the Kuwait National Museum since 1983, when they were relocated to one of the museums four buildings, Dar al-Athar alIslamiyyah (DAI). This exhibition is divided into two main sections. The first features Islamic art items that are arranged in chronological order, from the 8th through 18th centuries, while second organizes the displays by theme, thereby highlighting key characteristics of Islamic art. Therefore, visitors can grasp the features of Islamic art as explained through Arabic calligraphy, geometry, and arabesque patterns. In addition, they can see how Islamic art is expressed figuratively and view the elegantly crafted jewellery that is the pride of the al-Sabah Collection.



Bronze Incense Burner East Iran, 11-12th Century al-Sabah Collection LNS 1218M

THE ORIGINS OF ISLAMIC ART: 8th-10th C Islam was established in Mecca during the 7th century and subsequently spread to neighboring regions. These were primarily the Byzantine Empire, a continuation of the Roman empire, to the west and the Sassanid Persian Empire to the east, and so Islamic art from the early period reflects elements from these external cultures. For example, the blocks of decorative stone for structures and glass handicrafts made during the Umayyad Caliphate,661750 influence. Also, the spread of the Qur'an furthered the use of Arabic calligraphy, which is a fundamental feature of Islamic art. The abstract mode of expression in early ceramics can be said to be a product of the Islamic culture. With the start of the Abbasid Caliphate,750-1258 the political center of the Middle East moved east from Damascus to Baghdad and the artistic styles of both regions were fused. This can be seen in the beveled style of wooden structures and the influx of crystal chess-pieces from India. In addition, geometric patterns and arabesque patterns were developed and graphic design became steadily more sophisticated. VARIETY IN ISLAMIC ART: 11th-13th C The Abbasid Caliphate became broken up after the middle of the 10th centuries, while Islam gained new strength in Spain, Northern Africa, Central Asia and India. The pilgrimage to Mecca (known as the Haji), as specified in the Qur'an, were influenced by the Byzantines, while the metal crafts made in that period of time clearly show Sassanian

continued to bring people from varied regions together, and the established artistic sensibilities of diverse cultures were absorbed to create the main repertoire of Islamic art. Furthermore, regional centers for metal ware formed; for example, Khorasan, which in what is now eastern Iran, became famous for brass candlestick production. The surfaces of metal crafts made during this period were decorated entirely; no part was left empty. Ceramic and glass artworks maintained figurative purity while abstract expression was added, a fundamental feature of Islamic art. The creativity of this art is well expressed in the calligraphic tiraz (Persian for embroidery) inscriptions on the fringes of woven textiles as well as in the carvings of wood and ivory. Meanwhile Islamic potters, in their competition with the Chinese, developed new production methods such as fritware. EXPRESSIVE MATURITY: 14th - 15th C This section highlights the art pieces produced during the Mamluk Sultanate,12501517 a system of ruler outside the royal line of Turkish descent. The Mamluks played an important role in Mediterranean history until its defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1517. The regions that are comprise Egypt and Syria were the center of Mamluk Sultanate art. Meanwhile, after the Mongols took Baghdad in 1258, Mamluk warriors engaged them in battle. This process of military conflict brought exotic artistic motifs from the Far East such as lotuses, spiral clouds, peonies, and dragons to Islamic art pieces as well. As Asias artistic influences were felt, the tendency toward abstract decoration became more pronounced in Islamic art

during this period. In addition, Arabic calligraphers adopted vibrant scripts such as sulus font, produced elegant glass pieces decorated with precious stones, and metal ware with delicate inlays. Carpets decorated with geometric designs from the Mamluk Sultanate period were exported to Europe and reproduced in craft studios there by Renaissance artists. Meanwhile, the Nasrid Dynasty1231-1492 in Spain, with its undecorated wooden structures and ivory carving, brought Western-inspired elements into Islamic art. THE APOGEE OF THE GREAT EMPIRES: 16th-18th C The 15th century Timur (or Tamerlane), in a bid to resurrect Mongol dominance, led his Golden Horde in invasions of Delhi, Moscow, Ankara, Isfahan and Damascus. He ordered that artisans and prominent members of society in his conquered lands be seized and taken back to Samarkand in Central Asia. Cultural links were thereby established between Central and West Asia, and a cosmopolitan Islamic art emerged that was both mature and refined. Islamic art and culture enjoyed a golden age from the 16th through 18th centuries, led by the Iranian Safavid Dynasty, Indian Mughul Empire, and Turkish Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Ottomans had the strongest systems of dominance, lasted the longest among these three, and was powerful enough to keep the Europeans in check. Great Ottoman sultans such as Mehmed IIr. 1444-1446 and 1451-1481 and Suleiman the Magnificentr.


built one of the worlds foremost empires. The Safavid

Dynasty1588-1628 sought to bring back the former glory of Persia and served as a bridge between East and West once more. The

Composite-bodied Ceramic Crenellation Element Iran, 12th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 189C

Enamelled Glass Vase Syria or Egypt, early 14th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 69G

Composite-bodied Ceramic Ewer Turkey, 1560-1570 al-Sabah Collection LNS 99C

Parchment folio from a manuscript of the Quran Tunisia, probably Qayrawan 9th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 2CAa

Manuscript of the Quran Probably India, late 16th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 277MS



Mughul empire, with its vast resources and contact with diverse cultures, also produced artworks of exceptional quality. CALLIGRAPHY IN ISLAMIC ART Arabic calligraphy is another fundamental aspect of Islamic art. Reading and writing the Arabic script spread fast with the dissemination of the Qur'an, which is only written in Arabic. The importance given to literacy in Arabic can be seen in Chapter 96, Verses 4 and 5 of the Qur'an, with references to a God that teaches (use of) the pen and a God that teaches people things they do not know. Arabic reads horizontally from right to left, and Arabic calligraphy has three basic styles:

cursive, triangle and a combination of the two. The most popular calligraphic styles are the simplified rectangular Kufic script and the simple, cursive Naskhi script. The former is widely used for stelae inscriptions and Qur'an transcriptions, while the latter has been in widespread use since the 12th century. In addition, thuluth script (one-third in Arabic), with its verticals elongated three times its horizontals, is a style loved by calligraphers throughout the Islamic world. Arabic calligraphy is particularly prominent on buildings and commemorative monuments. Calligraphers were highly respected for their occupation in

Medieval Islamic society, and they enjoyed high social standing. Indeed, those who worked on transcribing the Qur'an and their patrons were objects of great envy. In addition, the craftsmens names were normally not put on pieces of Islamic art, but calligraphers virtually always signed and dated their works. Thus the historical period for individual pieces of calligraphy can easily be identified. GEOMETRY IN ISLAMIC ART Among the most salient motifs found on Islamic art are elegant and complex geometric patterns that are made up of circles, triangles, quadrangles, pentagons, hexagons, astral shapes, straight lines,

Dagger and Scabbard Turkey, 16th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 216J

in the way of geometric patterns. Climbing plants are shown branching out or leaves are curved, but individual design elements never stand alone. Instead the pattern is repetitive and organically fit together. FIGURATIVE IN ISLAMIC ART Above, we have seen how the fundamental elements of Islamic art are found in calligraphy, geometry and arabesque patterns. Islams law against idol worship is generally considered the reason that depictions of human or animals are taboo. Most Islamic theologians contend that only God has the authority to reproduce people and animals and so the act of drawing or sculpting such figures is blasphemous. Thus the religion does not allow depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or other human beings, animals, God, or angels; however, this prohibition must be understood as being applied only to religious sites such as mosques. Figurative expression is found in handicrafts used in everyday life. Many of the items on display in this section were produced in the Iranian region and show the influence from the traditions of the Sassanid Persians. Depictions of bent-tailed animals was joined with stylized scroll patterns, and many fantastic beasts such as griffins, simurghs and dragons appear. Miniature paintings are characteristic of the artworks created in Islamic culture, but realism is not the objective. For example, perspective and depth are not applied, and human subjects are not shown casting a shadow. THE JEWELLED ARTS


Fine Spinel (Balas Ruby) Bead India, late 16th century - early 17th century al-Sabah Collection LNS 2787J

The final section of the exhibition introduces Islamic jewellery, and the al-Sabah Collection has an unparalleled assemblage of these pieces, many of which are from the Mughul empire15261857

curves, and other such elements. Geometric patterns are preferred for their great complexity. Ever since Islam was founded, its uncompromising monotheism demanded the destruction of all forms of idolatry in Mecca. Thus, Islamic artists shunned the depiction of people and animals and sought to express the intrinsic oneness of the worlds infinite diversity instead. That is to say, geometric connections can successfully convey the character of an infinite God. The development of geometric patterns is also connected to Islamic science, which included advanced mathematics and geometry at that time. Geometric patterns are an essential

part of Islamic architectural structures. Their superb artistry and complexity can be seen on the ceiling of the Hall of the Abencerrajes at Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain in the 14th century as well as at the Sultan Qaytbay Funerary Complex in Cairo, Egypt. Carefully calculated geometric patterns also adorn the minbar (mosque pulpit), mihrab (semicircular niche in the mosque wall), latticework, and doors of Islamic structures as well as everyday utensils. THE ARABESQUE IN ISLAMIC ART Another important motif on Islamic art pieces is arabesque, scrolling decorations of vines or flowers on leafy stems.

A rhythm is created through the repetition of these design elements. The term arabesque is French and derived from the Renaissance Italian arabesco , which means very leafy or with stems. The arabesque pattern in Islamic culture most likely advanced for the same reason the geometric pattern did. That is, prohibition against the worship of animate creations forced painters and sculptors to create vegetal decorative schemes. The floral pattern may be one type or flower or multiple varieties intertwined, and the decorated surface is densely covered. Sometimes, showy flowers are depicted filling a vase. At other times, the flowers are stylized and linked

in the 17th and 18th centuries. The tradition of extravagant

palaces spurred craftsmen to produce exquisite jewellery for members of the Mughul royal family and nobility. These pieces were made using Indias indigenous Kundan technique (gems set with gold foil between the stones and its mount) as well as Persian decorative methods, champleve Enamel for precious stones. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds and jade were all popular adornments for turbans, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, and sometimes sword hilts were elegantly decorated with stones to show off the wearers high social status. Meanwhile, the miniature paintings produced during this period are important for understanding how the jewellery was worn at the time of its manufacture.


KANG SEHWANGS DRAMATIC LIFE Kang Sehwang lived a dramatic life. His family is famed for having produced three generations who were members of Giroso. His grandfather, Kang Baeknyeon1603-1681, his father, Kang Hyeon,1650-1733 and Kang Sehwang himself all entered Giroso, the office of senior statesmen past the age of 70 who had reached the position of senior first rank. Only five families throughout the Joseon Dynasty achieved the same honor. Though hailing from such an illustrious family, Kang Sehwang initially gave up on the idea of entering government, and at the age of 32 went
Cooling off under Paulownia Trees ( Byeogo cheongseodo) Light colors on paper 30.5 35.8 cm Leeum Samsung Museum of Art

to live near his wifes family in Ansan. There he lived for 30 years before he started his official career and moved back to the capital. During this time in the provinces, Kang associated with a wide range of people and expanded the scope of his artistic activities. With his brother-in-law Yu Gyeongjong1714-1784 he developed his critical eye for art; with the artist Heo Pil1709-1768 he produced an album of calligraphy and paintings; and with the so-called 15 scholars of Ansan he exchanged works of poetry. An autobiographical work written at the age of 54 shows that Kang lived on limited means in Ansan, and is filled with melancholy thoughts of his work remaining unrecognized. But it can be said that the friendships formed and the artistic capabilities developed in the Ansan years laid the foundation for Kangs art, which was later praised by King Jeongjo as the art of elegance and the three perfections. Kang Sehwang was called back to court in 1773. When his son Kang In took part in the annual Royal Feast for Elders as a record-keeping official, King Yeongjo, remembering Kang In grandfather, Kang Hyeon, then recalled that Kang Sehwang was still living in retirement in the country and soon after gave him an official appointment. So at the age of 61, Kang Sehwang began his government career in the low position of chambong (junior ninth rank) but quickly rose to as high as chief magistrate of Hanseong-bu, the Office of the Capital. Indeed, in his final years his career was as illustrious as he might have wished, be-






ang Sehwang (1713-1791, penname Pyoam) was a renowned literati painter of the Joseon Dynasty, famous both as the teacher of genre painter Kim Hongdo and

came into contact with Western civilization and exposed themselves to other new knowledge and experiences, and highly creative literary and artistic works were also produced. Armed with artistic passion and talent Kang forged a very individual art world encompassing poetry, calligraphy and painting. Thanks to his discernment and profound knowledge of art, he was also a prominent critic. Kangs acumen and wide scope of activity resulted in the formation of a large network of people of all ranks and classes tied together by art, including the king, ordinary court artists, and Confucian scholars. This network not only promoted friendship among the individuals but formed an undercurrent of shared artistic aspirations. Hence, Kang is an essential figure in understanding the dynamism of the Korean art scene of the 18th century.
Self-Portrait (of Kang Sehwang) 1782 (aged 70) Colors on silk 88.7 51.0 cm Owned by the Jinju Kang clan

ing admitted to Giroso, and taking part in a mission to China as vice-envoy and meeting Emperor Qianlong. Kangs talents in poetry, calligraphy and painting were passed on to his son and his grandsons Kang Ioh,1788-? Kang Icheon?-1801 and Kang Jin,18071858

for his Album of Journey to Songdo (Songdo gihaengcheop), the outcome of his travels around the Gaeseong region. The National Museum of Korea has organized a special exhibition to commemorate the 300th anniversary of his birth. Kang Sehwang lived in the 18th century Joseon Dynasty, a time that came to be called the Joseon Renaissance for its flowering of art and culture. It was a time when the capital flourished under the peace and stability of the reign of King Yeongjo, and a time of great vitality owing to changes in the peoples outlook on the world and ways of living. Intellectuals

who were all artists.

PORTRAITS OF KANG SEHWANG, REFLECTIONS OF OFFICIALDOM AND RETIREMENT Kang Sehwangs dramatic life can be read in his portrait. The small self-portrait produced when living in the country, simple and sketch-like, is accompanied by an inscription that conveys his desire to mark out his own place in history for posterity, driven by the fear of remaining unrecognized. In the portrait from his government days, Kang is not dressed in uniform but is

wearing his officials hat. The inscription reads, I may be serving in government, but I have not forgotten my desire for a private life. As this indicates, the portrait is a visual depiction of the identity of the 18th century literati who aspired to enter officialdom and live in seclusion at the same time. The painting is assumed to be a self-portrait judging from the content of the inscription. TRAVEL AND PAINTING FROM LIFE: ON THE ROAD TO SEEK THE NEW Five "True view landscapes of Kang Sehwang's paintings, which were painted from real life observation, flourished in the 18th century. These include landscapes of Songdo (present-day Gaeseong), Buan in Jeollabuk-do, and the Geumgangsan Mountain area, and a landscape painted on the road as part of the mission to China to attend the Thousand Elders Banquet hosted by Emperor Qianlong. These paintings of beautiful scenery are the consequence of Kang Sehwang association with the people who led him to visit those regions. The paintings in Album of a Journey to Songdo reflect the relationship between Kang and Oh Suchae.1692-1759 Kang Sehwang explained true-view landscapes as paintings that can make people who have not been to the place

feel as if they are in the middle of the scenery. In this sense, he believed travelogues were better than poetry and paintings better than travelogues. His criticism of Jeong Seon for uniformly using the same kind of texture strokes when painting Geumgangsan Mountain came from his conviction that one should paint a scene just as one sees it, without being tied to any particular technique. That Kang partially adopted Western techniques can be seen in Entryway to Yeongtongdong, while Scenes in Buan Prefecture with its free composition and method of depiction best shows that Kang was unfettered by traditional techniques. EXPERIMENTALISM AND A NEW FEEL Kang was an artist who constantly tried new things and his use of color and subject matter was highly individual. While painting all the subjects that any other Joseon artist captured on paper, Kang also painted more unusual objects such as peaches and sweet briar, which were not easily tackled by other artists. Of all the Joseon paintings featuring a long white radish, Kangs is the most outstanding. The dry brushstroke used for the outline of the radish brings to mind Kangs handwriting. The yellow shading on the ground appears to be the shadow of the radish but while this is not the case

no other yellow object readily comes to mind. But by adding the yellow, it seems Kang was trying to throw the radish into relief and give a sunny feel to the whole painting, a touch that is indicative of Kangs smart sense of color. THE FOUR GRACIOUS PLANTS: TRANSFORMATION OF A CLICHD SUBJECT As a symbol of the virtues of the literati, the four noble plants (chrysanthemums, bamboo, plum blossoms, and orchids) had from early times been a favorite subject for scholars to paint. It was a subject where the brushwork was a clear indicator of the artists abilities and one area in which the literati artists outshone the court artists. Kang Sehwangs paintings of the four gracious plants are particularly prized for Kang was the first Joseon artist to paint all four of the plants as a set. Moreover, Kang Sehwang was an artist who thought deeply on every subject and technique and left behind many related records. At the age of 72, Kang took part on a mission to China. During the months of long journey he began to wonder whether the quality of the paper used could explain the better results achieved by Chinese artists when painting bamboo, and began to experiment with Chinese paper for his own bamboo

paintings. Kang, who had no match in the seriousness of his approach to art, continued to ask questions and try new things to improve his work. Orchid and Bamboo in the collection of the National Museum of Korea, from the later years of Kangs life, is marked by its clean open composition and rich, mellow brushwork, and can be called the artists major painting of the four gracious plants. GREATEST CRITIC OF HIS TIME The final part of the exhibition features Joseon Dynasty paintings that were critiqued by Kang, who was considered be the greatest art critic of his time. Kang developed his eye for art in company with a wide range of literary men, going back and forth between Seoul and Ansan. Later, when he stopped painting for a time under the advice of King Yeongjo, he started to demonstrate his artistic talent through another channel, by criRadish (from the Painting Album by Pyoam) Ink and light colors on silk 28.5 22.3 cm National Museum of Korea

Orchid and Bamboo Ink on paper 39.3 283.7 cm National Museum of Korea

tiquing the works of other artists. While a painting may feature a critique by Kang, it does not necessarily mean the artist and Kang had any contact with each other. In the case of Jeong Seon, for example, all things considered, there is no possibility that the two had any association with each other. It is most likely that someone took the painting to Kang to look at. From this we can see that Kangs works in art criticism are not the result of his personal contacts but the result of his discerning eye for art. That is, because of his renowned discernment, people who owned paintings brought them to Kang for his appraisal. Talented in poetry, calligraphy and painting, Kang Sehwang is the artist most representative of the three perfections. Moreover, Kang was even a talented critic who left behind critiques on many paintings. These works take on even greater significance when we consider that each and every line of his critiques provides theoretical grounds for study of the history of Joseon Dynasty art today.



he exhibition Buddhist Guardian Deities of Late Joseon was organized in time with the Day of Buddhas' Coming, which fell on May 17 this year. In the Buddhist

world, these guardian deities are lower in the hierarchy than the Buddhas and bodhisattavas. Originally indigenous Indian deities, they were incorporated into Buddhism as deities charged with guarding the Buddha and his teachings. In the Joseon period, the cult of the guardian deities was so widespread that paintings of guardian deities such as of Indra (Jeseokcheon), Skanda (Witaecheon) and Brahma (Beomcheon) outnumbered paintings of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. PART 1: INDRA, THE LORD OF DEVAS Indra (Kr. Jeseokcheon) can be considered the major figure in paintings of the Buddhist guardian deities. Of Indian origin, Indra was the lord of devas who conquered evil spirits with a lightning bolt. In the Joseon period, Indra was generally depicted like a goddess or noblewoman and the giver of good fortune and longevity. Paintings of Indra were sometimes produced on their own and also as a set with a painting of the Eight Divine

Being. In later times the two were combined in paintings of Indra and the Divine Beings, stimulating active production of paintings of the guardian deities of Buddhism. PART 2: SKANDA, THE PROTECTOR OF BUDDHIST LAW

Indra and the Divine Beings Joseon, 1750 Colors on silk 173.3 204.0 cm National Museum of Korea

Four Heavenly Kings Joseon, 19th C Colors on silk 318.0 202.5 cm National Museum of Korea



This part of the exhibition focuses on Skanda (Kr. Witaecheon


Skanda was originally an Indian warrior god who killed Buddha. His mantra is believed to carry great power and is therefore often recited in Buddhist rituals. Ucchusma is characteristically depicted with a fierce facial expression, spiky hair, multiple arms, and weapons, which impart a strong sense of power. Kings were commonly installed as guardians at the Gate of the Heavenly Kings, the entryway to a Buddhist temple. The exhibition features paintings of these figures as well as sculptures of evil spirits to give a lively representation of the Four Heavenly Kings treading evil spirits underfoot. PART 5: FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS, THE PROTECTORS OF THE FOUR CARDINAL DIRECTIONS Unlike the other f igures featured in paintings of the guardian deities, the Four Heavenly Kings are often depicted on their own. The Four Heavenly Kings are Dhartarastra (Kr. Jiguk-cheonwang) in the east, Virupaksha (Kr. Gwangmokcheonwang) in the west, Virudhaka (Kr. Jeungjang-cheonwang) in the south, and Vaishravana (Damun-cheonwang) in the north. In the Joseon period, sculptures and paintings of these Four Heavenly PART 6: PRAYERS TO GUARDIAN DEITIES This part of the exhibition explores the meaning and content of the cult of Buddhist guardian deities. As indicated by inscription Wishing for a long life in the corner, of a guardian deities painting, they were made to express prayers for longevity, good fortune, fulfillment of ones wishes, wealth and honor, and to keep away evil spirits and misfortune. The cult of guardian deities and its art reveal the intimate place they had in the everyday lives and prayers of the ordiBeomcheon), the The theme exhibition Buddhist Guardian Deities of Late Joseon has been organized in an easy and interesting way to enhance the enjoyment of museum visitors, even those who tend to regard Buddhist painting as a difficult subject. After examining the paintings on view, the names and identities of the gods, often confusing and hard to distinguish, will come across as distinct beings with their own stories and unique personalities. Paintings of the guardian deities are full of stories that inspire the imagination. Through this exhibition it is hoped that many visitors will discover the attraction of paintings of Buddhist guardian deities, which tell such interesting stories about the gods and reflect the wishes of the ordinary people.

evil spirits and is characterized by the weapon on his forearms and helmet made of feathers. Skanda was originally depicted as a small figure in paintings of the Divine Beings but was soon elevated in rank to become the leading figure. In paintings of Indra and the Divine Beings he is treated as being of almost equal importance to Indra. PART 3: ASSEMBLY OF THE THREE GODS Late Joseon guardian deities paintings bring together not only Indra and Skanda but also Brahma(Kr. Indian god of creation. Paintings featuring this triad gradually came to be established as the typical form of guardian deities paintings, which flourished in the late Joseon period. PART 4: MAHESHVARA AND UCCHUSMA Other major guardian deity figures include Maheshvara (Kr. Daejajaecheon) and Ucchusma (Kr. Yejeok-geumgang

nary people and the religious tolerance inherent in Buddhism.


Shiva, the Indian god of destruction, is usually depicted in

Joseon paintings with multiple arms and three eyes and riding an ox. Ucchusma, though the last figure to appear in paintings of the guardian deities, makes the strongest impression. According to the sutras, Ucchusma is the incarnation of Shakyamuni


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Lacquered Single-legged Small Table Inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl Joseon, 19th century H. 24.0 cm, D. 36.0 cm National Museum of Korea

DATE MAY 14 - JUNE 30, 2013

VENUE Jeonju National Museum, Special Exhibition Gallery

new exhibition as clean and appetizing as a well-laid dinner table has opened. The first

soban from the early days in the Goguryeo and Goryeo periods to Joseon, when pictures of the tables could be found in documentary paintings and genre paintings. It was in the Joseon period that soban were first produced as both a kind of tray for carrying things and a table for dining. Under the influence of Confucianism, people of different rank, gender and age did not eat at the same table so dining tables were made in a small size suitable for individual use. The typical structure of houses also had an effect on soban . In a Joseon traditional home, all the furniture was low in height according to the lifestyle of sitting and sleeping directly on the floor. It also had separate quarters for the men and for the women of the family, and as no separate space was set aside for dining , meals were taken in the bedrooms. This means the meals had to be carried from the kitchen to the bedrooms, via the wood-floored central hall. The dishes used, however, were all heavy brass or porcelain. These factors considered, soban were designed to strong but as light as possible, which meant using wood that could be cut thin without warping or cracking. The special exhibition gives a detailed overview of

the way soban reflected in their size and material the social philosophy, living environment, food customs and other aspects of life in the Joseon era. Also on display are pictures of soban found in Joseon documentary paintings and genre paintings, which makes the subject more real for visitors. Part 2 focuses on the uses of soban . The most basic function of soban was, of course, a table for dining. But on special days, soban played an important role in the rites and ceremonies held to mark the day. That is, soban were used in not only in official royal ceremonies such as court banquets, but also individual rites of passage such as coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, funerals and memorial rites. In addition, soban were connected with the Joseon peoples most ardent wishes and dreams. These small tables carried various articles needed for practice of faith and were placed wherever people prayed for the safety and well-being of their families and the community. These diverse functions of soban serve to give us insight into aspects of Joseon traditional culture and rites. An eye-catching feature of the exhibition are the more decorative (if less

special exhibition for 2013 at the Jeonju National Museum is Soban, Small Dining Table of the Joseon Dynasty. In a simple yet ingenuous way it tells the story of soban, which are indeed much more than just a piece of wooden furniture. Soban have a long history, as attested to by Goguryeo tomb murals. The oldest evidence of this kind may be the pictures of small tables that very closely resemble soban found in the murals of Gakjeochong (Tomb of the Wrestlers) and Muyongchong (Tomb of the Dancers) among others. Notably,

the pictures indicate that, like soban, the tables were portable and served as dining tables placed on the floor. But soban in fact had more diverse functions. Not only were the dining tables, in the Joseon period they were used in various ways in traditional rites and religious practices. The special exhibition has hence been organized to enhance understanding of the changing and varied uses of soban in the Joseon period over time and according to region and function. Part 1 is titled Soban through History. The exhibition delves into the history of




tops are mostly square, multi-sided, circular, or lobed (flowershaped), while the legs are classified as tiger legs, dog legs, legs in the form of carved side boards, and legs made out of solid unsplit wood. The legs also functioned as decorative elements, carved with designs that achieved harmony with the other parts of the table or varied in proportions to lend individuality to the tables. Produced all over the country during the Joseon period, soban exhibited distinct features according to region of origin. Different types of soban therefore carry regional names: Najuban from Naju, Tongyeongban from Tongyeong, Haejuban from Haeju, Gangwonban from Gangwon-do Province, and Chungjuban from Chungju. They are so distinctive in form that it is easily identified different types of tables at a glance. In production method and expression, regional differences are also found in the table top and the legs. Tables from Haeju, however, particularly stand out from the rest. Composed of a table top and two side boards, they are different to other tables in that

Small Dining Table with Sshaped Legs Joseon, 19th Century H. 29.0 cm, D. 44.0 cm National Museum of Korea


sturdy) tables with one leg, called iljuban, which were used not for meals but to serve tea, snacks, and fruit. The Lacquered Single-legged Small Table Inlaid with Mother-of-pearl, formed in the shape of a lotus leaf and decorated with an inlaid design of lotus leaf veins, tortoises, lotus blossoms, and fish, exhibits the height of beauty achieved in this small item of furniture. The exhibition also features the so-called gwolban, or tables that were used in the royal palace for the kings dining table or for court banquets. Most of them are red lacquered or red and black lacquered, a sign of the court, for since the beginning of the Joseon period the use of red lacquer was limited to the royal palace. Part 3 is titled Soban of Different Shapes. The major parts of soban are the table top, the legs, and the skirting board beneath the top plate. A raised edge was attached around the table top to

prevent dishes from falling off the table while the table was being carried. The tables were not made with sharp edges but with rounded corners or lobed in the shape of a flower. Most soban have four legs, except those made in the Haeju region and those made with one leg. To strengthen the legs, a bar running round all four sides at mid-height was sometimes attached, a feature of soban from Tongyeong or Naju. The legs were also connected at the bottom by a horizontal bar. These two features give the table visual and structural stability. Just beneath the table top is a skirting board called ungak that also connects the legs together. Besides being an indispensable structural member that serves to fix the legs in place, it is also a decorative feature, beautifully curved in shape and often carved with designs. Soban are divided into categories generally according to the shape of the table top and the legs. The table

the table top and the edge are formed from one piece of wood rather than the edge being separately made and joined. In addition, the side boards are decorated with openwork circles featuring floral scrolls and other designs, or a square window is cut out of the boards to create a clean, simple design. Visitors to the exhibition will be surprised at the wealth of stories to be discovered in these simple tables. Since its opening in October 1990, the Jeonju National Museum has held a wide variety of exhibitions, and education and activity programs. Various hands-on facilities and education programs are offered at the museums Experience Learning Center, while efforts are being made to develop and operate lectures for adults, programs to promote sharing with minority groups, and education programs to foster professionals from the local area.

Meal Table for an Official on Duty Joseon, 19th century H. 27.6 cm, D. 44.8 cm National Museum of Korea

Lacquered Single-legged Small Table Inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl Joseon, 19th century H. 24.0 cm, D. 36.0 cm National Museum of Korea

Red and Black-lacquered Dining Table with Sshaped Legs Late of Joseon Dynasty H. 40.0 cm, D. 47.5 cm National Museum of Korea

Small Dining Table Manufactured in Haeju Area Joseon, 19th century 46.0 36.0 cm, H. 29.0 cm National Museum of Korea

Small Dining Table Manufactured in Tongyeong Area Joseon, 19th century 44.0 25.0 cm, H. 27.0 cm National Museum of Korea

Small Dining Table Manufactured in Naju Area Joseon, 19th century 46.0 37.0 cm, H. 30.0 cm National Museum of Korea





and provided financial support for new purchases, and promoted the growth and profile of the Korean collection through p u b l i c i t y a n d p a t ro n a g e o f Ko re a n

them give lessons on Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other Asian art before the children visit the museum. We are making efforts to raise understanding of the art of unfamiliar cultures. When there is a planned special exhibition on Asian art, we take applications from teachers one year ahead for a related education program. By stimulating teachers interest in the exhibition, we hope to encourage teachers to include exhibition-related subjects or themes in the following years curriculum. Ultimately, we are providing the foundations needed to promote active use of the special exhibition in education. Do you have any exchange plans with the National Museum of Korea, or other Korean museums? The Art of the Joseon Dynasty Exhibition, which opens in spring 2014, was organized in cooperation with the National Museum of Korea with the view of promoting cultural exchange between Korea and the United States. The first outcome of such cooperation is the exhibition Art Across America, which is was held at the NMK, and The Art of the Joseon Dynasty Exhibition will be the second. It is already attracting a lot of attention as it will mark the first large-scale exhibition of Korean art to be held in Philadelphia. It is also the first exhibition in the United States to give an overview of the Joseon Dynasty.


culture in the Philadelphia area. The Korean Heritage Weekend was launched in 1996 and held annually for more than ten years. Over the two-day weekend a variety of programs on Korean art and culture were organized for the public, including traditional and fusion music, dance performances, making art works
Woo Hyunsoo, The Maxine and Howard Lewis Associate Curator of Korean Art Woo served as researcher at the Brooklyn Museum in New York (1997-2001) and Deputy Director at the Japan Society Gallery (20012005) before joining the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2006, where she has since served as curator of the Korean art. She is now busy preparing for the Joseon Art Exhibition to be held next spring. The exhibition will be held in the museums special gallery, which covers one thousand square meters, and will later tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

with the family, and Korean handcraft workshops and demonstrations. Unfortunately, it has not been held for the past two years, but after some amendment we are planning to launch a more substantial event next year in time for The Art of the Joseon Dynasty exhibition. Does the Philadelphia Museum of Art run any education programs on Korean art or other Asian art? If so, what is the content of such programs and how they run? The education programs sometimes ex-

What are your major responsibilities as curator of the Korean Gallery at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? It is my responsibility to manage and expand the Korean collection, carry out and publish research on the items, plan the permanent and special exhibitions, and train docents and lecturers of the museums education programsnot much different to the work of any other art museum curator. But at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, curator of the Korean Gallery is a very special position. It is a position instituted for the first time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is solely devoted to Korean art. It is also the only endowed position of Korean art curator at any US museums. As the position is funded by generous supports by the leading community members in Philadelphia, it is financially independent from the museums operation budget. The Korean art curator appointment will remain a meaningful achievement as long as the museum remains in existence. Could you tell us about the scale and history of the Korean collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? The Korean collection has grown steadily since the first object, a buncheong dish,

was donated to the museum back in 1903, and now includes some 450 objects. It largely consists of pottery and ceramics, paintings, handcrafts, and furniture from the 4th century to modern times. The museum is making continued efforts to expand the collection through purchase and gifts. Is there any one exhibit in the Korean Gallery that you would particularly like to tell us about? The 12th century Celadon Maebyeong with incised Design , which was shown at the special exhibition Korean Art from the United States held at the National Museum of Korea last June, is a masterpiece among masterpieces. From comparison with excavated relics, it is thought to have been produced at the Sadang-ri kiln in Gangjin, and its finely executed incised design and beautiful color make it a work of national treasure level. Since I was appointed curator in 2006, the Korean collection has been steadily expanded through purchase and gifts, and currently we are focusing on the expansion of the painting collection. In addition to major folding screens such as One Hundred Boys, Peonies, and Lotus Blossoms, the painting collection also includes Yang Gihuns

Geese and Reeds and Jeong Hakgyos Rocks and Orchids. Another major acquisition is the White Porcelain Jar with Lid, a typical example of 15th century white porcelain. What is the Korean Heritage Group at the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Also, could you tell us about the annual Korean Heritage Weekend? In 1997 the museums Asian Art Department and Education Department came together to form a Korean art support group. In May that year the Korean Heritage Group, comprised of Korean and American individuals from the local community, was launched. Over the past ten years, the Korean Heritage Group has worked to attract new donations

1. Vase ( Maebyeong ) 12th century, Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Porcellaneous stoneware with incised decoration under celadon glaze, 16 x 9 1/2 inches (40.6 x 24.1 cm) Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Fiske Kimball Fund and the Marie Kimball Fund, 1974 Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art 2. Featuring east entrance or rocky steps Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art 3. Installation view, Celebrate Korea: A Decade of Collecting (2006) Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

plore the Asian art collection according to different cultures, and sometimes as part of a thematic program along with European and American art. One example is the program where children make their own artworks inspired by works in the permanent exhibition. In addition, learning materials on Asian art developed by the Education Department, based on the works in the museums collection, are distributed to school teachers to help






KIM MANJUNG AND GUUNMONG Kim Manjung (penname Seopo, 16371692) wrote Guunmong (The Cloud Dream of the Nine) while living in Seoncheon when he was exiled for the second time. Kim wrote the novel for his mother, out of the guilt he felt all his life for being unable to take care of her when he had to go into exile. In the conservative Joseon Dynasty when novels were considered a low form of culture, Kim, a government official, began writing novels in the first place because of his mother. Therefore, the theme of Guunmong is commonly

As the reader remains uninformed of the fact also, Seongjin and the reader are in the same position. Hence the reader accompanies Seongjin as he goes through transmigration of the soul and is reborn as Yang Soyu, and becomes a great and successful man, and is likewise shocked when Seongjin is shocked to find that it was all a dream. Like Seongjin who questions the meaning of life and bows before Yukgwan in a bid to gain true enlightenment, the reader also raises the same question and desires true enlightenment. With the employment of such strategic deceit, the author urges the reader to gain true insight. TRANSMIGRATION: PUNISHMENT OR REWARD? Scolding Seongjin for his sin, Yukgwan sends him to Pungdo (hell) for transmigration of the soul. But instead of being punished, Seongjin is reborn as Yang Soyu and enjoys a rich and fruitful life, achieving everything he desires. Though Seongjins sin was coveting human wealth and fame, Yukgwan, while admonishing the sin, allows Seongjin to achieve his desires. As he is not continually being reborn, it is difficult to see Seongjins experience of living the happy life of a man named Yang Soyu in a dream as punishment. So while Yukgwan condemns the sin, in reality he forgives the sin and gives Seongjin what he wants, but in the form of a dream. As such, Yukgwans reprimands and censure serve to trick the reader. Yukgwans reprimands are seen as strict judgment for breaking the Buddhist precepts. They stress the seriousness of Seongjins sin, for which he cannot avoid the punishment of transmigration. But in his reprimands Yukgwan only points out the wrongs committed by Seongjin


said to be the frailty of human life or that life is an empty dream. But this is a mistaken notion. As apparent in the content of the novel, it is not possible to appease a mothers worries with the idea of the frailty of human life. Would a dutiful son console a lone and elderly mother with the words Mother, wealth, rank and fame are nothing but an empty dream? Would the mother find solace in these words? Surely her worries would multiply. This point considered, it would be more correct to say the theme of Guunmong is emptiness. 2013 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA HUMANITIES LECTURES The National Museum of Korea hosts Saturday Afternoon, Garden of the Humanities, a series of monthly lectures which are open to the general public. The overall theme is Strolling through the Classics on a Saturday Afternoon. With fascinating, in-depth exploration of various subjects in the humanities, the objective of the lectures is to stimulate interest in and broader understanding of Korean culture and give museum visitors a pleasant learning experience. UNDERSTANDING THE AUTHORS INTENT The first chapter in Guunmong shows Seongjin, favored disciple of the Great Monk Yukgwan, committing sin and as a result being reincarnated as a man named Yang Soyu. Everything Yang does is a success. He rises to a high position in government, achieves victory in war, and lives a happy life with eight beautiful wives. Seong jins reincarnation as Yang is a dream but the novel deals with the story as if it were reality. The author deliberately hides the fact that Yang is dreaming.


Detail from Painting of the Cloud Dream of the Nine Seoul Auction

A Happy Museum: The Identity of Korean Culture / Ta Seoksan (philosopher and writer)

Classics that Everyone Should Know: In Search of Emotional Resonance / Yu Gwangsu (Yonsei University professor)
MAY 25

Humanities of the Human Body Interpreted through Dongui-bogam / Goh Misuk (classics critic)

The Hearts of Koreans Reflected in Old Poems / Na Taeju (Director of Gongju Cultural Center)




and does not go into detail about the punishment he is to receive. But the sinner Seongjin, who keeps making feeble excuses, is the first to say that he should be banished. This is seen as confession on Seongjins part that the gravity of his sin deserves banishment. This is when Yukgwan tells him to go to Pungdo. Through this series of events and by making Seongjin decide his own method of punishment, to the reader it seems right and inevitable that Seongjin go to hell and be put through the process of transmigration and reincarnation. In fact, however, Seongjins sin is not so great, and because he repented of his own accord it can be said that the punishment of transmigration is rather severe. In the end, Seongjins contempt and announcement of his own punishment, and the unfolding of the narrative in the order of sin, hell, and transmigration, the reader comes to see transmigration as Seongjins unavoidable fate. When everything is revealed to be a dream, the reader is no longer interested in the question of whether Seongjins punishment is justified or not. The fact that it is all a dream completely obscures this argument. For inside dreams, not only transmigration but all sorts of absurd and unbelievable things happen quite naturally. CHANGE OF IDENTITY THROUGH TRANSMIGRATION As the result of such change in space, physical body, and name, Seongjin forgets his original identity and remembers only his other self. Seongjin, a healthy young 20-year-old male, Seongjin who had the ability to fly through the sky to reach the underwater palace of the Sea God, Seongjin who had a face as white as snow and greater intelligence and wisdom than the rest of the crowdthis

superiority melts away like snow the moment he is reborn, the moment that he categorizes himself as a newborn baby. As a newborn baby he remembers that he was once the Buddhist male Seongjin but can no longer exercise any magical powers. Not only that, he is a completely powerless being who can consciously utter nothing but the cry of a baby. This is the result of limiting himself inside a certain framework. He can no longer seek after truth or consciously attain enlightenment of his own accord. In this way, Seongjin forgets who he was and becomes Yang Soyu. Yang Soyus world is one where things grow without effort, where the seeds of ambition germinate and achieve fulf illment . That world, however, is one of fundamental delusion where people do not realize when they are placed in a ridiculous situation. BECOMING SEONGJIN AGAIN After a life of fame and success, Yang Soyu retires to his palace where he lives in seclusion. A long time passes. When Yang is an old man, an Indian monk appears before him. The monk is none other than Yukgwan. The monks appearance comes not after Yang Soyu begins to feel the frailty of human life but after his realization of the frailty of human life and his decision that the only way to overcome this state is to embrace the Buddhist faith. Or to put it more clearly, the monk appears as soon as Yang Soyu announces the decision he has already made and gains the approval of those around him. If the monk had not appeared and awoken Yang Soyu from his dream, then the next day, as he had announced, Yang would have certainly set out to reach the state of neither birth nor death (immortality). The monk appears when Yang Soyus de-

cision to seek immortality has been made clear, but he leads Yang not on that road but to his past life. The reason is simple. Though Yang may seek the state of emptiness he cannot attain it. Appearing in the form of the Indian monk, Yukgwan leads Yang Soyu to the past through conversation, and by this Yang Soyu returns to his original form. Under Yukgwans guidance, Yang Soyu realizes that he is neither the highest official in the land, nor a poor, ordinary scholar. That is, he realizes he is not Yang Soyu but Seongjin. Yukgwan talks with Yang Soyu and by this conversation Yang Soyu is led to remember his past. At first, Yang Soyu treats Yukgwan like a stranger. But Yukgwan keeps repeating the question, Dont you know me? which in other words means I am your treacher Yukgwan. But up to the end Yang Soyu fails to recognize Yukgwan in the old monk. He gradually draws closer to realization but never quite breaks the barrier. The reason is simple. Because of the fundamental limitations of the life of transmigration where he is caught in the chain of selfforgetting and self-memory, Yang Soyu is unable to remember the time when he was Seongjin. Finally, Yang Soyu asks how he can get break the barrier. As if this is the moment he has been waiting for, Yukgwan awakens Yang Soyu from his dream. Yukgwan then leads Yang Soyu little by little back to the past, calling his name, until Yang realizes the limitations of his own life, his memory, and his understanding. His use of various names for Yang is deliberate. A name is an objective marker of a persons identity. Yukgwan calls Yang Soyu various names such as Daeseungsang (great prime minister), Gwiin (noble man), Yang Jangwon (Yang, first place winner in the state exams), Sanggong In Guunmong there are two different yet similar desires. Simply put, they are the desires of Seongjin and the desires of Yang CEASELESS CIRCULATION OF THE TWO DESIRES (high official). By doing so the aim is to make Yang Soyu realize the basic nature of his existence. But Yang Soyu is unable to grasp the nature of any of these identities, because he is neither the highest official in the land nor a poor scholar, nor is he even Yang Soyu. He is really Seongjin. He simply thinks he is the highest official, and remembers being a poor scholar, and has not the slightest doubt that he is Yang Soyu. This reflects life where people are caught up in their own understanding of things and cannot see the true nature of things. The narrative shows this in a concrete way through the appearance of the Indian monk and his dialogue, the change in Yang Soyus perceptions, and through his awakening from the dream. Soyu. While these two desires resemble each other, they nurture each other and reject each other at the same time. Seongjin becomes Yang Soyu because of his ambition, which is focused on wealth, rank and fame. This is realized through the life of Yang Soyu, who makes Seongjins ambitions concrete. In turn, Yang Soyu becomes Seongjin because of his desire to reach the state of immortality and break free from a sense of futility, which is the life that had been pursued by Seongjin, the Buddhist believer. The young Seongjin tried to suppress his desire for wealth and fame but found that was not the way to overcome it. Yukgwan therefore interferes to enable Seongjin to feed his ambitions in the future, that is, to become Yang Soyu. At that point, the young Seongjin could not identify his desires. He did not know what his desires were but came to nurture them. But it was all in vain, as Yang Soyu the great prime minister comes to realize. Like Seongjin and Yang Soyu, all human
Painting of the Cloud Dream of the Nine Joseon period 120 x 37.0 cm Kyonggi University Museum

beings caught in the cycle of transmigration of the soul desire something but are not aware of the outcomes. This is because humans are limited beings who can only remember the present stage they are in, as revealed in the narrative of Guunmong . Seonjin becomes Yang Soyu and Yang Soyu becomes Seongjin. Seonjin desires to be Yang Soyu and Yang Soyu desires to be Seongjin. Therefore, the two desires are in vain. When he is Seongjin he desperately longs to be Yang Soyu and when he is Yang Soyu he desperately longs to be Seongjin, but this is all in vain. But like Seongjin and Yang Soyu, people do not realize this. W h e n Ya n g S oy u awa k e n s f ro m t h e dream and becomes Seongjin again, Yukgwan says to him, You have barely woken from the dream, and he could not be more correct. By this Yukgwan is saying that desire has to be fundamentally overcome, that is, one must reach the state of emptiness. To realize that is the greatest enlightenment.





In cooperation with NHN (CEO Kim Sanghun), the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Ethnology of the Netherlands (director Stijn Schoonderwoerd) have launched the renewed Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces (VCM), an international cultural project bringing together the major museums of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) countries. The renewed website is faster overall, and every page has been redesigned and the menu reorganized, while other features such as artifact search, lists and maps of participating museums, SNS links, and multimedia materials have been reinforced.

To carry out the project, the NMK and the National Museum of Ethnology of the Netherlands worked together to establish policies, create and edit contents including academic research, information on the artifacts, and keep close contact with member museums. NHN, as partner in the project, installed the main server for the VCM website in Korea and formed a team of specialists in the fields of information technology, design, marketing and public relations, and law to look after related issues. Website: http://vcm.asemus. museum Mobile address: http://m.vcm.


A new lunch area was opened May 3 for the convenience of school and family groups visiting the National Museum of Korea. The 82 m space is big enough for around 72 people to sit down and eat a packed lunch. The project was instigated by a letter sent to the museum September 10, 2012 by an elementary school child asking that the museum prepare a place where children could sit down with

their lunchboxes. To comply with this modest request, NMK Director-General Kim Youngna set aside space near the entrance to the Childrens Museum for the ease of young visitors and families. The new lunch area, in addition to the existing lunch area (first floor of the museum, accommodates about 140 people), means the museum now has room for more than 200 people to sit down and eat the food they have brought with them.


The National Museum of Korea has prepared exhibition space inside the Permanent Exhibition Hall for the blind and visually impaired. Six special spaces have been established on the first floor to provide various activities designed to enhance the learning experience for blind and visually impaired such as touching models of exhibition artifacts, listening to easy-tooperate audio commentary on the exhibits, and reading Braille explanations. Starting with this project for the blind and visually


The National Museum of Korea hosted Museum Week, a series of events held May 17 through 26. Museum Week was organized in cooperation with the Korean Museum Association and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to mark World Museum Day, as designated by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and featured diverse contents designed for the enjoyment of all visitors and employees of the museum. The first days event, A Happy Museum-Photography Competition, garnered great response. Under the theme of A Happy Museum, 335 photos were entered in the competition. In addition, those visiting the museum on Sunday May 19 were able to see the permanent exhibition for free and receive a 50 percent discount on the special exhibition Art Across America. Gyeongju National Museum and other regional museums also held various exhibitions, concerts and hands-on activity programs tailored to the local region.

impaired, the NMK plans to expand services for the disabled. To mark the opening of the special areas inside the Permanent Exhibition Hall,the NMK in conjunction with the Korea Blind Union held a preview with on April 19 at 10:30 am. It is anticipated that many more people will now be able to visit the museum in comfort and take advantage of the various exhibitions and activities the museum has to offer.


The National Museum of Korea hosted a special free concert of Korean traditional music (gugak) for all museum visitors in the Open Plaza on Saturday June 8 and Sunday June 9 at 3 p.m. On the first day, members of the Namwon National Gugak Center, who have worked constantly over a long period of time to preserve Korean folk music and dance and to develop them for future generations, gave a fine performance of different genres including Samullori (traditional percussion

band), folk songs of Jeollanam-do, folk dance, instrumental ensembles, and one-act traditional musical plays (changgeuk). On the second day, members of the Seoul Performing Arts Company, known for its creative musical performances based on Korean traditional subject matter, staged a show featuring a heavenly drum performance, the hourglass drum dance, traditional rural percussion music and rural musical parade. The month of June was a memorable one for visitors to the National Museum of Korea thanks to the array of things to see including the permanent exhibition and outdoor sculpture garden.






ISBN 978-89-93518-27-6

The National Museum of Korea has published a catalog introducing relics from the Islamic culture discovered across a vast continent covering East and West, dating from the 8th century to the 18th century. The contents are organized to show the historical development of Islamic art from its origins through its growth and glory days. The catalog also highlights distinctive aspects of Islamic art such as the geometric patterns and artistic Islamic script.



ISBN 978-89-92788-59-5

This catalog brings together the relics of Kang Sehwang, the leading figure in the art circle of the 18th century, handed down in the family from generation to generation as well as the artists major works. The life and work of the artist is explored in various chapters titled The Literati Artist Ideal, Family and the Times, Dreams and Ideals of the Literati, Travel and Sketches, and The Greatest Critic of the Age. The contents of the catalog will give a fascinating glimpse into the art and culture of the 18th century, the time known as the Joseon Renaissance.

Sixteen new exhibits have been out on display in the India and Southeast Asia The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery has recently launched an ipad application on Korean art, an online catalog, and a guidebook under the National Museum of Koreas support project for the American gallerys Korean art collection. The ipad application titled Charles Lang Freer: Collecting Korea is the first application developed by the Freer Gallery and can currently be downloaded for free. It follows the path of Freer, the gallerys founder, and how he came to own a large collection of Korean art. Some of the items in the collection are shown in 3D and can be rotated 360 degrees. The online catalog Korean Ceramics in the Freer Gallery of Art can be found at http:// It features 300 ceramics from the gallerys Korean collection and provides not only basic information on the works but also six articles written by Korean scholars in both Korean and English. Korean Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries is a comprehensive guidebook first published by the museum in 2010 and now in its second print run. Like the ipad application, the guidebook follows the history of the Korean collection and includes color photographs and detailed explanations of selected works. and Japan galleries. Of the five new Indian paintings, four are miniatures that are being exhibited for the first time since they were acquired by the National Museum of Korea in 2011. They dated to the 17th and 18th centuries and were produced in the Bengal and North Deccan regions of India. Prince Sitting on the Terrace and Nawar Albadi Khan and His Nephew Saulat Jang feature detailed depiction of the individual characteristics of the subjects and reveal traces of the tradition of Mughul portraits set against a lyrical scenic background. New exhibits in the Japanese gallery include eight ukiyo-e woodblock prints showing scenes of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido. Among the modern art works, an important part of the NMKs Japanese collection, the works of three Japanese artists from the Kyoto region have been chosen for display. Yamakawa Shuhos Dance , showing a woman dancing in a black kimono, is exhibited beside Nakamura Daizaburos Spring , featuring the figure of modern girl wearing a hat trimmed with lace caught from behind, thereby giving a glimpse of Japanese art trends in the transition from tradition to the new in the late 1930s. The folding screen Quiet Morning Sea by Matsumoto Ichiyo, who studied Japanese traditional yamato-e , reflects the quiet, delicate Japanese sense of aesthetics.


ISBN 978-89-98234-05-8

The National Museum of Korea has published its first catalog of its Central Asian art collection, titled Religious Paintings of Central Asia. The focus was placed on two aspects. First, for systematic introduction of the collection and publication of new related research, a large number of good quality photographs of each item were included, forty of the color photographs being published for the first time ever. The second point of focus was scientific investigation of collection. The catalog includes a detailed report on conservation work carried out on 30 of the items.


were popular motifs in Edo period paintings as they were considered auspicious symbols of fecundity and good fortune. In the century a large number of highly individual artists emerged in Kyoto, Rosetsu being one of them. The folding screen shows 41 children forming a long train and the composition, the expressions of the children, innocent yet naughty, highlight Rosetsus originality. In the future another folding screen titled Recreation at Home, featuring genre paintings of various recreational activities set inside a large house such as a circle dance, looking at flowers, and the board game go, will also be exhibited. Both of these folding screens, dating to the mid-17th century, are wonderful works that show varied scenes of daily life from the early Edo period.

From June 11, the National Museum of Korea will be exhibiting in the Japanese Gallery its newly acquired Japanese art works in stages. The first to be revealed are a collection of Edo period (1603-1867) folding screens dealing with various themes. The best among them is the folding screen Chinese Children Playing by Kyoto-based artist Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799). The children in the picture are called karako, which refers specifically to Chinese children, as indicated by the Chinese style hair and dress. These children


ISBN 978-89-91331-00-6

The National Museum of Korea has published a catalog of calligraphy by the two great monks Hanam and Tanheo of Woljeongsa Temple. The catalog includes portraits, writings, and the relics of the two monks, which give a glimpse into their hearts as they seek the truth. The three parts of the catalogHanams Life and Writings, Hanam and Tanheo, and Tanheos Life and Writings and other essays will give readers a sense of the monks academic maturity, reflections on life, high ideals and firm faith.






Opening hours 09:00 18:00 Closing days Every Monday and public holidays (and other days designated by the NMK Director-General) Homepage

In addition, there is a collection of historical records, which are however unavailable to the general public. They include records of major archaeological excavations from the Japanese colonial period as well as materials relating to the museum established by the Japanese Government-General, which have been preserved at the library since 1973 when it was located on the site occupied by the National Folk Museum today. A separate library is devoted to donated books including those given by the late Kim Chaewon, first NMK director, and by scholars inside and outside the country. Visitors to the library can also access materials that are not distributed to the public such as the Museum News, the newsletter of the Cultural Foundation of the National Museum of Korea, and the Childrens Museum newspaper. The Recommended Books section under Book Information on the NMK library homepage features books selected by the librarians. Every week five books are chosen from among newly arrived additions to the library, each introduced with a photo of the cover and brief run-down of the contents. The books can be searched by month. Priority is given to books published by the NMK and regional national museums as well as catalogs and books on current exhibitions. Among the 20 books that were introduced in this fashion in April are the catalogs for the special exhibition The Peranakan World: Cross-cultural Art from

Singapore and the Straits and theme exhibition in the calligraphy gallery titled Calligraphy of Korean Seon Masters: Hanam and Tanheo of Woljeongsa Temple.
Through active collection of materials published by the worlds major museums and books in the fields of history, cultural heritage, archaeology, art, anthropology and conservation science, the NMK Library aims to fulfill its role as an archive of specialized academic materials.

At the top of the central stairway at the National Museum of Korea, the entranceway to the left leads to the museums hidden archives, the National Museum of Korea Library. The library is a light-filled place with the sunlight coming through the plate glass windows. The quiet reading room with its large windows endows the library with an air of dignity and grace. The white toned walls and wooden furniture create a pleasant interior and a non-distracting environment where you can concentrate on your work. The wide open space covering some 1,300 square meters has the atmosphere of a library inside a gallery. The bookcases covering a whole wall take command of the reading room with the charisma of an art installation. This quiet and pleasant library is mostly frequented by employees of the NMK or those studying art or history related subjects. In that sense it can be rightly regarded as a specialized library, and the collection of museum-related materials in the fields of research, exhibition, conservation and education is growing. Moreover, all systems have been designed to provide users with efficient and methodical information service. The library has a total of some 142,000 volumes including more than 100,000 books, 37,000 periodicals, 3,400 multimedia materials, and 784 old and rare books.