Thursday, 29 June 2017

Confucian: Calligraphy, Art and Culture

[Korea] - Confucian: Calligraphy, Art and Culture | by Meheartseoul
Addition to my previous post about Court Treasures and Culture,  this post will be more on how Confucianism influenced the culture, tradition, social life and art during Joseon Dynasty and modern Korea.

 'A Confucian, A Man of Letters'

From young age, a prince had to study Confucian classics, history, law and on top of those, a king had to practise calligraphy as well as composie prose and poetry. Calligraphy was regarded as a means of cultivating one's mind and personality.

 Ridiciously neat and nice calligraphy that looks like it's printed. 
I wish I could write as pretty as this!

 Yi Hwang wrote a guide in Hangul to King Seonjo on how to rule and help his people.

Although Hangul was invented in 1446, but King Hyojang
still wrote in Chinese characters, because Hangul was
intended for commoners who didn't have chance to 
learn Chinese characters (someone like me ;P).

 Told my Hubby that I knew how to read the text!
Although the pronounciation a bit different, but at least I can
read these Chinese characters with the help of printed Hangul.

Life as a Joseon bureacrat could be stressful. In historical drama, we often see victims of political purges or conflicts that arose between scholar-officials, which led some yangban to pursue alternative paths like calligraphy, painting, music and literature.

 Kim Jeonghui's rubbing calligraphy '真兴北狩古境' means 'The territory
where King Jinheung (in K-drama Hwarang) toured the north on hunting.'

Confucian Scholars emphazed the value of forests that led the conservation and development of temple gardens, restricted hunting areas and forests. Conservation efforts in Korea actually started when the reign of King Jinheung (Silla Dynasty) who promoted areas of scenic beauty.

Calligraphy of Song Siyeol.

Kim Jeonghu's Calligraphy for his chilhood friend, Kim Yugeun (penname: Mukso).

This is regarded as one of the most renowned works of Kim Jeong-hui (penname: Chusa), written in the regular script. The lines, meaning “One should know when to remain silent and when to laugh,” were inspired by the pen-name of his close friend, ‘Mukso Geosa’ (meaning, ‘a person with a silent smile’). One can see that it is written with earnestness, and the sharp brush strokes show the great calligrapher’s depth. (Source:

I thought the poster was Toegye Yi Hwang, Confucian scholars (선비 = Seonbi). Seonbi was idolized as the ideal man during the Joseon Dynasty.

There's another painting with ink on silk scroll hanging 
at the exhibition hall at the second floor.

Korea Treasure no. 1487 is an impressive portrait of Joseon scholar-official
Seo Jik-su with his critiqued on his own portrait – he thought 
the artist didn’t properly portray his mind. 

 Standing portraits like this one are quite rare in Korea,
because most of the portraits were in seated position.

Seo Jik-su is shown donned in a long overcoat, high hat and white socks. Traditionally, the painters emphasized the facial expressions and features of the face to the tiniest details and to portrait their personality, and intellect, as well as their appearance. 

The inscription, written by Seo stated that the court painter Yi Myeong-gi painted the face and to achieve the 3D effect for the face, Yi utilized a shading technique which involved a repetition of fine brush strokes. The rest of the figure was completed by Kim Hong-do with a different shading techniques to depict the heavy folds in Seo’s garment. |

If you watched sageuk drama 'Painter of the Wind (바람의 화원)' you must familiar with these two exceptional painters during Joseon era, Kim Hong do (pen name: Danwon / 단원) and Shin Yun bok (pen name: Hyewon / 혜원). 

In this historical fiction, Kim Hong-do was a fierce competitor to Yi Myeong-gi to be selected as the imperial painter for King's Portrait (어진화사).

Yun Bok marked Kim Hong do's face because Kim Hong Do asked him to define 
his Sam Jeong Wu Ak (3정 5악) after showing him the realistic portrait of Yun Du-seo.

 3정: Upper, Middle and Lower face.
5악: South (forehead), North (chin), East (left cheek), 
West (right cheek) and Central (nose). (Photo: Wikipedia)

Slanted eyes portrait drawn by Kim Hong Do and Yun Bok in the drama.
Actually, the real painter for Chae Je-gong's portrait was Yi Myeong-gi.

 Portrait of Seo Maesu - First State Councilor (left) and
Potraits of Successful Candidates of the Deungjunsi 
Military Examination (right).

The rank badge embroidery on the chest signify the rank.  Seo Maesu was holding the highest government post wore green robe with two cranes design. Tiger and leopards which symbolised courage were for military officials.

Portrait paintings were important in Confucian society because it was believed that the portrait enabled to bring out person's spirit and soul to allow that person to be resurrect alive. 

Sosu Seowon (Yeongju) & Munseongsa (Ojukheon, Gangneung)

Royal Portrait Museum, Seowon Confucian Academies, private memorial shrines are common places to enshrine the portraits and perform rites to pay respect to ancestors or historical figures.

Besides portraits, there're others aesthetics artworks recorded where you can witness a glimpse of culture and tradition and lifestyle of Joseon Dynasty that adopted Confucianism principles.

This colorful 45 metre long handscroll meticulously documented King Jeongjo's
procession to his father's tomb in year 1795 which involving 6000 people.

King Jeongjo pay respect to royal tomb of his father (Crown Prince Sadoseja) every year. His visit in year 1795 coincided with his mother's 60th birthday (환갑 = hwangap). Therefore, he held a feast was held at Hwaseong Haenggung Palace in Suwon because it's considered auspicious for a person to completed the first 60-year cycle. (Vera Lee)
 Bongsudang Hall means "to plead for a long enough life," for King Jeongjo's mother.  
 appears in scenes of K-drama 'Moonlight Drawn by Clouds
as the living quarters of the Crown Prince.

Reception of Japanese Envoy.

Ten-fold screen painting with ink and colors on paper from right to left 
starting with the procession and ended with welcoming banquet. 

 Celebrating the birth of Crown Prince Yi Cheok.

Another ten-fold screen painting, but this one on silk instead of paper. King Gojong was indicated by Sun, Moon and Five Peaks screen and the red throne in the main hall because it's forbidden to paint the king except for Royal Portrait. 

A pair of 2-panel folding screens were painting of 60th birthday banquet for 
Elder Queen Mother Sunwon (Wife of King Sunjo) 
in Changgyeonggung Palace.

Although both paintings look seemingly identical, the left captures the same banquet by night because lanterns were found only in the left painting of the pair. Please watch the video of the detailed explanation from the assistant curator.

'Shoeing A Horse' (left) and paintings of man prentended blind
to peek at a woman washing clothes with her skirt hiked up. 

Birds and Flowers Paintings by Nam Gyewoo.

 Painting from Album of Eight Views of Seoul and its vicinity.
Painting by Sim Sajeong & Art critic by Kang Sehwang
acknowledged the work as a masterpiece.


  Folk paintings portrayed the ordinary lives of people, 'true-view' landscape, animals,
flowers, plants were part of brush paintings that flourished during that era.

The Ninth King of Hell (left) with a scale to weight one's misdeeds & The Tenth King
of Hell (right) with Karma Mirror will decide the final judgement which one of the
six realms (bottom left) the person will be reborn in the next life.

 Portrait of Monk Ssangwoldang by Hyesandang Chugyeon.

The Chinese characters at the end of the scroll state that it was painted by a monastic painter named Hyesandang, one of the most famous Buddhist painters at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. 

The prayer beads represent his devotion to Buddha's teachings, while the book in the background symbolise his great learning.

Monks were rank after they passed the higher state examination (high to low): Great Virtue (daedeok), Great Master (daesa), Double Great Master (jung daesa), Triple Great Master (samjung daesa), Zen Master (seonsa), Great Zen Master (dae seonsa). 

Portrait of Choe Yeonhong by Chae Yongsin.

Unnangja (Choe Yeonhong) was a gisaeng and recognised for her patriotic acts during the Rebellion of Hong Gyeongrae in 1811. On the upper right, it stated that her age was 27 at the time of rebellion. The composition, reminiscent of Virgin and Child images of Christianity which reflect the influence of Western art. 

Portrait paintings was important for ceremonial rites to respect the ancestors and those contributed to the nation. Portrait of Choe Yeonhong with Gyewolhyang, another brave gisaeng who was bravely assisted in assassinate a Japanese commander during Imjin War were enshrined in Uiyeolsa Shrine.

Confucian was held as social ideology which emphasize 'yang' (male-related) dominant,  therefore portraits of women were rare that even queens and noblewomen couldn’t be painted. King Sukjong wanted to commission a portrait of Queen Inhyeon but there was uproar that the court male painters will be looking at her for too long! Ended he gave up and therefore there's no portrait of queen.

I like traditional paintings especially when they included lines of beautiful poem in calligraphy. Therefore, these few dramas such as 'Painter of the Wind,' 'Hwang Jin Yi,' and 'Saimdang: Light's Diary' showing their talents in arts.

Talking about painting, Saimdang was one of the great female artists during Joseon Dynasty, but her artworks either paintings or calligraphies were not displayed here.
Collection of Saimdang's Chochungdo painting of 
plants and insects and Calligraphy shown at Ojukheon Museum.

Despite her outstanding talents as an artist herself, in that that era she's recognised more as wise mother of seven children including Yulgok Yi I, the smart and famous Joseon Confucian Scholar.

Learned more about the history and culture during Joseon from this exhibition. Actually, there are more things, but 5 hours were not enough for me to look and read everything in details. Although, I was familiar with some of the names as they appeared in Sageuk dramas.

Really wish to know and learn more on Korean culture and tradition, language, correct etiquettes and manners so that I can relate when watching historical dramas or when visiting Korea.

Located near the venue of Pyeongchang Olympics, you might not want to miss these 2 beautiful traditional Hanok houses with rich history which often used as filming locations for historical dramas. Please click on the links for more details.


Related Posts:

Yeongju Seonbichon Village 선비촌 |

Yeongju Sosuseowon Confucian Academy 영주 소수서원 |

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Asian Civilisations Museum: Joseon Korea

For those who are interested in Korean culture and art, you must not miss this special Korean theme exhibition 'Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life' at Asian Civilisations Museum.

It's drizzling when we came out from Raffles MRT (Exit H).
Kids sharing umbrella with Hangul printing.

Visited ACM last Sunday with my kids without my hubby because he'd to go to work  after Urban Camping at Pasir Ris.

ACM - Joseon Korea (22 Apr - 23 Jul 2017).

It's admission free for 'Seoul Awesome! Weekend Festival' and so much  entertaining activities available for both adults and children such as Korean Traditional performances, workshops, Hanbok experience, traditional games and free tasting of pingsu and popcorn.

Although this museum has permanent galleries, but the background of
receptionist area was plastered with giant Irworobongdo.

The exhibition hall at the second floor is divided into smaller galleries based on the themes. There are 14 interesting and engaging themes where you can see all these treasures with your own eyes...

Court Treasures and City Life: Joseon Dynasty was one of the 
longest dynasties in the world history which lasted more than 500 years.

Moon Jar Porcelin and Goryeo Celadons such as Ewer, Brushrest, Vase and 
Kundika from National Museum of Korea are currently displaying at 
Departing from Goryeo Dynasty.

Manuscript of Lotus Sutra Vol. 2 

The most distinction between Goryeo and Joseon is from their religious. Goryeo which inheriting Silla's traditions and cultures was influenced by Buddhism in their daily life. However, Buddhism was suprressed during Joseon Dynasty because principles of Confucianism were greatly adopted.

Royal Authority and Court Culture.
Irworobongdo: Folding screeen of Sun, Moon and 5 Peaks.

Received goodie bag after we snapped a photo here, 
tagged @acm_sg and posted on Instagram and Facebook.

Rooted by philosophy of Confucianism, King Sukjong made this Royal Seal of 
King Taejo when he granted posthumous title to King Taejo about 300 years later. 
Eulogy book made from ten slabs of jade was concurently carved to show his 
filial piety and respect for ancestors. 

Talking about King Sukjong causing my mind to auto playing 'Walk In A Dreamy Road (애지아)' - OST of popular historical drama Dong Yi about love story between King Sukjong and Choi Suk-bin.

 Gujangbok (구장복) King's Robe with 9 symbols
 (4 ying symbols and 5 yang symbols).

This ceremonial robe wore by the Joseon kings for the formal and important occasions such as the garye (celebration rites), gillye (auspicious rites), hyungnye (inauspicious rites).

It's paired with myeonryugwana hat with beads surrounding king's head, face, and ears. It means that the king is required to avoid personal feelings, desire, humble himself, and to keep his body and mind holy. (Vera Lee) 
This photo was taken at Unhyeongung displaying mannequins 
of King Gojong in Gujangbok and Queen Min in Jeogui
for their royal wedding ceremony.

After King Gojong proclaimed himself as the first Emperor in 1897, he changed Gujangbok to Sibijangbok (12 symbol dress) and changed the color of Jeogui from red to blue color. You can find Queen's ceremonial robe at 'The Queen and Her Court' gallery...

Jeogui (적의) was the formal robe for a Joseon Queen. Similar to Gujangbok, 
it's reserved for the important occasions such as her own wedding or state events.

Joseon Royal Family parade infront of Korea Traditional 
Cultural Experience Center at Incheon Airport.

Please check my previous post if you want to know more about Gollyongpo, ordinary robe with dragon embroidery. The dragon's clawed and colors define the position from the robe. Joseon Kings wore red Gollyongpo and Emperor wore golden robe after the Daehan Empire.

Besides Hanbok for King and Queen, you can find other types of traditional customes and accessories used on different occasions such as wedding and first birthday during Joseon Dynasty. 

 Hwarot (활옷) was traditional Korean attire with flowers embroideries
worn during the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasty by royal families for
ceremonial occasions. Commoners only permitted to wear
hwarot on the wedding day.

Auspicious emblems such as peaches and cranes as symbols of longevity
are interspersed with butterflies and pair of birds to represent conjugal 
harmony. Peonies connote wealth and honour, lotuses embody purity
and fertility. On the shoulder embellished a popular Chinese phrase 
'二姓之合,百福之源'  (meaning: the union of two families is the 
source of a hundred blessings).

 A pair of wooden geese with wrapping cloth, pouch and spoon case
are some of the important items in traditional wedding customs.

I actually seen these wedding gifts at Bettl Hanbok's store,
and finally figured out why they displayed these oriental items there...

A set of carved wooden Korean Wedding Geese (원앙세트 = Mandarin duck set), often wrapped in colorful Bojagi (보자기) leaving only the necks and heads exposed. 

Mandarin ducks are chosen as marriage gifts in Korean wedding because it's believed that they mate for life unlike other types of ducks, and if one of the pair dies, the other will mourn. In Korea's custom, Mandarin ducks represent peace, pure, fidelity, and plentiful offspring.

The female duck may have a ribbon tied around her beak as a sign that the wife should be quiet and support her husband. It is also common to see a ribbon around both ducks' beaks signifying that silence is a virtue.

 Bojagi cloth are used to cover giftsand food as a sign of 
respect. It's believed to retain good luck and happiness.

Newlywed brides embridered pouch with ten longevity 
symbols as gifts to their parents-in-law to express
filial piety.

Not sure whether this pouch is similar to lucky pouch (Bokjumeoni) which traditionally worn with hanbok because there is no pocket in hanbok. During Joseon Era, royal family send a bag which has roasted beans wrapped in red paper to their relative as new year gift. It believe that it guard against evil spirits and bring blessings.  

Korean Embroidery Spoon Case.

 Dangui (당의) Royal Court Hanbok (top).
Norigae, Tiger claw Norigae, Pendant with Parfume case
and 3-part Norigae (bottom left to right).

This hanbok is daily wear for women in royal court. Other women would wear this when they visited the court or attended special ceremonies. 

Unhyeongung Dangui (당의) Royal Court Hanbok Dress |
Please check my previous post about Dangui Hanbok at Unhyeonggung Palace.

Norigae (노리개) was originally referred to 'pretty and playful object.'

Norigae's a typical traditional accessory for hanbok that attached to jeogori goreum (coat strings) or chima (skirt). Previously designs, size and material of norigae showing the social status of the wearer. The motifs of the main ornament of the norigae were usually auspicious characters.

Norigaes were not only decorative but function as good luck charm. Norigae with tiger claw is said to protect the wearer from animals like snake, bells were believed to chase away evil spirits. Duckssymbolized the love and harmony. 

Some women used their main ornament as perfume case, used as a needle case which was considered as a feminine virtue. In Sageuk drama, some attached 'jangdo' ornamental knife to their norigae. The material used to make jangdo is silver (eunjangdo) or gold (geumjangdo) with steel blade. Women used jangdo for self-defense. When women wore jang they had a breast-tie, called paedo and pocket called nangdo. 

Three-part norigae was the most elaborate and embodied harmony among heaven, eart and human. However, one part norigae was more suitable for daily use. 

The saekdongot is a type of hanbok with colorful stripes sleeves. 

The name literally means 'rainbow-coloured (saekdong)  cloth (ot)' in Korean. Saekdong was usually worn by children from the age of one to seven year old during Lunar New Year, Dano Day and their first birthday.

The sleeves consisted of five colors which representing five cardinal directions (obang): East (blue-green), West (white), South (red), North (black), Center (yellow). This combination represented harmony and believed to have protective powers for blessing the child with health, long life and good luck. Saekdong sleeves has been used throughout hanbok such as jeogori (a short jacket), magoja (a buttoned jacket), durumagi (overcoat), wedding robes and ritual dress of shamans.

 Queen for 5 minutes 5분의왕비 at KTO Hanbok Experience Booth.

Sportif Soohorang is ready for 2018 Pyeongchang 
Winter Olympics Games, how about you?

Please click here for more information on Pyeongchang, Soohorang and Bandabi...

There are many more interesting treasures from the National Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum in Seoul that you might not want to miss them. It's the first time they exhibiting them in Singapore, so why not take a glimpse into traditional culture of Korea of 500 years long history right here at Asian Civilisations Museum.