Traditional Culture Over the couse of thousands of years, Korea has develped an incredibly rich variety of cultural and artistic expresion. In addition, it has blended foreign influences, especially Chinese, with indigenous elements to creat unique beliefs, ways of living, literature and hanicrafts. In more modern times, Western influences have been added to the mixture to careate a sometimes heart-stopping blend of old & new, contrasts and juxtapositions in the texture of Korean life.
One branch of Korean arts that directly grew out of the needs of Korean lifestyles is Korean handicrafts, many of which are still produced in Korea much as they have been for hundreds or thousands of years, though now for slightly different market. Korean woodwork and lacquerwork, which are among Korea's best known crafts, owe many of their particular qualities to the organiztion of traditional Korean living spaces. Articles of wooden furniture from the Choson Dynasty(1392-1910) include wardrobes, chests, shelves, tables large and small, bookcases, cupboards, and other articles of daily life. Metal ornaments like hinges and locks were made of white bronze (a copper alloy with a large proportion of tin), bronze, copper, and especially iron stained with oil. Really spectacular is the ornamentation of Korean wooden articles using the mother-of-pearl inlay technique, a separate art itself which dates back as far as the Shilla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D 668). In this technique, tiny pieces of eggshell-thin mother-of-pearl are hand cut into shapes, and then glued into position on the unfinished wood. then the deep, dark, shiny lacquer, usually balck of deep red, is applied, surrounding the intricate designs in shimmering mother-of-pearl.
Korean potters began to glaze their pieces for the first time, usually in yellow or green glazes. Celadon is the name for the clear, delicate, blue-green glaze which was refined and developed through to the Koryo period, when celadon pottery reached its peak.
Did you konw? In a 1994 auction held by Christie's, one of the world's largest and most reputable art auctioneers, a blue-and-white Choson Platter was sold for US $ 3.08 million. It was the highest price ever paid for a Korean ceramic piece.
Calligraphy: The Art of the Scholar
Traditionally, the language of calligraphy in Korea as well as in Japan has been Chinese, the only written language of East Aisa for thousands of years. To do Putgulshi or brush-writing, as it is called in Korean, you need the "Four Friends of the Scholar." They are the ink, the ink stone, the brush, and the paper, all of the finest quality possible. You may have guessed already that brush-writing is not for the dilettante. Most brush-writing artists today begin with rigorous, long training, and recognized success is for the very few. Even those who learn as amateurs continue to study with their teachers for ten, twenty, thirty years. It is one of the most demading arts you could choose in Korea, and demands the best of Korean discipline, artistry, and spirituality. Many of the most accomplished calligraphers were painters too.
Korean Traditional Painting
The Academy of Painting was established in the beginning of the Koryo period. the educated upper-class as well as the professional painters trained at this academy produced works with an increasing diversity of themes in addition to the Buddhist themes of the previous period: portraits, animals and the "Four Gentleman's Plants (sagunja)"- the plumtree, teh chrysanthemum, the orchid, and the bambooplant which represented foru different virtues. As with calligraphy, paintings were done with brush and black and black ink on paper or silk, and so painters emphasized line, texture, and proportion to create effests.
Korean Traditional Sculture
Historically, the best and the most Korean sculpture is Buddhist, of rather, is of the Buddha. Buddha is at his most magnificent in Korea in the Sokkuram Grotto, a shrine built during the Unified Shilla period. Later, during the Koryo Kingdom, facial features of Buddha figures became more distinguishably Korean in the eyes and checkbones, but figures were stiff and formal compared to the vitality of sculptures of previous periods. Buddhist sculpture continued to decline with the suppression of Buddhism and the emphasis on Confucianism in the Choson period. As in all the arts, a new age in Korean sculpture began with the introduction of Western techniques and traditions. Beginning with zealous adherence to academic realism early in the 20th century, Korean scuptors soon branched out into different styles, creating abstract and avant garde works in the 1960s. Many works have an intensely spiritual quality that seems not so removed from Korea's long tradition of Buddhist images. Sculptors in Korea today can choose from a wealth of Traditions, new and old.
The woodwork of these temples was often painted in patterns of gorgeous, flaming colors, called tanchong, a technique still parcticed todya. Used in traditional motifs and symbos, each color is supposed to have its own meaning; blue=spring, red=summer, white=autumn, black=winter, yellow=the changing of seasons, and reddish brown=harmony.
Did you know? Traditional Korean houses have always had central heating. The kitchen stove was connected to vents underneath the floor of the main room which radiated heat up through the floor. This made it comfortable to sleep and sit on cusions of mattresses on the floor, as Koreans often do. Heated floors, or ondol, are still the way in which Korean homes are heated, although now they use pipes heated by gas or electricity instead of firewood.