sutra © matt lemon photography. all rights reserved.

Close-up of 13th century lacquered sutra box from the Goryeo period. Exhibit at the “Goryeo: The Glory of Korea” exhibition at the Nat’l Museum of Korea. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
“In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddhist monk and peace activist

Goryeo: The Glory of Korea

The National Museum of Korea currently holds a special exhibition to mark the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo the unified medieval state that governed the Korean peninsula from 918 to 1392. Larger in scale than previous genre-specific exhibitions on Goryeo, the exhibition showcases some 450 artifacts from the collections of 45 institutions at home and abroad.

Goryeo blended various traditions of the previous dynasties, such as Balhae (698–926) and the Unified Silla (668–935), and created an open and cosmopolitan culture while actively interacting with neighboring countries. The 1100th anniversary is particularly meaningful as the millennial of Goryeo’s establishment could not be commemorated as Korea was under the rule of Japan, which actively sought to marginalize Korean history and culture.

By focusing on Goryeo art from the tenth to fourteenth century, “Goryeo: The Glory of Korea” sheds light on the cultural exchanges and achievements of the extended East Asian region. The values that led countries to seek out and incorporate new cultures, share commonalities, and develop their own unique identities are what we need to realize a new age of unity. Our hope is that the exhibition will introduce visitors to the cultural achievements of the Goryeo Dynasty and inspire them to reflect on the cultural identity that informs who we are today. (Press release by the Nat’l Museum of Korea)

Lacquerware, lacquer-rare

“There are only about fourteen extant pieces of Koryo lacquer, but their quality is evidence of the high level of skill attained by Koryo lacquer workers. Eight of them are for Buddhist use, being rectangular sutra boxes, such as this one.” – Comments by Jane Portal, Keeper of the British Museum’s Department of Asia and an alumni of the Korean department at SOAS

“This black-lacquered wooden box was used for storing Buddhist sutras during the Goryeo period. Each side is bordered with twisted copper wires, and the inner and outer areas of the wire frames are inlaid with chrysanthemum and scroll designs and peony and scroll designs, respectively. The petals of the chrysanthemums and peonies are incised with very detailed lines, and a band of bead motifs and another chrysanthemum and scroll design are incised below the wire frames. The box and the lid are joined with a square hinge. The box was originally brown, but is presumed to have been lacquered in black at a later date.” – Comments by the Korean Nat’l Research Institute of Cultural Heritage

Goryeo: The Glory of Korea runs until March 3, 2019. Click here for visitor information.

Did you know?

With its 27,090 square meters (approx. 6.7 acres), the National Museum of Korea is considered to be the ninth-largest art museum in the world by gallery space.

Continue reading

“Revisiting a Forgotten Kingdom”

Article by Jeong Myoung-hee, Senior Curator, National Museum of Korea in Koreana, the Korea Foundation’s arts and culture quarterly

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