Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Throwing new light on old treasures (Korean Culture)


“Human Figure,” China, early 8th century

National museum’s latest acquisitions highlight traditional Asian art 

By Baek Byung-yeul

The National Museum of Korea (NMK) has been ambitious in purchasing of Asian artworks since moving into its massive complex in Yongsan, downtown Seoul, in 2005. The museum’s new exhibition, "New Acquisitions of Asian Art," provides the first glimpse into this expanding collection.

The display features 66 items, including highly-rated treasures from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asian nations. They represent the cream of the crop of the museum’s assemblage of non-Korean artifacts, now at around 400, says NMK director Kim Young-na.

"I think this will provide a great opportunity for visitors to expand their knowledge of the artistic heritage of other Asian nations and celebrate the diversity in cultures," Kim said.
“Goddess,’’ India, 10th century

About half the artifacts in display are from China, from the bronze ware of Shang Dynasty (1,600 B.C.-1,046 B.C.) to artworks of Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). For visitors, sophisticated ceramic works, paintings and calligraphies can be educational as they are beautiful, with the museum providing a smooth explanation on how Chinese styles influenced the artifacts of Korea in respective periods.

''Human Figure,’’ an 8th century pottery piece from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), could be argued as the highlight of the museum.

The 37.7-centimeter horse-rider figure with fading colors is valuable because it is believed to depict a woman, judging from the round cheeks, beardless chin and make-up on the lips.

"It’s notable that the woman is dressed in male attire for horse-riding. These were during a time when horse riding became more common among women and male garments would have been more convenient for such activities than women’s dresses of that time," said one of the curators at the museum.

The museum’s new acquisitions from Japan include pottery, masks and paintings from the Edo Period (1603-1867).
“Merrymaking in a Grand Mansion,” Japan, 17th century
/ Courtesy of NMK

“Merrymaking in a Grand Mansion,” 2.8-meter long folding screen painting created in the 17th century, is another must-see, portraying people of high social status enjoying themselves in a luxury leisure mansion. There are people dancing to music and playing card games and women taking a bath.

"Goddess," a 10th century statue from India, is one of the eye-catching artifacts in India and Southeast Asian art corner, most of which are about Buddhist arts.
The 81-centimeter-tall statue is made of red sandstone and is notable for its voluptuous description of the female body.

Other than Indian arts, statues of Buddhist gods and goddesses from Thailand and Indonesia are also displayed, representing each country’s independent characteristics in Buddhist art.

The exhibition runs through June 22. For more information, call (02) 2077-9552 or visit

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