Joseon Buddhist Temple Paintings

  • Joseon Buddhist Art (Korea), Part II

    Joseon Buddhist Art (Korea), Part II

    Buddhist art in Korea, already highly developed in the Three Kingdoms and Unified Shilla periods, is thought by many to have reached its apogee during the Goryeo period. One of the most frequently reproduced Korean Buddhist images, for instance, is the early 14th century Water-moon Avalokiteshvara.(image: Water Moon Avalokiteshvara)Buddhist paintings, statuary and devotional objects have long been sought-after collector's items and now command stratospheric prices whenever they appear on the market. The most precious pieces, however, are found in museums, both in Korea and overseas. These facts help to explain why Joseon Buddhist art has not drawn much interest from collectors until recently.Long perceived as inferior to the art produced under Goryeo and earlier eras, Joseon Buddhist art is now coming into its own. Still little known outside of Korea, quality pieces are becoming harder to find within Korea and prices are rising steadily. Lotus & Persimmon is pleased to present a number of pieces dating from the late Joseon period. Exact dates and provenance are difficult to determine -- the artists in this genre were traditionally anonymous, and the upheavals of the 20th century led to the destruction of many temples and the loss or dispersal of their contents -- but our temple paintings almost certainly date from before the end of the dynasty in 1910, and some pieces may date from the mid-nineteenth century or even earlier. Read More

  • Joseon Buddhist Art (Korea), Part I

    Joseon Buddhist Art (Korea), Part I

    Buddhism has a long history on the Korean peninsula. Most scholars agree that it was introduced no later than the 4th century of the Common Era. There were several states on the peninsula at that time, often called the Three Kingdoms period. The 3 kingdoms in question were Shilla, Baekje and Goguryeo.Three Kingdoms of Korea map.Shilla, centered at Gyeongju in the southwest, eventually overpowered the other kingdoms with Chinese help, thereby creating the 1st unitary state on the peninsula, usually called Unified Shilla in English. This kingdom, which flourished from the late 7th to the early 10th centuries, was firmly Buddhist at the elite level. The ruling family of Unified Shilla eventually weakened and lost the throne to the energetic general Wang Geon, who established the Goryeo dynasty, from whose name the modern word ‘Korea’ is derived.During the Goryeo period (10th-14th centuries CE), Buddhism became the established religion of the state and consequently benefited from lavish royal and governmental patronage, which lead to a flowering of Buddhist arts and crafts. It also lead to the acquisition of vast amounts of land and slaves, as well as to political interference in national affairs by the senior clergy. Towards the end of the Goryeo dynasty's rule, the Buddhist hierarchy was perceived to be decadent and corrupt, giving rise to calls for reform from Neo-Confucian scholar-officials and their political supporters.When General Yi Song Gye overthrew the moribund Goryeo dynasty in 1392 and proclaimed himself the founder of Joseon dynasty as King Taejo, he installed Neo-Confucianism as the state ideology.Portrait of Taejo at his shrine in Jeonju, South Korea.Official patronage of Buddhism was largely withdrawn and the ruling class of the land turned towards Neo-Confucian beliefs, practices and institutions. Thenceforth, Buddhism, its temples, its clergy, and its arts steadily diminished in status. The new regime built no Buddhist temples in its new capital, now known as Seoul, and even banned monks from the capital city, which helps to explain why most of Korea’s major historic temples are located in distant mountain valleys.Read More

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