Paintings of the Royal Banquet on the Folding Screen of 1902: The Quintessence of the Performing Arts in the Royal Court of the Joseon Dynasty
<the royal documentary culture and <i>Dobyeong (圖屛, Folding Screens with Paintings)>
The royal court of the Joseon Dynasty preserved court rituals, music, and dance, using various written materials to record the dignity and achievements of the royal family for posterity. Among these documents, uigwe (儀軌, royal protocols), and dobyeong preserve state-level ceremonies. In them, various scenes of the ceremonies performed on particular court occasions are vividly portrayed with detailed paintings in colors as splendid as photographs.
The first painting, entitled eocheopbongan (御帖奉安), describes the scene of the enshrinement of an eocheop (御帖), a royal document containing the eulogistic posthumous title, the date of birth, and the date of enrolment of the emperor, in the Giroso office located outside of the royal palace. As this was the first step of the enrolment procedure, the first panel of the ten-part folding screen begins with this episode.
This picture illustrates a scene at chinlimsayeon (親臨賜宴)—a feast held by the emperor for the civil and military officials at Hamnyeongjeon (咸寧殿), Deoksu Palace. Some types of court dances both from dangakjeongjae (court dance derived from the court dance of Song China, such as Suyeonjang, Yeonbaegbokjimu, and Jesuchang), and from hyangakjeongjae (such as Hyangryeongmu and Saseonmu) are painted along with deungga (登歌, an instrumental ensemble on the terrace) and heonga (軒架, an ensemble on the ground) groups that are in charge of accompanying the dances as well as the whole ceremony itself.
In the deungga ensemble, banghyang (a set of tuned iron slabs), teukjong (a single bronze bell), and teukkyeong (a single stone chime) are shown. Meanwhile, in the heonga ensemble that is divided into two parts, geongo (a large drum), chuk (a wooden square box with a mallet), eunggo (a small drum), and pyeonjong (a set of tuned bronze bells) are displayed on the east side while eo (a tiger-shaped scraper), sakgo (a middle-sized drum), and pyeonkyeong (a set of tuned stone chimes) are depicted on the west as vividly as in photos.
A type of dangakjeongjae (Chinese-origin court dance), dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty, Suyeonjang expresses a wish for the longevity of the emperor. Two dancers, each holding a jukganja (a red pole with a bundle of thin bamboo sticks at the top), lead eight dancers to the performing area, and after finishing the dance the dancers also exit the stage following the two pole holders.
This is a type of dangakjeongjae created during the time of King Sunjo (r. 1800–1834). During the performance, dancers sing a song with lyrics wishing for the emperor’s longevity and countless fortunes. In the dance, a main dancer who carries a peach on a silver tray performs harmoniously with other dancers who assist her. Two jukganja holders lead the entrance and exit of the whole company of dancers.
This painting portrays the scene at oejinyeon—a type of royal banquet dedicated to an abdicated king or a king at the royal palace. Muaemu is a type of hyangakjeongjae dancing using a gourd bottle with a tasseled string, which dates back to the Silla Kingdom. It is performed by two main dancers with other dancers who assist them. The two main dancers face each other, both of them holding a gourd bottle which they elegantly pat and stroke.
This painting presents a scene of naejinyeon, a type of royal banquet dedicated to the queen of an abdicated king or a queen, where the guests are primarily women. The grandeur of the feast is indicated by Ssanggomu, a dance using two large drums, and Chunaengjeon, the most-frequently performed court dance even today.
Ssanggomu, which literally means “two drum dance,” is derived from mugo, in which performers dance around a large drum. It is a type of hyangakjeongjae dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty. In this painting, two large drums are located on the right and left next to each other in the center of the stage area, and, on each drum, four dancers wearing blue, red, white, and black costumes respectively, dance around, beating the drum or circling around it with a flower.
This is a solo dance, and it is known that the crown prince Hyomyeong in the time of King Sunjo created the dance when inspired by the singing of an oriole perching on the branch of a willow tree on a fine spring day. The dancer is clad in a yellow robe symbolizing the oriole and dances on a large straw mat never stepping off it.
C. Chunaengjeon Costume
This Chunaengjeon dance costume was worn by KIM Cheon-heung (金千興, 1909–2007) in the 70th anniversary commemorative performance of his life in music and dance in1992. As a boy dancer, Kim attended the 50th birthday celebration for King Sunjong, the last king of the Joseon Dynasty in 1923. Among many sets of Chunaengjeon costumes, Kim favored this one, frequently choosing it to wear.
This painting records the scene at Yajinchan(夜進饌), a luxurious night-banquet held especially for women. These women are from two different groups: naemyeongbu, whose members are ladies in the palace with official ranks, and oemyeongbu whose members are mothers or wives of royal families and high-ranking courtiers, who received official ranks. One can appreciate the entertaining mood of the feast by looking at the depiction of Seonyurak, the most solemn and splendid among all court dances, and the large-scale accompanying orchestra.
Seonyurak is a court dance depicting boating in which two persons in military uniforms conduct the whole performance process including both dance and music. To begin the performance, a large gong called jing is struck three times, and, after a boat used as a dance prop leaves the stage, the dancers begin to dance in earnest while singing “Eobusa” (The Song of Fishermen).
B. Accompanying Orchestra, Deungga, Heonga, and Naechwi
Deungga or jeonsangak is an accompanying orchestra used at banquets for congratulatory occasions in state-level ceremonies. It is a mixed orchestra of string and wind instruments consisting of both hyangakgi (native Korean instruments) and dangakgi (instruments originating from the court music of China). Heonga is also used in state-level ceremonies composed of a mixture of aakgi (instruments originating from the sacrificial ritual music of China), dangakgi, and hyangakgi. In addition, naechwi is a military ensemble consisting of wind and percussion instruments including jing (a large gong), jabara (cymbals), nagak (a conch shell), buk (a barrel drum) and nabal (trumpet), and is used to accompany the Seonyurak dance.
The painted scene is from igilhoejak (翌日會酌), a feast held on the day after the main banquet for the king. On the screen, the court dance called Gainjeonmokdan, which means “a beautiful person picking a peony,” describes people enjoying the beauty of peonies that symbolize riches and honors.
<curator+publisher>: Gugak Archive
○ Gungnipgogungbangmulgwan, 2014, Wangsilmunhwadogam: Gungjungagmu [Illustrated Guide to the Royal Culture: Court Music and Dance>]. Seoul: Gungnipgogungbangmulgwan.
○ Gungnipgugagwon, 2008, Simso Kim Cheon-heung tansaeng 100 nyeon ginyeom gihoekjeonsi, “Majimak mudong ui miso.” (Kim Chunheung, “A Smile from the Last Boy-Dancer for Emperor”: Special Exhibition: His 100thBirthdayCelebration). Seoul: Gungnipgugagwon.
○ Pak, Jeong-hye, 2000, Joseonsidae gungjunggirokwa yeongu [A Study of the Court Documentary Paintings of the Joseon Dynasty]. Seoul: Ilgisa
○ Seo, In-hwa&Jeong-hye Pak, 2000, Joseonsidae jinyeon jinchan jinha byeongpung [Folding screens with Painting of the Various Court Banquets of the Joseon Dynasty]. Hangugeumakhakjaryochongseo 35. Seoul: Gungnipgugagwon.