The Cultural and Artistic Links with the Sea

Korea National Maritime Museum

When the practicality and style are combined together, the beautiful of the traditional culture becomes more valuable. The Korea traditional woodcraft is completed with natural processing technique, organic wood grain and the beauty of ideal proportion. This simple and graceful wood furniture with the upper part inlaid with mother-of-pearl is imbued with great splendor showing the beauty of Korean style. The decorations that use hawksbill turtle’s skin and fish-skin also represent the tradition of woodcraft in the Joseon dynasty. The pottery with lines drawn on its shite surface also expresses the sentiment and artistry of Koreans in the old days. Through the various exhibits related to the sea, we hope you can feel and enjoy the beauty of Korean culture and tradition turned into art.

Chest with Fish Skin
Since the single chest of drawers called Gagkesuri, 40 cm to 50 cm in each dimension, has a hinged door and several drawers built inside, it was used as a safe or a medicine cabinet. 

A handicraft of fish skin made by processing and decorating shark skin. When the skin is sleeked, a pattern like small drops of water appears. This processed skin was used to wrap and decorate various types of objects, such as eyeglass cases and furniture.

The chest has a lock which only exposes the keyhole at the surface of the door. The body of the lock is concealed within the door.

The front has a circular panel in the middle and there are half-moon handles attached on both sides.

There are six horizontal drawers and two vertical drawers inside the chest.

Two Tiered Chest with Mother-of-Pearl
The two tiered chest preserved by KNMM was used as a wardrobe and each tier is detachable. 

The front of the chest is inlaid with mother-of-pearl (except for the back), and the upper and lower parts have the doors which are decorated with the same design. The design of the front which is inlaid with mother-of-pearl without space has three different themes. The decorative patterns of 5 bets are attached on the corners and the upper of the doors by using the representation method of the pattern called Mojobeop (cutting and engraving). The patterns of thunder, cloud and cintamani stones are represented by using Mojobeop and Juleumjil techniques inside the round frames and straight lines shape thunder.

The decorative pattern of bets was prevalent in china and introduced to Joseon. Since the pronunciation of the Chinese character meaning bets sounds the same with 蝠[fù] which means good fortune, it was often used to represent good fortune. Also, bets were regarded as spiritual animals which keep people safe during the night. The imaginary creature, dragon, is a symbol of authority and an auspicious sign which vanquishes evil spirits, so it was used for decoration in various fields. The image of dragon was generally placed with cloud and cintamani stones in mother-of-pearl crafts representing the characteristic of humorous beauty.

When the decorative mother-of-pearl designs of landscapes and people were displayed together in the same frame, it was considered that it would bring luck. And it became popular in and after the late Joseon dynasty era showing the high level of mother-of-pearl craft skill.

Chest Decorating Map of Tongyeong with Mother-of-Pearl
A najeon lacquer chest inlaid with nacre (mother-of-pearl) depicting a map of Tongyeong. The inlay on the top and sides of the chest give a realistic portrayal of old Tongyeong and a fishing village. The front, where the map of Tongyeong is portrayed using the thin-slicing technique (ggeun-eumjil), is particularly beautiful.

The front of the chest is decorated with the mother-of-pearl design of the map of Tongyeong region. Each corner and the upper, lower, right and left sides of the front are covered with decorative round metal strips. The hinged door has round-shaped background and hinges which work well.

The left and right sides of the chest are adorned with the designs of landscapes.

Two-Tiered Stacked Chest with Tortoiseshell
There is a low and stable base on the bottom part of the chest and the front and back of the bottom’s legs are held by supports called Jokdae. The hinged door which has a round front face is fastened with four studs and a ring lock is placed in the middle to avoid an unwanted open.

The fronts of each tier have the designs of dragons and Fenghuang (phoenix) in pairs and there is an image of dragon on both sides. The images are splendidly decorated with mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell. The phoenix is displayed on the left side of the upper part and the dragon is positioned on the right.

The images of dragons which breathe heats are on the top panel and the method used for making is the same with the front.

Landscape Painting by Gyeomjae Jeongseon
The landscape painting is drawn by a Joseon’s official and painter, Jung Sun(1676-1759). His courtesy name, Gyeomjae, is handwritten on the top left with his seal and the theme of the painting is not described on the painting. He left behind beautiful landscape paintings in the 『book of landscape, outskirts of Seoul』. As he drew the paintings spending his time traveling along the Han river, the painting also portrays a boat passing through the river. 
Painting of Twin-dragon
The folk painting which has the image of the blue and yellow dragons breathing heats was produced in Jeju Island. The dragons which hold cintamani stones are ascending to the sky making a symmetrical pattern. It is estimated that the painting was made based on the shamanistic belief on Seven Stars on Jeju. In the belief, the snakes imply wealth and good fortune. 

The characteristics of a mythical creature, dragon, is well-depicted on the lower part of the painting by displaying the images of water, reefs and sea plants together. The dragons ascending to the sky are dynamically portrayed with sharp and simple lines featuring Jeju’s traditional line-drawing with light colors. Only five colors, blue, yellow, red, white and black, are used and distinctive spatial impression is formed because of the effect caused by complementary color contrast. It has the same composition of a painting with the <painting of fuxi and nuwa>.

White Porcelain Drawing Cloud and Dragon with Iron
After the portions of its lower and upper parts of the body were produced individually using white clay, those were put together showing the mark in the middle. And it has asymmetrical shape. 

The images of dragon and cloud are depicted in the design.

The porcelain was designated as Busan Cultural Heritage No.99 in July 19, 2017, since it has the unique 23 patterns painted in underglaze iron-brown on the mouth.

Blue and White Porcelain Jar with Cloud and Dragon design
This type of blue and white porcelain jar was popular from the late 19th century to the early modern period. The pair of porcelain jars are decorated with the splendid images of dragon. The outlines of the necks have vertical lines and the sizes of the necks are relatively narrower than the bodies. The upper bodies grow wider drawing arch lines and the lower parts of the bodies shrink down. The mouths have the patterns of cherry blossom and cloud. And there are also floral images with the images of cloud on its upper bodies. The images of dauntless dragons surrounded by cloud are depicted on the bodies. Since a small amount of pigment was used, the colors are a little light. However, the dragons are well-depicted. The lower parts of the bodies are also adorned with the patterns of cherry blossom. 

It is colored clean and bluish white and there are some cracks on the surfaces which were made when it was baked.

Blue and White Porcelain Jar Originated from Haeju Area
The porcelain originated from Haeju area has the designs depicted on the body which use cobalt and iron oxide pigment. The mouth has a rolled-up shape. The upper body is wider than other parts and when it goes down to the lower body, it shrinks taking the shape of pottery.  

The designs of fish and chrysanthemum are shown on the front.

The design of fish is commonly used for decoration and it is known as a symbol of fertility and success.

The patterns of plantain trees cover the mouth and the upper body. The patters of waves are filled between the patterns of plantain trees.

The fish has a short head with its pointy mouth open and the picture of fish holding the half of a small fish in its mouth with its sharp teeth is realistically portrayed. The fish on the designs are expressed in various ways such as a single fish, two fish crossing each other, fish seeing each other, fish swimming in a group and others with underwater views.

This type of realistic depiction of fish is the unique characteristic of the porcelain jar originated from Haeju area.

Twin-dragon Decorated Sword with Shark Skin
It is a government-manufactured sword produced in the late Joseon. The handle and sheath are covered with fishskin and decorated with brass. The blade of the sword is very sharp and gently curved. And there are twin dragons carved in the sword-guard made of brass. The metal support which surrounds some amount of the blade is made of brass and reinforced with red copper flat bars. The handle is covered with red lacquered fish skin and brass is used to decorate both edges. The yellowish green lines are tied across the handle making cross stripes and a red tassel dangles from the hole at the end of the handle. The sheath is ornamented with the figures of two salamanders. A structure and the lines tied on the sheath help wear the sword. The linchpin attached to the sheath functions as a fastener . Especially the lines decorated with the images of plum blossoms on the sheath allow it to spin 360 degrees, which is a unique Korean style.      

Seeing that there are patterns of twin dragons carved on the sword-guard, plum blossoms and other dragons on the sheath and the handle, it can be said the sword was specially designed by the government meeting high standards. The linchpin equipped on the sheath passes through the hole on the sword-guard fastening the sword.

The armet is a part of a Korean brigandine set in the late Joseon dynasty period. The upper part of the armet has a hemispheric cover of which the top is decorated with vine patterns and the lower part is surrounded by a nailed support plate. The upper body of the armet is narrow but it becomes wider when it goes to the lower part of the armet. The body is made of leather colored black. The linear iron supports which have the patters of vines in the middle hold the armet vertically. The ornament once attached on the top is lost. There is a plume and its holder which also decorated with vine patterns. Despite the loss of the top part, the overall beautiful and exquisite decoration and the designs of dragons and Fenghuang (phoenix) are enough to show that the helmet was given by a king or used for ceremonial events.

The right and left sides of the front have the decorative dragons and Fenghuang designs.

The design of dragon is also carved on the sun cover on the front.

There is a Chinese character, 壽, which means life, and the edge is covered by cupronickel.

Dragon Design for Rural Festival
Flag of rural festival is symbols of the band of farmer’s cooperatives (durae pungmul). The flag was erected during the cooperative’s activities until the communal work was completed. Dragons are typically drawn on the flags, as a wish to the sea gods and dragon god for fertile land and abundant harvests by asking for water, the most important element in farming. This flag has the phrase “Daehangwangmuguneyonulsajeongwolshiboiljoseong 大韓光武九年乙巳正月十五日造成” (production date) along with the names of the offerer (座上 崔奉學) and the picture-drawer (公員 金漢洙) it. 

7 pieces of cotton cloths stitched together form the flag and the 4 edges of the flag are surrounded by black frames. The lines of triangular decorations are attached on the upper, lower and right edges of the flag.

The belching dragon is drawn in the style of Korean folk painting and it holds a cintamani stone using its whisker on the left. It seems it has the antlers of a deer, the eyes of a rabbit, the nose of a pig, the scales of a fish, the claws of a hawk and the like. There is a vibrant blue color around its antlers, mouth and eyes. Since the blue color comes out more strongly than the red in the scales, it looks like a blue dragon with its spirited body and tail.

Although the face of the carp is humorously depicted, the body is carefully portrayed.

The dragon with the body of a turtle has 4 claws for each leg and the back is decorated with lozenge patterns.

Korea National Maritime Museum
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