Korean Stone Art Museum

Korean Stone Art Museum

Introduction
As one of the most durable materials available, stone has long been used throughout the cultural history of mankind. To this day, numerous stone works have been preserved in excellent condition all over the world. Korean stone artifacts that began with our ancient ancestors can also be seen today.From the dolmens of the Bronze Age to Seokguram Grotto, the glorious Buddhist relics of the United Silla Era, the Octagonal Nine-story Stone Pagoda of Woljeongsa Temple of the Goryeo Dynasty, the stone figures placed in graveyards, and the construction of royal palaces during the Joseon Dynasty, stone works held a central position in the field of arts and crafts. Our ancestors' wisdom and their philosophy of life are engraved in these stone sculptures, which were loved and appreciated by everyone from ordinary citizens to members of the royal family.

Janggunseok(stone statue of military officer)

This sculpture is a tomb guardian wearing armor and a helmet. The demonic faces engraved on the hilt of a sword and on the guardians’ shoulders represents warding off evil spirits and protection.

Demonic Face

a symbol for warding off evil spirits and protection

Janggunseok

Deva King(Vajradhara)

One of the guardian deities in Buddhism, usually positioned to the left and right of temple gates to repulse evil spirits.

Jangmyeongdeung

A stone lantern called Jangmyeongdeung was placed to light up a graveyard. Apart from its practical function, Jangmyeongdeung also had a spiritual function to pray for the eternal life in heaven for the deceased. According to the law of Joseon dynasty(1392-1910), only high-ranking officials were allowed to place it at graveyards.

Bat

a symbol of happiness and fertility

Jangmyeongdeung

Cloud

a symbol of immortality and abundance

Tomb guardians who Crossed the Sea to Korea
Muninseok is a human-shaped stone sculpture made to protect tombs against evil spirits, along with other animal-shaped stone sculptures. Unfortunately, a large number of Muninseok were smuggled out to Japan during the Japanese colonial period. Chairman Chun Shin-Il of Sejoong corporation aspired to bring back to Korea these long-lost cultural assets, which by then were scattered all over the world, and regain Korea's national pride. In 2000, after hearing about Mr. Kusaka Mamoru, a Japanese citizen who owned hundreds of ancient Korean stone sculptures, Chairman Chun made numerous visits to Japan to persuade Mr. Kusaka Mamoru to cede the lost Korean assets. In 2001, Chairman Chun's tenacity succeeded in bringing about the return of more than seventy precious Korean stone sculptures to Korea. The returned sculptures attest to the power and dignity of Korean stone arts. 

Muninseok

Stone statue of a civil official dressed in winged head
gear and a court uniform

Muninseok

Stone statue of a civil official dressed in golden headgear and a ceremonial robe
The shape of the official garment worn by Muninseok during the Joseon Dynasty has taken on varied forms over different eras.

Hol

Hol is an object held by courtiers when given audience with the king.

A Hill of Prayers Accommodating Many Wishes
Dongja is a child attendant while Dongjaseok is a stone figure of dongja. Found in and around Seoul, these sculptures were placed before the graves of high-ranking government officials or members of the royal family, except for kings and queens, during the 16th-18th centuries. Wearing plain clothes and double-knot hairdos, they stand obediently and submissively in front of the graves, lending an appearance of vitality to the solemn atmosphere of the graveyard. Dongja were deemed to serve various gods in Taoism, the Buddha in Buddhism, and the occupants of the graves in Confucianism. Therefore, the shape and role of dongja vary from grave guardian to village guardian depending on the religion.
The early child attendants’ images were highly decorative and vibrant as shown by Buddhist works, but they were gradually superseded by simpler and more austere images under the influence of Confucianism. The statues were often combined with Muninseok, or stone statues of civil officials, after the 17th century, resulting in the disappearance of their original characteristic features.

Double Top Knots

The appearance of child attendants is marked by double top knots, a heavenly robe with a cape, and standing in a polite manner with a symbolic object, such as a flower, fan, or bat in their hand. Child attendants wrapped in a heavenly robe were believed to connect the world of the deceased with that of the mourners.

Double Top Knots

Dongjaseok

Pouch

a symbol of protection and longevity

Dongjaseok

Fan

a symbol of warding off evil spirits and bringing good fortune

Duck

a symbol of success in a state examination and safety

Village Guardians with Faces of the Korean People
People in the past believed that Beoksu, standing at the entrance to a village or at the end of a street, protected them from evil spirits and illnesses. Since Beoksu were thought to possess superpowers that can bring good fortune and prevent troubles, people prayed to Beoksu in the hope of making their wishes come true.   Though Beoksu drove away evil spirits, they did not have a scary look. Moreover, there was no set standard for the face of Beoksu. The various forms of their candid and humorous faces reflected how simply and sincerely ordinary people thought. Stories and fables of Beoksu blended with Korean people's sentiments over time, creating not only unique artistic splendor but also creatures that allow us to have a conversation with the past.

Beoksu

Sickle

a symbol of harvest and abundance

Crane

a symbol of longevity and auspicious indications

Beoksu

Turtle

a symbol of good health, longevity, and fertility

Beoksu

House

a symbol of prosperity and microcosm

Garden of Stone
The Flower Sermon - "Wordless Enlightenment" One day, Buddha was sitting on his teaching chair surrounded by his disciples. However, instead of giving the usual lecture, Buddha just held up a lotus flower, without uttering a single word. No one in the audience understood the Flower Sermon except Mahakashyapa, who smiled. Then, Buddha said, “I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, and the subtle Dharma Gate that does not rely on words or letters but is a special transmission outside the scriptures. This, I entrust to Mahakashyapa."

Stone Buddha

The statue of Buddha made by civilians showing the austere and natural beauty.

Prayers for rain

A dragon-engraved stonework used in rain rituals. As dragons were symbolically portrayed as the "god of water" in many Eastern cultures, precipitation rituals were held in the presence of a dragon-engraved stonework or in front of a dragon-shaped rock or well.

Hamabi (dismount marker)

Markers such as this one, which commanded “all officials to dismount from their horses” as a show of respect, were placed at the entrance to a palace or the royal ancestral shrine of Joseon Dynasty. Depending on their rank, officials were required to dismount a specific number of paces before the entrance, i.e. senior officials were required to dismount ten steps before it, mid-ranking officials twenty steps, and low-ranking officials thirty steps.

Stone Tiger

Breast-fed Lamb

Mother’s Love Expressed in Devoted Stitches
Embroidery work has long been a way for Korean women to express their intricate artistic sensibility and cultivate beauty in their daily lives. As embroidery was a basic skill that Korean woman had to learn, the skill was handed down naturally from mother to daughter. While weaving and sewing, women would pray for the happiness of their families. Embroidery was widely used in all classes of Korean society from the royal family and aristocracy to the commoners. Thus, the history of embroidery plays an important role in understanding the lifestyle of Korean women in the past, and embroidery is the fruit of traditional feminine culture.  

The embroidered wrapping cloths from Gangwon

Provinceare characterized by geometric patterns in vertical and lateral symmetry and unique colors that bring to mind the splendid stripes of five cardinal colors. The outstretching branches and the geometrically expressed leaves are the symbols of vitality full of auspicious energy and of women’s wishes for good fortune and prosperity.

The embroidered wrapping cloths from Gangwon

The embroidered wrapping cloths from Gangwon

Embroidered Wrapping Cloths

Imbued with uniquely beautiful patterns and distinctive colors, the wrapping cloth is an archetypical piece of Korean living art that possesses both the aspects of practicality and aesthetic beauty.

Patchwork Cloths

Embroidering a wrapping cloth or sewing pieces of fabric together was intended as a prayer for good
fortune. Therefore, Every stitch was made with love and sincerity.

Patchwork Cloths

Wrapping Cloth for Wooden Goose

This is a wooden goose sent by a groom to his bride’s family as a sign of fidelity and its wrapping cloth.

Embroidered Pillows

The ten traditional symbols of longevity, in addition to peony, lotus, and fruit patterns were often embroidered on pillows as a wish for long life, happiness, good health, and peace. It is believed that they warded off negative energies and embodied the hopes of receiving blessed dreams.

It embodies the meaning of auspiciousness, with the peony symbolizing wealth and the lotus symbolizing the creation of life and prosperity.

The embroidered strawberries and grapes represent prayers for fertility.

It is embroidered with Chinese characters associated with a happy and comfortable life.

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