Ancestral Rites for Modern Times

By Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The Arumjigi exhibition for 2018 is about table setting for ancestral rites. Under the title Ancestral Rites for Modern Times, the exhibition this year examines the propriety and formality of traditional ancestral rites that are gradually receding into oblivion, reflects on the essentials of traditional ancestral rites, and explores ways to uphold the propriety and formality of these rites in modern society. Working together with experts in Korean cuisine, crafts, and design, Arumjigi endeavored to introduce diverse forms of ancestral rites that could naturally permeate into the culture and appeal to modern people. 

The Ceremony of Memory by Huh Sang Wook Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ancestral Rites for Modern Times presents traditional ancestral rites. It reflects on the essentials of Korean traditional and contemporary ancestral rites and suggests diverse forms suitable for modern times.

The traditional section features two ancestral ritual table settings presented by head families; one to remember Yi Hwang (Toegye) and the other, Yun Jeung (Myeongjae).

The contemporary section presents practical table settings of ancestral rites that everyone in modern society can do. Craft artists and designers worked together with the Arumjigi team to create them. And together with fellows of ONJIUM Research Institute of Korean Traditional Culture, we recreated traditional dishes for sacrificial offerings. The process of reinterpreting traditional sacrificial dishes into simple yet elegant dishes appropriate for today is also presented.

Buncheong Footed Plate by Lee Kang Hyo Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Resetting the Ancestral Ritual Table, a Place of Communication and Sharing of Meals

This exhibition has three parts. Part 1 addresses ancestral food culture in two sections; ‘traditional’ and ‘modern.’ We have arranged the traditional section with a view to understanding the meaning and formality of traditional ancestral rites. Based on such understanding, the rites are to be adapted in a way that is suitable for modern society.

Part 2 displays four ritual table settings suited for modern times, which is a very important objective of this exhibition. Ritual tables beautifully set in such way that suits modern society are presented. Important ritual utensils and tablewares are redesigned and ritual foods are re-created.

Lastly, there is a portable ritual table that can be easily set up in any place including the grave of the dead and space for ancestor worship, and when traveling away from home.

House of The Head Family of Yi Hwang Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ancestral Ritual Heritage of Traditional Confucian Family

We have arranged the traditional section with a view to understanding the meaning and formality of traditional ancestral rites. Based on such understanding, the rites are to be adapted in a way that is suitable for modern society. To show traditional ancestral rites in the past, two ritual tablesettings arranged to pay tribute to two scholars of Joseon are displayed: one in remembrance of Yi Hwang (1501-1570), a giant figure in the history of Korean philosophy, and the other Yun Jeung (1629-1714),a scholar famous for simple and frugal living.

Ancestral Ritual Heritage of Traditional Confucian Family - Ancestral Rites for Modern Times, Arumjigi Foundation 2018 Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

installation view of The Head Family of Yi Hwang by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The Head Family of Yi Hwang

Yi Hwang (Toegye, 1501-1570) is the most famous philosopher in Korean history. Yi Hwang’s father passed away only seven months after he was born, and he was raised by his lone mother. Money was tight for the family, and Yi Hwang naturally learned the habit of thrift and saving.

Most of a head family would typically present thirty-five to forty sacrificial offerings at rituals and that even ordinary families would offer about thirty. However, the head family of Yi Hwang only presents twenty-six which is very interesting.

It readily evinces Yi Hwang’s thrift and simple living. In fact, in his lifetime, Yi Hwang would practice ‘one meal with three side dishes.’ The ritual table for worship of Yi Hwang has none of the traditional Korean sweets such as deep-fried sweet rice cookies and fruits preserved in honey that most other families would offer. In his will, Yi Hwang asked that no one offer him cookies deep-fried in oil because he considered them extravagant. In respect for his will, his descendants honor him with a simple, thrifty ritual table.

Raw meat (Jeok) by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Thinly slice the ingredients along their grains and stack on one another. Use parboiled octopus. Spread dried yellow corvina on the bottom to provide a stable foundation. In the order of, from bottom up: stingray, shark, yellow tail, octopus, beef, and then chicken (cut off the head, but place the upper body toward the west and the breast facing the sky. Chicken is not to be placed face-down, as the position signifies their tendency to fly away). Stack the Jeok along a sense of flow, and tie the stacks intermittently to ensure stability.

Rice cakes by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The stack grows wider and narrower again upon reaching the top layer.

installation view of The Head Family of Yun Jeung by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The Head Family of Yun Jeung

Yun Jeung led the Young Doctrine (Soron) faction. However, in his experience of the prolonged political conflict with the Old Doctrine (Noron) faction over high government posts, he lost faith in power. He then sought fulfillment in academic activities in the countryside, where he educated youths and carried on the teachings of earlier Neo-Confucian literati for the rest of his life.

His family was always in need as a result. He left dying instructions for his descendants about ancestor worship that said “Practice ancestral rites strictly by the rules, but do so simply and with thrift. Don’t waste time, money, and effort on preparing rice cakes for sacrifice. Also, do not offer extravagant deep-fried cookies and pan-fried delicacies.”

The head family of Yun Jeung duly followed his instructions and did not afterwards offer rice cakes, deep-fried cookies, and pan-fried delicacies on the ritual table. They offered only three essential fruits – jujubes, chestnuts, and persimmons – and they served vegetables of three different parts (roots, stems, leaves) on one dish, rather than in three separate dishes. Instead of serving a whole fish, they offered a few cuts of yellow corbina.

Fermented shrimp and raw corvina by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Place two spoons of fermented shrimp on the plate and top it with a piece of cut open, raw corvina.

Dried and flattened fish by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The pollack which cut the head and tail, the squid body, and the jerky are stacked in order.

Modern Ritual Tablesetting of Formality and Dignity by Bahk Jong Sun, Lee Kang Hyo, Shim Hyeon Seok Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Modern Ritual Tablesetting of Formality and Dignity

To be sure, ancestral ritual tablesetting has changed in modern times, and should be changed.  As the organizer of this exhibition, we feel duty and responsibility to present beautiful Koreanancestral ritual tables that embody formality and dignity in the most appropriate way.We updated the ancestral ritual table in consideration of all the aspects above mentioned. We focused on the meaning and formality of sacrifice on the ritual table and on appealing aesthetics. The table has been set for every member of the family and relatives to share food while having good conversation

Modern Ritual Tablesetting of Formality and Dignity - Ancestral Rites for Modern Times, Arumjigi Foundation 2018 Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Steamed Snapper by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Snappers, known to be in season during spring time, is a rare delicacy famed for its light and soft palette. The steamed snapper dish we present here is based on the family recipe of the Huh’s from Jisoo Myeon in Gyeongsang Namdo, packed with various fillings and steamed in hey wrapping.ONJIUM removed the bones.

Steamed and Grilled Beef Ribs by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Steamed beef ribs were special dishes reserved for holidays, ancestral rites, or guests. In ONJIUM’s recipe, the ribs are steamed with raw shitake and grilled again to create a rich, smooth palette.

Three-colored Pyeon by ONJIUM Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Rice cakes, as a shared treat, occupies a central position on ceremonial tables. Since rice cakes are presented in mounds, they become one of the two main pillars of the table in their sheer magnificence. The custom of stacking up rice cakes on plate harkens back to Korea’s Confucian tradition; the formation of familial solidarity calls for a demonstration of power and authority, which takes place through ancestral rites.

In our contemporary ceremony, rick cakes are piled up in a beautiful formation, designed to accentuate the shape and color arrangement of the stack. The bottom part consists of three-layer of rice cake, decked with rice cake ornamented with jujubes, chestnuts, and manna lichens, topped off with Gaeseung Juak.

Ancestral Ritual Tablesetting for High-Rise Dwellers by General Gray, Lee Ki Wook, arumjigi Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ancestral Ritual Tablesetting for High-Rise Dwellers

Arumjigi therefore presents new forms of ritual equipment as part of its effort to harmonize traditionwith the contemporary lifestyle and its most common site of manifestation – the high-rise apartment.The designs are geared toward practicality; the tablesetting, dishes, and the screen serve as spatialcoordinators, ensuring that every component would be fit into ordinary life. Also, the exhibit aims toinstantiate contemporary aesthetics within the thematic trajectory of the exhibition: namely, designingnew tablesetting schemes for high-rise dwellers. Furniture designer General Gray, ceramic artist Lee KiWook, and Arumjigi Design Team came together to lead the initiative.

Ancestral Ritual Tablesetting for High-Rise Dwellers - Ancestral Rites for Modern Times, Arumjigi Foundation 2018 Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Nomadic Ritual Tablesetting by Lee Geon Min Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Nomadic Ritual Tablesetting

Changes in the times can also create things that did not exist before. Simplified ancestral rites cultureis directed toward specific spaces, but it also offers new alternatives to people who lives a life that cannotbe settled, or a life of travel. Lee Geon Min’s work is a fusion of both solemnness and elegance. They are unique in their curved arrangement, which ensures the organic combination of the case and the content. Also, brought together,they constitute a three-dimensional coordination that prevents the vessels from rolling around or clashingwith one another while in transportation. The concave semi-sphere structure seamlessly completes thecurve and implements a new way of stabilizing the content by interacting with the convex structure.

Nomadic Ritual Tablesetting - Ancestral Rites for Modern Times, Arumjigi Foundation 2018 Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ceremonial Vessels of Daily Use by Lee Ki Wook Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Various Ritual Tablewares

The Aesthetics of Inherent Slowness by Kwon Dae Sup Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

White porcelain effectively encapsulates the artistic emphasis.
It placed on the traditional valuesin ceramic art. Its inherent slowness stands against our present society's obsession with speed andthereby stepping beyond the delineations of conventional form.
He seeks new possibilities, streamliningeverything without being fettered to ornamental compulsions. His approach is at once traditional andinnovative.

Buncheong Footed Plate by Lee Kang Hyo Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ceramic artist Lee Kang Hyo’s productions demonstrate his respect for the forebears. They are also notable for their high footed, embodying the desire to uphold tradition and venerate the elders in their ceremonial significance. Resembling the high footed vessels from the period of the three kingdoms, they are sublime and marvelous. The Buncheong-making technique from the Joseon Dynasty presents a sense of natural depth one sees in traditional ink paintings.

For My Mother by Lee In Chin Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Lee In Chin’s work is the embodiment of his love of mother. The rough and rustic bowl is sweet and tidy. It is enough to hold the expectations of the day when he sees his deceased mother again.
As a ceremonial rites for mother, its value appreciates through the varied forms of the vessels, each containing dishes his mother used to love. The vessels are free and open in their standing, unfettered to formal constraints.

Heighten by Kim Deok Ho / Lee In Hwa Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ceramic artists are familiar with heeled earthenware or porcelain. The various footed vessels embody the artist’s effort to defamiliarize. The different heights, thickness, formal variations and the range of glazes point to the rich potential of ceramic art. The excessively detailed finishing optimizes the vessels for ceremonial use. Their beauty, moderate and contained, perfectly align with ceremonial aesthetics.

Ceremonial Vessels of Daily Use by Lee Ki Wook Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

The ceremonial vessels of ceramic artist Lee Ki Wook are contemporary in shape, veering away from the traditional. They are produced in modules, designed to be stacked in units. The pieces are rather experimental considering the solemnness of the theme, but they are practical, usable in daily contexts. The high footed vessels, made of disparate materials and stacked together, are unique in form and figuratively intriguing.

The Ceremony of Memory by Huh Sang Wook Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Ancestral rites is ceremony of memory. Families come together to remember the lost beloved. The works of ceramic artist Huh Sang Wook memorialize his mother-in-law and the love she gave him. Beautiful memories blossom into small festivals. Huh remembers, and portrays her love of the camellia in the vessels, gesturing to the thriving vitality of life by refining the roughness of the Buncheong with the texture of engobe and replenishing the camellia with silver powdering.

Ancestral Rites Tablesetting for One by Kim Hyeon Sung Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Long-held traditions are authoritative and therefore deemed significant. The table setting is designed to gesture back to the importance of tradition, while also aspiring to freeing itself from such fetters. Focusing on the abiding yearning for beloved lost ones rather than formality, the setting must be simple yet beautiful, optimized for single person households that prioritize meaning over form.

Insoluble Ice by Yang Yoo Wan Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

Glass blower Yang Yoo Wan’s works are pure and transparent, just like ice. Their beauty is to be cherished, as they contain one’s desire to reencounter and treat the lost and departed beloved in their offering. Meanwhile, their design ensures functionality, rendering the objects fit for daily use. Rather rough but also innovative in their incorporation of the old, Yang’s work embodies traditional Korean beauty.

Layer by Arumjigi Design Team, Lee Ye Sl Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

As a reinterpretation of the traditional eight-fold foldig screen from a contemporary perspective, this piece fits into daily life. The screen not only compartmentalizes, but also fills up space. Comprising brass frames covered by two sheets of fabric, the folds can be collapsed or unfurled at ease upon demand to create a sense of openness. The minimalist form shows traditional aesthetics.

Linear Portable Table by Arumjigi Design Team, Lee Ye Sl Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation

These items are designed to demonstrate the ceremonial significance of ritual vessels while also ensuring practical usability. The small portable table, as such, can be conveniently used to celebrate and memorialize the beloved by the younger generation.

The accessibility of the material and the ornamental inishing bridge the gap between practicality and singularity. The refined finishing of the upper portion the table forms a thin line, while the margins embrace the living space. The combination of straight, curved, or intersecting lines add a sense of freedom.

Credits: Story

Hosted by Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation
Sponsored by Cartier, Eagon Windows & Doors Co, Korea Mecenat Association, Arts Council Korea

Exhibition Adviser_ Jeong Hey Gyeong, Park Kyung Mee
Curation_ Kim Sun Young, Kim Ho Jung, Park Joo Yeon
PR_ Shin Hye Sun, Jeong Eun Joo
Research_ The Culiuary Studio of ONJIUM (Cho Eun Hee, Park Sung Bae,An Tae Yong, Kim Si Yeon, Min Kwang Pil, Sim Soo Jeong, Shin In Ho,Chung Won Shik, Lee Seung Rib, Lee Soon Young)
Public Relations_ Shin Hye Sun, Jeong Eun Joo
Video Details_ Mediascope, Jung Young Don
Production_ Solid Interior Inc.

Special Thanks to
The Korean Studies Institute (Kim Mi Young, Yang Mi Kyung, Jang Soo Young)
The head family of Jinsung Lee (Lee Chi Eok)
The head family of Yun Jeung (Yun Wan Sik)
Noh Haeng Yong

Catalogue
Text_ Jeong Hey Gyeong, Kim Mi Young
Translation_ Moon Soo Yul, Shin Hae Rin
English Proofreading_ Oliver Williamson Jr.
Korean Proofreading_ Lee Jin Hee
Photographs_Guru Visual Inc.(Lee Jong Keun), Kim Hyeong Sik
Design_ Lim Bo Hyun
Design Supervision_ Park Kyung Mee


www.arumjigi.org

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps