Published on 20 April 2017

Joseon Korea_Court Treasures and City Life. Image courtesy of Asian Civilisations Museum

Get up close with rare artefacts from Korea’s last Joseon dynasty in this collaboration between Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), National Museum of Korea and National Palace Museum of Korea.

By Melanie Lee

If you’re a fan of saeguk (Korean historical dramas), this is the perfect time to pay a visit to ACM’s blockbuster exhibition “Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life” to check out actual hanboks (Korean traditional dress) and buncheong wares (traditional Korean stoneware) from the Joseon period (1392 – 1897).

Says ACM Director Kennie Ting, “Many of the stories and treasures that we are showing in this exhibition have inspired Korea’s popular culture – from period drama to contemporary arts and aesthetics, and even fashion…The Joseon dynasty’s extraordinary legacy not only withstands the test of time by being relevant to this day, but also resonates with new audiences beyond geographical boundaries.”

Here are some of the exhibits you’ll find at ACM’s largest exhibition to date.

A royal folding screen

Six-fold Screen of the Sun, Moon and Five Peaks. Image courtesy of the National Palace Museum

Upon entering the exhibition, you will be greeted by “The Sun, Moon and Five Peaks” (19th or early 20th century). Painted folding screens were popular in the later part of the Joseon dynasty, and those featuring the sun, moon and five peaks were for the Joseon court, and usually placed behind the throne or royal portrait of a king.

A royal procession

King Jeongjo's Procession to His Father's Tomb. Image courtesy of National Museum of Korea.

“King Jeongjo’s Procession to His Father’s Tomb” depicts a filial King Jeongjo visiting the royal tombs to pay respects to his father in 1795. As this visit also tied in with his mother’s birthday, it is recorded that around 6,000 people were involved in this eight-day procession. This intricately-rendered, fully-coloured hand scroll stretches to 45 metres so as to meticulously record this major occasion.

Old-school oppa

Portrait of Seo Jiksu. Image courtesy of National Museum of Korea

Check out the realistic portraits of the yangban, the elite and aristocratic class in Joseon. During that time, painting portraits of notable people was a way of honouring their lives and achievements. This painting is of scholar-official Seo Jiksu and it’s done by famous court painters Yi Myeonggi and Kim Hongdo.

Bridal bling

Bridal Robe (back). Image courtesy of National Museum of Korea

This bridal robe from the late 19th century is lavishly decorated with auspicious emblems such as longevity symbols such as peaches and cranes, peonies for wealth and honour, lotuses for purity, as well as butterflies and pairs of birds for conjugal harmony.  The shoulder area is adorned with the Chinese phrase which means “the union of two families is the source of a hundred blessings”.

Modern take

Becoming Again; Coming Together is South Korean artist Ran Hwang's largest mixed-media installation, and is presented as part of Joseon Korea_Court Treasures and City Life. Image courtesy of Asian Civilisations Museum

Becoming Again; Coming Together (2017) by Ran Hwang

The perfect way to wrap up this exhibition is to drop by Korean artist Ran Hwang’s magical mixed-media installation inspired by the Joseon dynasty titled “Becoming Again; Coming Together”.  Here, she evokes notions of timelessness and transience by depicting a traditional Joseon wedding ceremony with a mural of a pair of phoenixes, as well as a 21-pexiglass panel video installation accompanied by traditional music performed with Joseon-era instruments.

Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life will be held at the Asian Civilisations Museum from 22 April – 23 July 2017. Click here for more information on the exhibition and its related programmes. 

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