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This image is considered both Buddhist or Taoist.

The two circular radiating patterns incorporate both native and naturalized elements from diverse Korean and Chinese traditions.

This is one of the most sumptuous Buddhist works during this period of Korean history.

The “Seated Willow-Branch…” depicts the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The rich colors, flesh tones, and gold pigment show the luxurious taste of the period, as well as the amount of detail and talent in mixing different pigments.

Many paintings of Buddha and Bodhisattvas were popular during this period.

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This painting depicts the Huang Mountains. The mountains seem to be disturbed by a black squiggle in front of them, which we believe demonstrates the concept of yin and yang, a pillar of Taoism.

The yin and yang symbolize the balance between nature and opposing forces. In this painting, the balance between nature (symbolized by the Huang Mountains) and the opposing forces (the black squiggle).

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This painting is an individualist painting – an expression of the artist’s personal feelings that were made in a very original styles.

Pictured is a monk, sitting in a hut in the center of the picture, looking at the mountains around him. The mountains seem to be roiling around in turmoil. Various colored dots around the picture are meant to be vegetation. The way the vegetation covers him, it makes the viewer think that the monk’s thoughts could be troubled.

This is thought to be a Buddhist painting.

The Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE – 668 CE): Started out as three independent nation-states called Silla (in the southeast), Baekje (in the southwest), and Goguryeo (in the north).

Unified Silla Period (668 CE – 918 CE): In 660 CE the Silla kingdom conquered Baekje and through an alliance with Tang-Dynasty China in 668 CE it vanquished Goguryeo. This was the beginning of the Unified Silla period. Buddhism prospered and many large and important temples were erected in and around Silla’s capital of Gyeongju.

Goryeo Dynasty (918 CE- 1392 CE): Unified Silla rule was ended in 918 CE. This period is knows as a period of courtly refinement and celadon-glazed ceramics. Capital was moved to Gaeseong.

Joseon Dynasty (1392 CE – 1910 CE): Goryeo Dynasty was overthrown by General Yi Seonggye, which started the Joseon (also known as the Yi) Dynasty. At first the Capital stayed Gaeseong, but was moved to Seoul in 1392 CE. Buddhism was rejected by this dynasty, which brought to the rise of Neo-Confucianism as the state philosophy. The government was modeled after the government of Ming dynasty China. This was considered a dynasty of isolation because they closed its borders to most of the world except China. This was also a period of great cultural development and scientific achievement. The rain gauge, astrolabe, celestial glove, sundial, water clock, Han’geul (Korean alphabet), and the moveable type where all invented during the Joseon Dynasty.

Modern Korea (1910 CE – Present Day): Colonial Occupation (1910-1945), World War II (1939-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953) hindered Korea’s artistic and cultural developments during the first half of the twentieth century.

Bronze Age China (1700 BCE – 221 BCE): This was the period that saw the rise of bronze casting using the piece-mold casting technique. This improved agriculture and technology. The Bronze Age included the Shang and Zhou Dynasties.

Shang Dynasty (1700 BCE – 1100 BCE): A dynasty in Bronze Age China. Capitals frequently changed but remained in/near the Yellow River Valley. Rulers maintained their power by claiming power as intermediaries between the supernatural and human realms. Shang priests communicated with the supernatural world through oracle bones which were pieces of bones or tortoiseshells with cracks that were interpreted as communication from the supernatural world.

Zhou Dynasty (1100 BCE – 221 BCE): A dynasty in Bronze Age China. The Zhou Dynasty conquered the Shang Dynasty in 1100 BCE. A feudal system now developed, with nobles related to the king ruling over many small states. The supreme deity became known as Tian, or Heaven, and the king ruled as the Son of Heaven. This was called having the “divine power” to rule. States became increasingly independent and larger states engulfed smaller states. Many of China’s greatest philosophers arose during this time, such as Confucius, Laozi, and Mozi. Zhou Dynasty China experienced a change from focusing on the supernatural world to focusing on the human world.

Qin Dynasty (221 BCE – 206 BCE): This is the first time in Chinese history that China united under a single ruler (Shihuangdi). He aimed to build a mausoleum and this project continued throughout his life. Inside was an army of terra-cotta soldiers and horses. Qin Dynasty rule was harsh and repressive with many laws that were based on a totalitarian philosophy called legalism. All other philosophies were banned, their scholars were executed, and their books were banned. Bureaucracy, a writing system, and a monetary system were all established during this dynasty.

Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE): This was a very peaceful, prosperous, and stable dynasty. The borders were extended and secured and the Silk Road was opened. This led to silk being China’s most precious good.

Six Dynasties Period (265 CE – 589 CE): After the fall of the Han dynasty China divided into three warring kingdoms. In 280 CE the empire was reunited but invasions by nomadic people from Central Asia forced the court to flee south. Because of this, northern and southern China developed separately. This period is also referred to the Southern and Northern Dynasties because of this. People in south China started rapidly converting from Confucianism to Daoism. However, Buddhism brought comfort to very troubled China during this Dynasty.

Sui Dynasty (581 CE – 618 CE): During this dynasty (the shortest dynasty in Chinese history) China was developed into a centralized empire.

Tang Dynasty (618 CE – 907 CE): During this dynasty the Chinese character was developed into a strong, vigorous, noble, idealistic, realistic, and pragmatic character. Also, the military power was very vigorous.

Song Dynasty (960 – 1279): The capital was changed to Bianjing (NOT Beijing), which is near the Yellow River, during this dynasty. China’s military weakened greatly during this dynasty. In 1126 the Manchurian Jurchen tribes invaded China, sacked the Bianjing, and took control over most of northern China. This caused China to make the new Capital at Hangzhou. After this, the dynasty is now referred to as the Southern Song (1127 – 1279). The portion before the Southern Song dynasty is known as the Northern Song (960 – 1129). Contrary to the size of the country, China’s wealth increased greatly due to advances in agriculture, commerce, and technology. Art flourished during this dynasty.

Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1369): China’s political and cultural centers split during this dynasty, causing new a new situation dynamic in the arts. Artists in this period grew in social status. They achieved a status equal to court officials. Artists began drawing more personal expression because they thought it counted for more than sheer professional skill. This dynasty continued the imperial role as commissioners and patrons of art.

Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644): The rounder of the Ming Dynasty was once very poor, but rose through the ranks of the army. He drove the Mongols from Beijing and established himself as the emperor. This was a very ruthless period in Chinese history where scholars stayed away from the government and civil service examinations were reinstated.

Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911): The Manchu armies marched into Beijing in 1644; the Chinese people thought this was the end of their civilization. However, the Manchus already adopted many Chinese customs before their invasion. They showed a great respect for Chinese tradition after they took control of China. This period is also referred to as the Manchu Dynasty.

Modern Period (1911 – Present Day): In the mid/late nineteenth century China was shaken by a series of military defeats by Japan and Western powers. New ideas from Japan and the West began to enter into Chinese civilization. However, the demand arose for political and cultural reforms, thus in 1911 the Qing dynasty was overthrown, ending 2,000 years of imperial rule. China was now considered a republic. Chinese artists started getting influenced by Western ideas; however, after the establishment of present day communism, artistic freedom was restricted. After 1979 cultural attitudes began to relax and Chinese artists continued to do their things.

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This artwork has both a painting and a poem involved.

The translation of the poem reads:
White clouds like a scarf enfold the mountain’s waist
Stone steps hang in space — a long narrow path.
Alone, leaning on my cane, I gaze intently at the scene,
And feel like answering the murmuring brook with the music of my flute.

The poem emphasizes how the poem on the mountaintop is becoming one with nature. He (or she) is on a narrow path and gazing intently at the scene before him (or her). When the poem speaks of answering the brook with a flute, the poet is attempted to communicate with nature.

The emphasis on communication with nature makes the artwork an example of Taoist art, because Taoist’s strongly believe in the human relationship with nature.

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This artwork uses a dry brush technique, in which the brush has minimal amounts of ink, so the white paper breathes through the ragged strokes. the resulting painting has an appearance of a light touch and a sense of simplicity and purity.

Despite there being no clear religious connection, with analysis it is assumed that “The Rongxi Studio” fits most with the Buddhist aesthetic of Simplicity and Purity.

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“Travelers Among Mountains and Streams” is generally considered a Taoist painting because of the way it emphasizes a close relationship between humans and nature.

The composition is laid out in three stages, alluding to the three acts of a drama. In the bottom level is a group of rocks that establishes in a foreground. In the middle ground, a group of travelers and their mules are entering the image from the right. The middle ground takes up twice as much space as the foreground. The background is the largest part of the picture, and the mountain solidifies and bursts as energetic brush strokes describe the scrubby growth on top.

The painting conveys a feeling to the viewer of climbing a mountain and leaving behind the human reality to come face to face with a spiritual reckoning and Great Ultimate in communion.


March 7, 2010

Chinese History
Korean History

Taoism / Daoism