Author: National Museum of Korea. Size: 20.5 x 27.3 (cm). Quantity of pages: 229. Language: English. Publisher: National Museum of Korea. Year: 2009
The Library of the Vietnam National Museum of History would like to introduce the publication A journey of soul: The Buddhist Painting of the Joseon Period which had grown out of the same name special exhibition. The book includes various paintings that were featured in the exhibition.
The special exhibition entitled A journey of soul: The Buddhist Painting of the Joseon Period was held in 2003 to introduce the Buddhist painting collection of the National Museum of Korea. The exhibition was recognized as both novel and significant since it was a full-scale exhibition to feature Buddhist paintings of the Joseon period in a museum context and attempted to explore the viewpoint of the Joseon people on the Buddhist paintings enshrined in various temples.
To the people believing in Buddhism, the ultimate purpose of life is to attain Nirvanna and to be in paradise. To do so, they must be relieved from the endless cycle of rebirth after death. Paintings included in this exhibition catalogue were selected to present this ultimate goal of the people of Joseon. The long journey that includes following the Messengers from the Underworld, enduring ten trials by the Ten Kings of Hell due to Kshitigarbha and prayers of the living, and finally arriving at paradise exclaiming Amitabha with joy reveals how the Joseon people understood the afterlife and what their real life concerns were.
This publication also provides people a meaningful opportunity to reconsider the conventional opinion Joseon Buddhist paintings are degenerate in comparison to the refined and splendorous ones of the Goryeo period. It is true that Joseon Buddhist paintings are generally viewed as plain and artless, because the dynasty suppressed Buddhism and fostered Neo-Confucianism as its government philosophy and political ideology. However, it is also true that numerous Buddhist statues and paintings as well as temples were created upon the orders of the royal elders and the king’s inner circles well into the early period of the dynasty. Furthermore, despite dwindling Buddhist temples since the two wars, the Buddhist arts were regenerated and replenished by the dynasty’s reconstruction ordinance during the late period. Buddhist monks were active as artists forming regional painting circles during this period.
The book is an interesting document that includes images of Joseon paintings featured in the exhibition. Reading the book, readers will have a deeper view on Buddhism in general and especially Buddhism of the Joseon period.
The Library of The Vietnam National Museum of History (No. 25 Tong Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi) would like to inform readers.