In-Depth Look at Life of Chosun Royal Court

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In-Depth Look at Life of Chosun Royal Court

A newly released book by Dr. Park Jung-hae takes an interesting look at court paintings of the Chosun period. The paintings, which offer an insight into the closed life of the court, were the subject of study for the author's doctorate thesis at Hong-ik University, known for its fine arts programmes. And, this book is the result of further refinement and additions to her original dissertation.

According to Dr. Park, court paintings of the period were either 'Uikeido'(sketches or drafts) or 'Kungjunghaengsado'(formal paintings documenting events and ceremonies in their entirety). The latter were characterized by an emphasis on the role of the king and princes as sovereigns of the nation as well as the highly ceremonial and structured nature of the royal household.

In this work, there are over 250 plates showing examples of court events from the 16th to 19th centuries. "Even though I had a hard time researching this subject due to a lack of complete bibliographies or data in general, I was nevertheless fascinated by breaking new ground in a subject other people had not really touched. Also, my form of research attempts to approach the [Choson] dynasty and its paintings from various points of view," said Dr. Park.

Chosun painting has been a subject of interest to Dr. Park ever since graduate school when in 1984 she first saw court events in an art book. She was fascinated by the genre.

Her passion really took off after visiting numerous museums. She even contacted and saw up-close a sample of period court painting from a generous art collector. "Who out there would readily allow priceless paintings to be shown to a mere student writing a lowly Master's thesis? I can't remember how many rejections I received after proposing taking photos of the paintings. Everyone shook their heads - 'No.' The most difficult thing for me was first finding the paintings and then persuading them to allow me to photograph the hard-sought painting for my research."

"There are a lot of examples of paintings of the royal court. But, also of the same genre are paintings of life outside the court, those of high-ranking official and aristocratic households. My next bout of study will move away from the court and look at the equally lofty world of officials and aristocrats," said Dr. Park.

Holding graduate degrees in Western Painting and Art History, Dr. Park presently lectures at her alma mater as well as Duksong and Korea Universities.

by An Hye-ree

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