Osaka exhibit brings Korea's past into present

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Osaka exhibit brings Korea's past into present

A collection of Korean national treasures was unveiled last week in Osaka as part of an exchange between Korea and Japan of artifacts and art masterpieces in anticipation of the World Cup.

Korea's contribution to the Korea-Japan National Treasure Exchange Exhibition opened March 15 at the Osaka History Museum. The exhibit is part of a series of cultural exchanges between the two nations organized to engender friendship and cultural understanding in the days leading up to the soccer championships to be hosted by the two nations.

Korea's collection, including artifacts dating to the Silla (57-935) and Baekje (18 B.C.-660 A.D.) kingdoms, is called "The Splendid Treasures of Korea." It will be on display in Osaka until May 6, after which it will move to Tokyo to be shown in the capital's National Museum from June 11 to July 28.

"Our national treasures represent the quintessence of Korean spirit and traditional culture," said Ji Gon-gil, the director of the National Museum of Korea, which loaned out many of the items on exhibit in Japan. "While conservation is a top priority, it is also important to exhibit our artifacts to show how exemplary our traditional culture is; that is why we have planned this cultural tour."

Japanese national treasures and other art objects will be shown from May 15 to July 14 at Gyeongbok palace's National Museum under the title "Masterpieces of Japanese Art."

Many of Korea's most valuable national artifacts are on display in Japan, including 32 items designated by the government as national treasures and 42 designated as treasures. Some 270 items made the trip to Japan, making this by far the largest show of Korean art ever organized there.

Among the highlights of the collection are the magnificent gold crowns from the Silla Dynasty era. The first to be excavated, titled "Gold Crown From the Tomb of the Gold Crown," is very much intact: It has three rows of gold-plated layers, which form a likeness of the Chinese character for "exit." The splendor of the artifact represents the strength of the Silla kingdom. Among the other pieces, the "Mounted Warrior Pottery" is noteworthy; it's a peculiar clay doll of a warrior, with a pointed headpiece, mounted on a horse. Another interesting object from ancient times is a white ceramic jar with an underglazed iron-brown paint, with plum blossom and bamboo designs.

Another fascinating piece is a stone Buddha that was excavated in Buyeo, South Chungcheong province. The figure is a definitive example of the distinctive mild and natural smiles marking the Buddha sculptures of the Baekje period.

One of the most interesting modern pieces in the collection is an album of 25 genre paintings by Kim Hong-do. Some of the master's finest works, including "The Stable," "The Inn" and "Washing Area" are included.

by Oh Byung-sang

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