Old dogs for a New Year: A post-Christmas zodiac show

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Old dogs for a New Year: A post-Christmas zodiac show

Welcoming the coming Chinese Year of the Dog, The National Folk Museum of Korea is holding a special exhibition about dogs, featuring the portrayal of dogs in old folk paintings and terracotta sculptures. The show runs until Feb. 27.
The dog is 11th of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. According to the astrological system, those born in the year of the dog are considered honest and faithful to whom they love. Dogs will never let you down.
The 12 zodiac animals were often the subjects of stone sculptures erected near tombs and artifacts buried with the dead since the Silla Dynasty. Historically, dogs were considered an animal that not only protects a house but also drove away evil spirits. In the Unified Silla Dynasty (688-935), dog sculptures were placed around tombs as guardian angels. Paintings of dogs were hung on the front gates of houses.

Counter to the notorious image of Korea as a dog-eating culture, in old folk paintings dogs are familiar animals which symbolize peace and abundance. The paintings also show different types of dogs that live on the Korean peninsula.
Among the artifacts on display, the book of Dangsaju (a reference for Chinese astrology written during the 618-907 Tang Dynasty) has drawings of 12 zodiac animals and notes about their astrological connotations. The book explains the belief system that divides a person’s lifecycle into four parts. It says that people born under the sign of the dog suffer in the beginning of life but enjoy prosperity later.
Small terracotta dogs found in tombs have different expressions and tail shapes. They are buried out of a wish to protect the deceased. The painting by Korean folk painter Sin Yun-bok portrays two mating dogs, a subject that rarely appears in Korean paintings.
There are educational sessions for children every Sunday between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to teach about the 12 zodiac animals and dogs in Korean culture as well as how to make clay crafts.

by Limb Jae-un

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 1,500 won to 3,000 won. The National Folk Museum is located inside the Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul near Gyeongbok Palace station, Line #3, exit 5.
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