What Is Silhak

What Is Silhak – From ceramics to calligraphy and painting, Korean art has offered some of the richest and most captivating works of art in world art history. Many artistic styles emerged from various Korean kingdoms and dynasties and even drew inspiration from Chinese tradition. This article will introduce everything you need to know about the history of Korean art, and includes an overview of traditional Korean art from different periods as well as some of the most famous examples of Korean contemporary art.

For centuries, Korean art has been intertwined with cultural practices and a strong emphasis on pottery, music, painting, calligraphy and decoration. The first art forms from Korea date back to 3000 BC. n. no., to the Stone Age, and include early examples of votive statues and petroglyphs. Between 918 and 1392 BC, the Goryeo Dynasty marked the Korean history of the development of fine ceramics.

What Is Silhak

The Center for Korean Contemporary Art is based in Insadong, Seoul, South Korea and contains more than 50 art galleries and auctioneers.

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The first three panels of a ten-panel folding screen with devotional scenes; Walters Museum of Art, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many historians frame Korean art as emerging through the transmutation and integration of Chinese traditions and culture with Korean culture, which became an art form in its own right. Korea is known as a peninsula in East Asia and has been separated into two regions since 1945; North Korea and South Korea. Korea as a whole consists of the peninsula area, Jeju Island and seven other smaller nearby islands.

Human occupation of the area began about 50,000 years ago with early art dating from 7000 BC.

Traditional Korean art consists of music, calligraphy, painting, pottery, and Korean crafts. Western art students may find understanding the different periods confusing, but it is very important to recognize the different periods and which forms of Korean art are associated with those periods.

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Below you will find a table summarizing the various ancient Korean times/dynasty periods according to the traditional arts and artworks discussed below.

As the table shows, Korea has always been a place of extraordinary and rapid political change and cultural adaptation over time to the northern and southern cultures we see today. Below we will examine each of the various traditional Korean arts from ancient Korea, which left a rich source of potential for study and admiration.

Refers to traditional Korean music used in song, dance, and ritual. Music as an art form became a serious field of study under the Joseon Dynasty around the 15th century. The term was first used by the Jangagwon government agency at the end of the Joseon period, which controlled music and distinguished Korean music from foreign music.

The music then developed into a system and gave rise to the first system of mensural notation in Asia – the jeongganbo.

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This also resulted in the development of ritual music known as Jongmyo Jeryeak, which is performed only during royal ancestral ceremonies and was documented in 2001 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. There are many types of traditional Korean music used for different purposes and in connection with Buddhist and shamanic practices.

Folk dance is another traditional art form in Korea that is also quite versatile. One of these folk dances is called the mask dance (

Was intended to deliver satire through dance and music as a commentary on the corrupt elites of the Joseon period and their relationship with rural communities.

Korean folk dances are often performed in squares or markets and offer a mysterious atmosphere to the audience while incorporating the sounds of drums and singing.

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Ceramics characterized by flat-bottomed vessels with relief motifs, raised horizontal lines and other interesting impressions. Jeulmun pottery consists of conical-bottomed vessels with a distinct comb pattern that appeared around 6000 BC. n. no. and is very similar to ceramics found in Siberia.

Another type of early Korean pottery is called Mumun pottery, which appeared around 2000 BC. n. no. and it is recognized by the larger structures with little or no decoration, used mainly for storage and cooking.

Blue and white porcelain ceramic urn and bamboo pattern from the National Museum of Korea; Octopus9576, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bronze Age, which marks between 300 and 2000 BC. n. no., saw more imported goods come to the peninsula and beyond. The turn of the seventh century also saw the establishment of an indigenous bronze culture and the mass production of weapons such as spearheads and swords, as well as ritual objects such as bells and mirrors. In the sixth century, iron-rich pottery made of red clay appeared alongside the so-called twig-shaped beads.

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Carved to mimic the appearance of a bear’s paw, another sign of the influence of Siberian art.

The Chinese Iron Culture arrived in Korea between the 5th and 4th centuries and is thought to have been triggered by interactions with the northeastern Chinese state of Yanand, which developed under the command of Drazba.

Korea is known to import Chinese technology and adapt it to create new technology. Therefore, the rise of the Chinese Iron Culture is thought to have played an important role in the development of Korea during the Iron Age. With new technology and development, Korea created a new type of iron casting technology, and in 300 BC, iron became popular. Some examples of early Korean sculptural works can be seen below.

Most of the ancient Korean crafts contained designs and patterns related to ritual objects for use in certain rituals. Common patterns include lines and dots used to represent celestial bodies such as the stars and the sun, or other natural weather events that were once worshiped and feared. This bronze artefact is considered extremely rare as it depicts many realistic scenes containing agricultural land. The lower half of the object appears to be missing, but the upper half shows six square holes that show signs of the object’s function, namely suspension.

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The object also has a border decorated with lines and dots cut around and in the center of the panel to divide the scene.

One of the most vividly presented scenes on the object is a naked man with feathers in his hair who is seen plowing a field while someone else holds a hoe. On the left side of the plate, another person can be seen putting something into a container. These scenes are believed to represent the shift of agricultural activities captured from spring (planting fields) to autumn (harvesting crops).

There is also a picture of a bird sitting on a tree on the back of the plate. At that time, birds were considered “sacred mediators” that connected shamans with the gods and helped to restore peace and abundance in villages. Ancient villages also have effigies or figures of birds placed at guard posts

, which serves as an invitation to prosperity and peace. Birds are also represented in bronze artefacts and even in bird-shaped containers with images of birds at various burial sites and ceremonies.

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Objects cast in bronze are also part of a painstaking process that involves melting copper ore with other alloys such as zinc, pewter, and pewter and casting the object from a mold.

Bronze is also associated with symbols of power or sacred ritual connotations, most often belonging to members of the elite. It is also believed that these bronze artifacts were worn or used by regional leaders during ceremonies held in prayer for the annual harvest. Therefore, agriculture in the Neolithic Age was of utmost importance to the ancient Korean civilization until the Bronze Age. Several discoveries at Bronze Age sites have yielded traces of pottery and the Polish system, which are very similar to the markings found on these objects. Researchers believe the markings are similar to Bronze Age sites found in Daepyeong-ri, Jinju.

These fourth-century red vessels date from the Early Bronze Age and are a common type of vessel found in tombs and associated with funerary rites. The bright red color of the vessels is believed to come from the iron oxide pigment with which the vessels were coated and then rubbed before firing.

The Bronze Age in Korea began around the 15th century and was marked by the presence of Mumun pottery, stone and wooden tools. This period also saw the rise of social class and the first Korean state in Gojoseon.

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Gojoseon was at its peak in the northwestern region of the Korean peninsula and was recognized as a powerful state that challenged the great Yan, Qin, and Han dynasties. In 108 BC, Gojoseon collapsed due to conflict that caused internal problems.

Many red vessels and bowls are associated with the northeastern part of the peninsula, while round-bottom vessels are often from central and southern sites.

After the fall of the Gojoseon state, the Korean peninsula was divided into two parts

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