Korean Art and Design

Korean Art and Design

Korean Art and Design

Korean Art and Design

Excerpt

The Korean peninsula curves out from the land mass of North-East Asia, dividing the Yellow Sea from the Sea of Japan. It includes the island of Cheju to the south and stretches as far as the Yalu (Amnok) and Tumen (Tuman) rivers to the north, a distance of about 1,000 kilometres. There is a long land border with the Chinese province of Liaoning and a short sixteen-kilometre boundary with Russia, south-west of Vladivostok. At the end of the Second World War Korea was divided along the 38th Parallel and, since the truce which ended the Korean War in 1953, the country has been cut in two by the Demilitarized Zone. The Republic of Korea, with its capital at Seoul, governs the southern part of the country. P'yŏngyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which rules the north.

Korea's climate tends to the extreme: the winter temperatures are subzero in most of the country, and summer sees monsoons that bring much of the year's rainfall. The variation in climate from north to south has influenced building and furniture styles across the country. The semi-tropical island of Cheju has its own distinctive culture. Because of the contrast in the seasonal climate, houses were designed to provide warmth in the long freezing winters, and to be readily adaptable to the need for ventilation and shade throughout the uncomfortably humid summer months.

Much of the country is mountainous. Mount Paektu, the highest point in the country, is 2,744 metres above sea level. A jagged, indented coastline runs along the west of the country; on the east it is smoother but sheer. River valleys have traditionally been centres of settlement, of which the most significant have been the Yalu and Tumen rivers, the Taedong river on which P'yŏngyang sits, the Han river where Seoul is located, and the Naktong, the river of the south-east, which flows through Kyŏngsang province towards the south coast, discharging west of Pusan.

The western provinces of P'yŏngan, Hwanghae, Kyŏnggi, Ch'ungch'ŏng and Chŏlla are separated from China by the Yellow Sea. The Sea of Japan, which Koreans refer to as the East Sea, washes the east coast of the peninsula, along the provinces of Hamgyŏng, Kangwŏn and Kyŏngsang. Korea is a land of spectacularly beautiful landscape, with densely wooded mountains providing a peaceful, uplifting setting for the country's artistic heritage. Many visitors remark on the Koreans' passion for the landscape of their . . .

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