The Art of Ancient Korea

The Art of Ancient Korea

The Art of Ancient Korea

The Art of Ancient Korea

Excerpt

In spite of the considerable volume of literature on the subject, the study of Korean art is still in its infancy.

The lack of political liberty in Korea during the first half of the present century made it difficult for such studies to thrive. However, after the end of the Second World War, with the coming of independence, Korean art studies shared in the rapid expansion of the whole of the national life, and soon had some remarkable successes to their credit. Among the most important have been the opening of Tomb 3 near Anak, the excavation of numerous other tombs of the first millennium A.D., and the finds of Buddhist art in the stone stupas and near the monasteries. This extensive archaeological research by Korean scholars has done much to clarify the development of Korean art. However, this wealth of material still needs systematic comparison and classification, and the historical development of Korean art needs to be traced.

The contribution of foreign scholars to the study of Korean art over the past seventy years falls into three main periods, which to some extent overlap.

The first phase comprises the work of amateurs among the diplomatic officials, journalists, and especially the missionaries who settled in Korea from the last decades of the nineteenth century. It was from men such as these that the outside world first learned of Korean culture. However, their researches were limited in extent and depth by language difficulties and by their lack of proper training. In addition, their interests lay more in literature than in art. One of the best works of this period is Andreas Eckhardt Geschichte der Koreanischen Kunst (Leipzig, 1929); valuable contributions may also be found in the Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

With the annexation of Korea by Japan the initiative passed to the energetic Japanese archaeologists, and it is on the foundations laid by them that our knowledge today largely rests. During this second phase interest was focused mainly on the prehistoric era and on the archaeological approach to historical times. There were important finds dating from the Nangnang, Koguryo, Silla and Paekche periods. Among the scholars we may notice the names of Sekina Tadashi, Fujita Ryosaku, Umehara Sueji, Hamada Kosaku and many others. Their writings appeared in various collected . . .

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