19 September 2008

Extra photos from National Museum

I have already uploaded many juicy photos from the National Museum of Korea, over at Christy's Art Blog, in the following three categories: Kwan Yin, Korean art, non-Korean art. Here are some more photos that didn't make it to that blog, but were of interest to me anyway.

Some photos of Korean dolmens, mostly from the Jeolla provinces as well as Ganghwa Island in Incheon, but also from North Korea and Manchuria. There are 30,000 known dolmens in Korea - 20,000 in the North and South Jeolla provinces (the southwest corner of the nation) alone.

This map shows distribution of Korean dolmens; each red dot is a known dolmen.

A coffin from the ancient kingdom of Baekje, which occupied southwestern Korea for the first several centuries of the Common Era.

A print of the Emille Bell in Gyeongju, the largest bell in the world. I hope to drive out to Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (and a rival of Baekje), later on during my stay.

One of the first modern newspapers published in Korea was Dongnip Shinmun (Independence News), which started circulating in 1897. It was written exclusively in Korean script, in a show of nationalism - though it was too late by then to save Korea from Japanese colonialism.

I mentioned Confucian family census registers before. While the one used in South Korea until last year was based on Japanese recordkeeping, this is a more traditional census register with more Korean conventions. This particular section contains records on Yi Seonggye, who founded a new kingdom named Joseon in 1392.

The next photographs are from a special limited-engagement exhibition on the history of South Korea's national flag (Taegeukgi), to commemorate the 60th anniversary of South Korea's government.

In the 1880s, King Gojong hired an American by the name of Owen Denny as his foreign affairs advisor. When Denny left in 1890, he took this flag as a parting gift from the king. This flag was donated to South Korea by Denny's descendants in 1981, and is believed to be the oldest Taegeukgi in existence in South Korea. Though Taegeukgi in its flag form is a fairly recent phenomenon, the concepts embodied in it - the yin-yang symbol and the pentagrams - have existed in both China and Korea for centuries.

By 1900, Korea was an empire in its own right, as opposed to a kingdom pledging Confucian allegiance to someone else's (that would be China) emperor. This Taegeukgi was used by the imperial government in 1900.

These Taegeukgi are autographed - some by independence fighters, some by early members of the South Korean government.

Having a Taegeukgi was a capital offense during the Japanese rule. After the defeat of Japan, both Koreas initially used Taegeukgi. In South Korea, it was declared the official national flag, and its design standardized, in 1949, and the colors were standardized in 1997. In North Korea, a completely different, more socialist flag was designed from scratch - and use of Taegeukgi by anyone other than visiting South Korean officials will most likely result in a lengthy stint in the gulag.

Various calendars from the 1950s and 1960s showing Taegeukgi and a map of the Korean peninsula. Some of these calendars also feature flags of the US and the UN, in gratitude for their role in defending South Korea in the war.

This flag traveled to the moon aboard Apollo 11 in 1969. US President Richard Nixon returned the flag to South Korea's unitary executive Park Chung-hee, along with four pieces of moon rock, in this display case. This flag was in the possession of Park's family after his assassination in 1979, until being donated to the nation in 1984.

The scenic Seoul landscape, looking north from the museum. On the right is Namsan, which marks the south end of downtown; on top is Seoul's most prominent landmark, N-Seoul Tower, built in 1969 as a television transmission tower and an observatory. The National Library (the domed white building) stands on Namsan, in the dead center. In the distance to the left is Bukhansan, Seoul's northern boundary and a national park. In the foreground is the former US Army base, being turned into a family park.