ANIMAL MOTIFS REPRESENTING SIPJANGSAENG (LONGEVITY) AND SAMGANG ORYUN (BASIC VIRTUES OF NEO-CONFUCIAN SOCIAL ETHICS) IN THE FURNITURE AND DÉCOR OF A TRADITIONAL KOREAN HOUSE
Animals, both real and mythical, frequently played the role of important motifs in painting and decorative forms in artistic crafts. Although it is possible to identify certain regional differences, these symbols convey very similar meanings throughout those parts of the Far East where Chinese cultural impact has been dominant for centuries. Due to its geographical proximity, Korea has also been distinctively influenced by the social, political, and cultural codes coming from mainland China. Long-term exposure to interactions with China led to Korea’s absorption of the Chinese ideographs which went on to become the lingua franca among East Asian elites. Adapting Chinese doctrines, such as Taoism and Confucianism, to Korean conditions sparked the emergence of a separate Korean system of thought. Wedged between native beliefs and royal favour bestowed by Joseon dynasty rulers, Neo-Confucianism in Korea evolved into a socio-political program unique among the thought systems of the world. Therefore, the animal motifs encountered in Korean arts and crafts can only be interpreted in the context of the ideology that had exerted such a profound influence on the visual culture of the time. In this paper, the theme of animal motifs in the furniture and decor of a traditional Korean house serves as the starting point for discussing the mutual influence of Taoism and Neo-Confucianism in the Joseon era based on the example of a visual culture element.
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