Harvard Korean Art History Workshop 2013: "Infinite Interfusion: Buddhist Art in Korea"

Date: 

Friday, December 13, 2013, 9:00am to 5:30pm

Location: 

Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building 1730 Cambridge Street Cambridge Massachusetts 02138 United States

Organized by the Korea Institute
Co-sponsored by the East Asian Art History Program and Harvard-Yenching Institute

Schedule

9:30 – 11:30                Session I: Buddhist Iconography, Local Contingencies

“Harmony and Conflict in Ch’ŏnt’ae and Hwaŏm Buddhism as Seen through a Koryŏ Amitābha Painting”
Seinosuke Ide (Kyushu University)

“The Shifting Pantheon of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha”
Gyeongwon Choe (Hongik University)

Moderator: Sun Joo Kim (Harvard University)
Discussants: Yukio Lippit (Harvard University), Chin-sung Chang (Seoul National University)


11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch


1:00 – 3:00                  Session II: Buddhist Worlds in Unified Silla
“Sŏkkuram and Iran: The Domed Korean Buddhist Sanctuary with A Main Image for Circumambulation and Its Precedents in Kucha (Xinjiang)”

Minku Kim (University of Minnesota)

“A Four‐sided Buddha Land?: A Stupa Valley Sculpture on Mt. Nam in Unified Silla”
Sunkyung Kim (University of Southern California)

Moderator: Mark Byington (Harvard University)
Discussants: Eugene Wang (Harvard University), Youn-mi Kim (Yale University)


3:00 – 3:30                  Break


3:30 – 5:30                  Session III:  Reading Patronage in Chosŏn Buddhist Painting
“Buddhist Activities by Royal Household Members in the Chosŏn Dynasty: On the Three Indras Painting of 1483”

Jiyoung Lee (Kyushu University)

“Warrior Monk Portraits in Late Chosŏn Korea: Local Identity, Contestation and Self-promotion”
Maya Stiller (University of Kansas)

Moderator: Akiko Walley (University of Oregon, Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University)
Discussants: Melissa McCormick (Harvard University), Jaebin Yoo (Seoul National University, Visiting Fellow at Harvard-Yenching Institute)


BIOGRAPHIES

PRESENTERS

Gyeongwon Choe
 studied Asian history and Asian art history during her undergraduate education. She researched the history of Chosŏn secular painting for her M.A. at Hongik University in Seoul, Korea, specializing in the exchange of paintings between Chosŏn Korea and Qing China in the eighteenth century. Her Ph.D. work in the United States led her to Buddhist art. She completed her doctorate with a dissertation entitled “Marginalized yet Devoted: Buddhist Paintings Commissioned by Nuns of Early Chosŏn Palace Cloisters.” Having moved back to her home country, she is now teaching at Hongik University. Her primary research interest is in issues of female patrons of Buddhist paintings in the early Chosŏn period, but she has been expanding her scope of research to Buddhist paintings of the late Chosŏn dynasty.


Seinosuke Ide is Professor of Art Studies at Kyushu University, Japan. The leading scholar of Chinese and Korean Buddhist art in Japan, Professor Ide specializes in East Asian Buddhist paintings from China and Korea, dating from the eleventh through fourteenth centuries. His interregional perspective allows for a new understanding of the circulation of pictorial objects in East Asia. Professor Ide’s book, Song and Yuan Buddhist Paintings in Japan (in Japanese) won the prestigious Kokka Prize in 2001. He has also authored three significant volumes on very different subjects: a book on Southern Song painting, focusing primarily on painting of the Imperial Academy (Nansō no kaiga, 1998), a volume on the Buddhist art of the Chinese port city of Ningbo (Ninpō no bijutsu to kai’iki kōryū, 2009), and a book on the role of advanced digital imaging techniques in art history (Light and Color, 2009).

Minku Kim is an art historian specializing in China between the Han and Tang period (206 BCE–907 CE), particularly in relation to Buddhism. His research, however, is not confined only to medieval China, but also aims to encompass the pan-Buddhist world in its entirety. As a result, he is profoundly intrigued by the relationships and interplays within and among these cultures. Korea is also a prominent concern throughout his research. He is currently working on a book-length monograph, titled Sculpture for Worship: Buddhism and The Cult of Images in Medieval China, which examines the social value, varied uses and reception of both non-Buddhist and Buddhist images in early imperial China. While broadly addressing such issues as mimesis, fetishism, iconophobia, and iconoclasm, this project aims to provide a new understanding of the agencies and stages through which alien, Buddhist ritual practice gradually became incorporated, against considerable odds, into mainstream Chinese society during the Six Dynasties period (220–589). Before joining the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 2012, he was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow of Scholars in the Humanities (2010–2012) at the Stanford Humanities Center. He earned his Ph.D. (2011) from the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. A native of Seoul, South Korea, he obtained his M.A. (2005) and B.A. (2003) from the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Seoul National University.

Born in Seoul, Korea, Sunkyung Kim finished her B.A. and M.A. degrees in the Department of Archeology and Art History at Seoul National University. She obtained her Ph.D. degree at Duke University with a dissertation on sixth century Chinese Buddhist cave sanctuaries and the idea of “Decline of the Buddhist Law.” An Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California in 2007–2008, she is currently a Research Fellow at the Korean Studies Institute at USC. Her research interests encompass Buddhist art in China and Korea, mortuary practices and visuality, and East Asian visual culture and religion.

Ji-young Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at Kyushu University (Japan), where she is conducting a study of Buddhist painting in fifteenth century Chosŏn. Lee completed her M.A. (2005) in the Department of Art History at Dongguk University in Seoul, Korea with a thesis on Avalokitesvara painting in Chosŏn. Her recent publications and presentations include: “A Study of the Three Indras Painting dated Chenghua 19 (1483): On the Circumstances of Execution during the Reign of Sŏngjong of the Chosŏn Dynasty” in Transactions of the International Conference of Eastern Studies LVII (2013.1); “A Study of the Bhaisajyaguru Painting Dated Sung-hwa 13 (1477): A Preliminary Survey from the Viewpoint of Cultural Interaction” at the 10th Society for the Science of Arts at Kyushu University (2013.3); and “A Study of Buddhist Paintings Sponsored by the Royal Family during the Reign of Sŏngjong of the Chosŏn Dynasty” at the 88th Kyushu Art Society (2013.7).

Maya Stiller, assistant professor of Korean Art and Visual Culture at the University of Kansas, obtained a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from UCLA and a doctoral degree in East Asian Art History from Free University in Berlin. She specializes in Korean Buddhist Art, analyzing local Buddhist practice and patronage in Chosŏn period Korea. Her other research interests are in Korean ceramics and the Korean art of book printing. Her current book manuscript, tentatively titled "Kŭmgangsan: Regional Practice and Religious Pluralism in Pre-Modern Korea" undertakes a multi-disciplinary study of Kŭmgangsan, a mountain range located in present-day North Korea, which has traditionally been one of the most important pilgrimage and tourist sites on the Korean peninsula. She expects this research to broaden our understanding of the religious culture of pre-modern Korean society, and to play an important role in introducing a new and interdisciplinary methodology to the study of Buddhist material culture in East Asia and beyond. Her recent publications include, "Buddhist Gold Line Painting From the Early Chosŏn Period (1392-1910)," Ostasiatische Zeitschrift, New Series, No. 21 (Spring 2012): 30–39 and "Portraits of Eminent Korean Monks," Arts of Asia (Spring 2012): 124–132. She has a second book manuscript in preparation titled Awakened Masters and Fighting Monks: Shifting Identities of Korean Buddhist Temples in Chosŏn Korea.

DISCUSSANTS AND MODERATORS

Mark E. Byington, founder and project director of the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute, Harvard University, serves also as editor of Early Korea, an edited serial publication focused on early Korean history and archaeology. He is also the series editor for the Early Korea Project Occasional Series. He received an A.M. degree from the Regional Studies East Asia program at Harvard (1996) and a Ph.D. degree from the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard (2003), with a research focus on the early history and archaeology of the Korean peninsula and northeastern China. His primary research interest centers on the formation and development of early Korean states, particularly Koguryŏ and Puyŏ. In 1997 and 1998 he conducted research at Jilin University in Northeast China with a focus on the history and archaeology of the Puyŏ and Koguryŏ states. In 2006 he established the Early Korea Project at Harvard University to concentrate resources toward the development of the fields of early Korean history and archaeology in the English language. In the process of this establishment he secured multi-year grants from the Korea Foundation, the Academy of Korean Studies and the Northeast Asian History Foundation. In 2009 he taught a course titled “Adventures in Early Korean History and Archaeology” for the Harvard Summer School program, held at Ewha University in Seoul.

Chin-Sung Chang
 is Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Seoul National University. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Seoul National University and a Ph.D. in Chinese Art History from Yale. He has co-authored Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632-1717) and Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600. He is currently working on a monograph on the eighteenth-century Korean painter Kim Hongdo. 


Sun Joo Kim is Harvard-Yenching Professor of Korean History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and director of Korea Institute, Harvard University. She specializes in social and cultural history of early modern Korea. After completing her college education at Yonsei University in South Korea in 1984, she received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history in 1992 and 2000, respectively, from the University of Washington. She is the author and editor of several books and articles on the topics of social movement, the regional history and identity of Korea’s northwest, historical memory, everyday lives of people, and law and society. Her most recent book, Voice from the North: Resurrecting Regional Identity through the Life and Work of Yi Sihang (1672–1736), published by Stanford University Press in 2013, highlights how a scholar-official from a marginalized region in early modern Korea became an advocate of regional subjectivity through various social, cultural, and intellectual activities, in particular through his conscientious historical writings. She is the recipient of a number of grants and fellowships including those awarded by ACLS, Korea Foundation, and SSRC.

Before joining the Yale art history faculty, Youn-mi Kim was an assistant professor in Asian art history at Ohio State University (2011–2012) and a postdoctoral associate at the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University (2010–2011). Professor Kim is a specialist in Chinese Buddhist art, but her broader interest in cross-cultural relationships between art and ritual extends to Korean and Japanese materials as well. She is particularly interested in symbolic rituals, in which an architectural space serves as a non-human agent; the interplay between visibility and invisibility in Buddhist art; and the sacred spaces and religious macrocosms created by religious architecture for imaginary pilgrimages. Based on archaeological data from a medieval Chinese pagoda, her research has also investigated the historical traces of a Buddhist esoteric ritual from Liao China to Heian Japan. She is the editor of New Perspectives on Early Korean Art (Early Korea Project Occasional Series, vol. 2, 2013), and currently working on a book manuscript entitled Art, Space, and Ritual in Medieval Buddhism: From a Liao Pagoda to Heian Japanese Esoteric Ritual. Besides survey courses on Chinese art, she also teaches seminars on Chinese funerary art, religious art, and secular painting. Her teaching interests also include pre-modern Korean art.

Yukio Lippit received his B.A. (1993) in Literature from Harvard University and his M.A. (1998) and Ph.D. (2003) in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University before becoming a member of Harvard’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture in 2003. In addition to affiliations with the Centre Parisien d’Etudes Critiques (1993–1994) and the University of Tokyo (1998–2000), he has spent a year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow (2002–2003), and been a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow (2004–2005). His research interests focus primarily on premodern Japanese painting, with a special emphasis on Sino-Japanese painting associated with Zen Buddhism and the various lineages that emerged from it during the medieval and early modern periods. His book, Painting of the Realm: The Kanō House of Painters in Seventeenth Century Japan, examines the transformations that took place in the field of Japanese painting when the Kanō, the official studio to the Tokugawa shogunate, reimagined its own lineage as a national genealogy of painting. Through their activities as artists, authors, and authenticators, members of the Kanō ensured that their house style would form the ground of Japanese painting throughout the early modern era. A new book project titled Illusory Abode: Modes and Manners of Ink Painting in Medieval Japan examines how ink painting as a medium enabled certain discourses about representation that emerged in Zen Buddhist communities from the thirteenth through sixteenth century. In 2007 he co-curated, along with Gregory P. Levine, an exhibition on Zen figure painting to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Japan Society of New York. In addition to co-authoring the accompanying catalogueAwakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan, he is co-editing with Levine a collection of essays on art and Zen Buddhism through the Tang Center for the Study of East Asian Art at Princeton University. Recent articles have examined Sesshū’s Long Landscape Scroll, early Zen portraiture, the twelfth century Genji Scrolls, Tawaraya Sōtatsu, Koryŏ Buddhist painting, Southern Barbarian screens, apparition painting in thirteenth-century China, and the rhetoric of the drunken painter in Japanese literati painting. Premodern Japanese architecture constitutes another research interest, with a special emphasis on sukiya architecture. His teaching focuses primarily on four areas: Japanese architecture and urbanism, woodblock prints, modern art, and interregionalism in East Asian painting.

Melissa McCormick received her dual B.A. in art history and Japanese language and literature from the University of Michigan (1990), her Ph.D. in Japanese Art History from Princeton University (2000), and studied at Gakushūin University (1996–1998) while conducting her dissertation research. After a year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery, Washington D.C., she was Atsumi Assistant Professor of Japanese Art in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Columbia University (2000–2005), until moving to Harvard in 2005. As an art historian with an interdisciplinary approach, she is interested in thinking the relationship of pictorial form to social history and contexts of artistic production. Her particular focus has been on narrative handscrolls and the interrelationship of text and image in the medieval period. Her book, Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan, studies the relationship of scale and format to pictorial representation and literary genre, while providing a social and cultural history of aristocratic society in late fifteenth century Kyoto. A second book manuscript in progress entitled Monochromatic Narratives: Hakubyō and Female Authorship in Medieval Japanese Literature and Painting examines the tradition of ink-line (hakubyō) narrative painting and its association with communities of female readers and artists. Another scholarly interest is the eleventh century literary classic, The Tale of Genji, and its seminal influence on Japanese art and culture. Her publications on this topic have explored the culture of The Tale of Genji in medieval Japan, warrior patronage, female readers and commentators on the tale, and how Genji represents a master narrative of cultural comportment. Future Genji-related projects include a book on the history ofGenji pictorialization. Professor McCormick offers undergraduate and graduate seminars on narrative scrolls, Genji painting, the art of kami worship, and gender and Japanese art.

Akiko Walley, the Maude I. Kerns Assistant Professor of Japanese Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Oregon, is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard in the academic year of 2013–2014. She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University in 2009 with a specialization in East Asian Buddhist art. Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Walley received an A.M. in 2004 in Regional Studies – East Asia at Harvard University, and a B.A and M.A. in Japanese History/Art History at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo. Dr. Walley is currently working on a book manuscript on the renowned seventh-century bronze statue of Śākyamuni triad located in the Golden Hall, Hōryūji (Nara Prefecture). The book explores the rise of a new visual language of diplomacy using Buddhist objects in sixth and seventh century Japan. She is concurrently working on a secondary project on the representation of the magical nature of relics of the Buddha in seventh to eighth century East Asian reliquaries.

Eugene Wang is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art at Harvard. A Guggenheim Fellow (2005) and recipient of ACLS and Getty grants, he served as the art history associate editor of theEncyclopedia of Buddhism (Macmillan, 2004). His book, Shaping the Lotus Sutra: Buddhist Visual Culture of Medieval China (2005) received the Academic Excellence Award from Japan in 2006. His extensive publications cover the entire range of Chinese art history from ancient to modern and contemporary Chinese art and cinema. He serves on the advisory board of the Center for Advanced Studies, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. His current research explores the questions of how matter embodies mind, and how paintings simulate the "voice" effect.

Jaebin Yoo is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at Seoul National University, Korea. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Seoul National University and was a lecturer in Korean Art History for five years before coming to Harvard as a visiting fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute in 2013. She is currently working on her dissertation, "Court-Sponsored Paintings from the Era of King Chŏngjo (r.1776–1800)," in which she examines how King Chŏngjo promoted paintings and prints to advance his own political aims and improve the image of the ruler. In particular, she hopes to illuminate the environment in which court art was worshipped, discussed, and distributed by placing these practices in their ritual, political, and bibliographical contexts. At Harvard-Yenching Institute, she specifically focuses on the increasing use of illustrated prints in official publications under Chŏngjo’s order, and investigates his strategy of visualizing knowledge in relation to the illustrated prints and encyclopedias officially imported from Qing China. 


ABSTRACTS

The Shifting Pantheon of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha
Gyeongwon Choe
This paper examines the shifting Buddhist pantheon and its imagery engendered by the interplay of transmutative religious and cultural environments. The case study focuses on the kaleidoscopic membership changes of the flanking deities of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (C. Dizang, K. Chijang) in Chinese and Korean Buddhism. The recruiting and switching of the attending deities, as well as their total disappearance from one culture and resurrection and perpetuation in the other, will be discussed in light of the cultic developments of Ksitigarbha worship. The study will demonstrate that the iconographic disparity of Ksitigarbha triads between the two countries embodies the responses of each religio-culture to different processes of cultic progress.

Harmony and Conflict in Ch’ŏnt’ae and Hwaŏm Buddhism as Seen through a Koryŏ Amitābha Painting
Seinosuke Ide
Since first presenting a paper on this subject in 1993, I have focused on how Hwaŏm thought has closely informed the philosophical background of Koryŏ Buddhist paintings, leading to an interest in the separation and regional differentiation of Koryŏ Buddhist paintings from that of China and Japan. In Koryŏ, following the teachings of Pohyŏn haengwŏnp’um (“Vow and Deeds of Samantabhadra”), Volume 40 in the Hwaŏmgyŏng (Hwaŏm sutra; Avatamsaka Sutra), the Western Pure Land—the ultimate destination of wangsaeng (rebirth) ideology in Amitābha Pure Land belief—was conceptualized as the entrance to the more comprehensive and universal realm of Hwaŏm. It was commonly perceived that those who reached the Western Pure Land received Amitābha’s prophecy of future enlightenment and were then able to attain rebirth in the Hwaŏm Realm. This reflects a unique aspect of Koryŏ’s Buddhist imagery and is reflected in works such as the Amitābha painting formerly in the Shimazu collection, and various paintings of the “Eight Great Bodhisattvas” found in China and Japan. This presentation will first consider the issues stated above through a consideration of Koryŏ-period Buddhist sutras and major Amitābha images. Then I discuss how the Amitābha belief based on Hwaŏm ideology came to harmonize and conflict with Ch’ŏnt’ae ideology, another pillar of Koryŏ Buddhism. I analyze this relationship through various examples of Amitābha triads, which until now had not been understood as directly related to Hwaŏm belief. In particular I analyze the Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva imagery which contains the character “黻”  engraved with a jade seal. The Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva imagery with the jade seal is not to be found in Japan or in China, and thus can be regarded as reflecting Koryŏ’s unique religiosity. However, I interpret it as manifesting the teachings of Pohyŏn haengwŏnp’umthat Amitābha bestowed a prophecy on the Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva who in turn received the authority to act as a proxy as one of the bodhisattvas beside the Buddha. The harmony and conflict in Ch’ŏnt’ae and Hwaŏm Buddhist traditions as revealed in the Amitābha paintings of Koryŏ Dynasty generated dynamic variations in the numerous works of the fourteenth century. In my concluding remarks, I will turn to Ŭich’on’s Taegak kuksa munjip  to show how such variations in the fourteenth century works are directly related to Ŭich’on’s role in the late eleventh century to reorganize not only Koryŏ Buddhism but East Asian Buddhism as a whole.  His efforts had a decisive effect on determining the direction and character that Koryŏ Buddhism would take in later years.

Sŏkkuram and Iran: The Domed Korean Buddhist Sanctuary with a Main Image for Circumambulation and its Precedents in Kucha (Xinjiang)
Minku Kim
Sŏkkuram is, needless to say, the supreme artistic monument of Unified Silla (668-935), if not the entire pan-Buddhist world. Unique in its architectural plan, sculptural execution, and iconographic program, the granite jewel of East Asian Buddhism is composed of a rectangular antechamber, a narrow vaulted corridor, and an imposing main Buddha image, seated at the center of a domed circular rear-chamber for circumambulatory worship. With regard to why or how exactly Sŏkkuram came to be put together in this specific way, however, there is yet no coherent and all-embracing theory that explains the extraordinary structure as a whole. This paper attempts to offer, for the first time, a satisfactory explanation to the issue by alluding to similar cave sanctuaries in Kucha (Xinjiang) that prominently feature domed ceilings and circumambulated images. The inspiration was, in essence, Iranian.

A Four‐sided Buddha Land?: A Stupa Valley Sculpture on Mt. Nam in Unified Silla
Sunkyung Kim
The Stupa Valley (T’apkok) on Mount Nam in Kyŏngju is home to a massive boulder carved with various deities on its four sides. Scholars have long debated its date, its seemingly awkward archaic style, its enigmatic iconography, and an overall interpretation of the site. There are no textual documents directly associated with the site, and there remains only a single anecdotal account from the Japanese colonial period describing the discovery of a roof tile inscribed with the name of an early form of Esoteric Buddhism. Furthermore, the traditional interpretation of Silla Buddhism as a state-protecting ideology has also added complexity to studies on the monument. 
  The Stupa Valley monument invites us to discuss the history of the practice of carving Buddhist deities on four sides of a stone on the Korean peninsula. Questions that arise include: Why did such imagery first appear in a Buddhist context in Unified Silla, instead of in an earlier or later period? Was it a coherent monument based on the directional deities, possibly imported from China, or was it independently visualized from a textual “source”? Or was the monument simply a random assembly of images engraved on the available surfaces of the rock? Was the object a part of a larger group connected with the consecrated site as a whole, and if so, how is it related to other nearby sculptures and monuments? 
  This study views the Stupa Valley carving as a truly unique monument of Unified Silla—as a conglomeration of loosely organized images revolving around the notion of the Buddha Land. It is a case study that shows the unrestrained imagination of the Silla people regarding the Buddha’s realm. Although a conclusive dating and “decoding” of the iconographical program remains elusive, this study revisits the monument with a reassessment of several possible scenarios of events embedded in the site.

Buddhist Activities by Royal Household Members in the Chosŏn Dynasty: On the Three IndrasPainting of 1483
Jiyoung Lee
Previous research on Buddhist paintings of the early Chosŏn period has focused primarily on the sixteenth century, during the time of Queen Munjŏng (1501–1565), following the suppression of Buddhism under Yŏnsan’gun (r. 1494–1506). Yet there has not been sufficient discussion of the significance of fifteenth century works. The fifteenth century was an important transitional period that determined the direction of Buddhist painting of the Chosŏn Dynasty from the sixteenth century onwards—a time at which Buddhist painting diverged considerably from the traditions of Koryŏ Buddhist painting. I believe that it is necessary to examine the circumstances behind the execution of works in the fifteenth century by taking into account the state of society and the environment for painting as they existed in their time. In this presentation, I approach the Three Indras painting dated Chenghua 19 (1483, corresponding to the 14th year of the reign of Chosŏn King Sŏngjong) preserved at Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. I reconfirm the content of the inscription of Three Indras painting and point out that the painting was commissioned by Sŏngjong’s grandmother, Queen Chŏnghŭi (1418-1483). After describing the painting’s distinctive pictorial features, I further consider it in light of the circumstances in which the royal household found itself at the time, and reconsider the significance of the fact that this painting takes the unique form of three figures of Indra. This painting includes an inscription at its base by No Sasin (1427-1498), a civil official during the reign of Sŏngjong (r. 1469–1494). According to content of the inscription, it was commissioned by Queen Chŏnghŭi and informed by wishes for the prosperity of her family. This painting—with three Indras arranged on a single canvas—is rather unusual in its composition, and the overall impression is that of figures with a strongly feminine character. In dealing with the person projected onto the three figures of Indra, I focus on aspects of the period in question concerning Queen Chŏnghŭi, who commissioned the painting and who had previously acted as regent. I will present the possibility that the three figures represent Queen Chŏnghŭi, who was bedridden at the end of her life; Queen Sohye (1437–1504), Sŏngjong’s mother and an associate of Queen Chŏnghŭi in her Buddhist activities; and Queen Chŏnghyŏn (1462–1530), Sŏngjong’s consort and an executor of Buddhist activities. Furthermore, through an examination of those involved in the execution of the painting in their historical context, it will be shown that the Three Indras painting possesses great historical value for the light it sheds on the circumstances surrounding the royal household in the fifteenth century—from the reign of King Sejo (r. 1455–1468) through that of Yŏnsan’gun. 

Warrior Monk Portraits in Late Chosŏn Korea: Local Identity, Contestation and Self-Promotion
Maya Stiller
The samhwasang (“Three Masters”) shrines, a specific Korean arrangement of warrior monk portraits, have thus far elicited little scholarly interest in the West. In order to learn more about the regional cultures of Buddhism during the Chosŏn period, I look at these images in their contextualized setting. Based on visual and written evidence, my research shows that warrior monk portraits were commissioned by groups of monastics—i.e., dharma families—who commemorated prominent Buddhist figures in order to strengthen and promote their local monastic communities, attract local pilgrims to the shrines, enhance the authority of their temples within the Chosŏn Korean sagha, and, aided by local Confucian scholars, garner state support. The results of this research provide a glimpse into late Chosŏn period religious culture at the local level and suggest a more nuanced understanding of the different functions of East Asian portrait making.


The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Edward Willett Wagner Memorial Fund.