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Balance of Joseon royal court interpreted through contemporary design

Installation view of 'Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court,' hosted by the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage / Courtesy of KNUCH
Installation view of 'Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court,' hosted by the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage / Courtesy of KNUCH

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Students at the Korea National University of Cultural Heritage (KNUCH) are presenting a series of daily objects inspired by the work-life balance of the Joseon Kingdom's royal court.

"Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court" is one of the three research projects the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at KNUCH organized last year under the theme, "Transmission of Senses."

The original prototypes are on display at Mumokjeok in Seochon, central Seoul, while the products themselves are on sale at a pop-up store in Maison de Gru, about a 10 minute walk from the gallery.

Kim Su-yeon, director of the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities, said the exhibit aims to add storytelling to the products, not just commercially promote them.

"When you know and understand the background story of an object, you will be more attached to it than if you just purchased it normally," Kim said.

'ho_long' by O Seung-hwan / Courtesy of KNUCH
'ho_long' by O Seung-hwan / Courtesy of KNUCH

Specifically, the idea for the exhibit came from KNUCH professor Choi Gong-ho's remark that "the kings of Joseon were more frugal than we might think."

The Joseon court might immediately be related to splendor such as exquisite craftwork, magnificent embroidery and silk clothes and palaces constructed with multiple layers. However, the artisans of the court pursued a delicate balance between luxury and frugality under the moderation of Confucianism.

The KNUCH researchers picked the motto, "Frugal, but not shabby; Splendid, but not extravagant," to develop products inspired by the life of the court.

O Seung-hwan, who was in charge of six sculptural projects themed "King's Break: Eulya ji ram," said the term "eulya ji ram" refers to the king's reading time from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

"During the day, the king spends his time managing affairs of state. However in the evening, he has designated time for reading, which is the only personal break for him. We related this time to the modern-day concept of a work-life balance," O said.

The piece "ho-long," designed by O, is inspired by a traditional Korean kerosene lamp and he tried to capture the essence of the Joseon's court culture in modest, straight lines.

O and Han Ji-woon's creation "Pastry Frame" is a tea-light holder taken from the shape of a "yakgwa uri," or pastry holder, used for ancestral rites. "Rest with Tea," designed by O and Song, is an all-in-one tea cup complete with an infuser, also inspired by yakgwa uri.

"Perfume Box" is made of silver and "hanji" (traditional Korean mulberry paper), which reveals a traditional plant pattern when the paper is moistened with a fragrance oil.

'My Guardian, incense burner with stone figure series' by Lee Sol-chan / Courtesy of KNUCH
'My Guardian, incense burner with stone figure series' by Lee Sol-chan / Courtesy of KNUCH

Na Ji-seon, a ceramic art major, created "Covered Color Box, Joseon Royal Court," a set of colorful porcelain gift boxes as part of "Spaces of Royal Court."

"During the Joseon era, the Sangeuiwon, or royal tailor's office, was in charge of gift wrapping. They typically wrapped the object with bojagi (wrapping cloth) and then placed it in a box, which was covered again with bojagi. I wanted to portray the ample attitude and balance with a large lid," Na said.

"Saek-Dong-Hab" by Kim Gyu-tae is colorful tableware that brings to mind dancheong (the traditional multicolored paintwork on wooden buildings).

"The colors used are combinations of obangsaek, or the five traditional Korean colors of white, black, blue, yellow and red," Na explained.

Inspired by moonlight on a pond in the garden of the Joseon Kingdom's royal palaces, "Royal garden incense holder," designed by Kim Hyeon-ju, consists of a brass incense holder and a lacquered dish.

"My Guardian" by Lee Sol-chan is an incense burner adorned with stone figures from the guardian statues at the Joseon Kingdom's royal tombs.

'Uigeum sanggyeong Sachet' by Kwon Yong-hyun and Woo Seung-min / Courtesy of KNUCH
'Uigeum sanggyeong Sachet' by Kwon Yong-hyun and Woo Seung-min / Courtesy of KNUCH

Led by Kwon Yong-hyun, the textile team's exhibit is themed, "Royal Attire: Uigeum sanggyeong." They created modernized versions of costumes from the Joseon Kingdom. "Uigeum sanggyeong" means wearing unlined clothes over silk clothes, symbolizing frugality.

The "baeja" is a vest made with cotton outside and silk inside. "Beoseon" socks are designed to show the inside by folding the top.

A "sachet" is a downsized bag to fit the modern lifestyle, suitable for carrying small objects.

"We tried to use one muted color for each item, emphasizing the differences between the outer and inner fabric," Kwon explained.
Installation view of 'Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court,' hosted by the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage / Courtesy of KNUCH
Installation view of 'Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court,' hosted by the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at Korea National University of Cultural Heritage / Courtesy of KNUCH

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Students at the Korea National University of Cultural Heritage (KNUCH) are presenting a series of daily objects inspired by the work-life balance of the Joseon Kingdom's royal court.

"Sense of Balance: The Culture of Joseon Royal Court" is one of the three research projects the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities at KNUCH organized last year under the theme, "Transmission of Senses."

The original prototypes are on display at Mumokjeok in Seochon, central Seoul, while the products themselves are on sale at a pop-up store in Maison de Gru, about a 10 minute walk from the gallery.

Kim Su-yeon, director of the Design Institute of Cultural Commodities, said the exhibit aims to add storytelling to the products, not just commercially promote them.

"When you know and understand the background story of an object, you will be more attached to it than if you just purchased it normally," Kim said.

'ho_long' by O Seung-hwan / Courtesy of KNUCH
'ho_long' by O Seung-hwan / Courtesy of KNUCH

Specifically, the idea for the exhibit came from KNUCH professor Choi Gong-ho's remark that "the kings of Joseon were more frugal than we might think."

The Joseon court might immediately be related to splendor such as exquisite craftwork, magnificent embroidery and silk clothes and palaces constructed with multiple layers. However, the artisans of the court pursued a delicate balance between luxury and frugality under the moderation of Confucianism.

The KNUCH researchers picked the motto, "Frugal, but not shabby; Splendid, but not extravagant," to develop products inspired by the life of the court.

O Seung-hwan, who was in charge of six sculptural projects themed "King's Break: Eulya ji ram," said the term "eulya ji ram" refers to the king's reading time from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

"During the day, the king spends his time managing affairs of state. However in the evening, he has designated time for reading, which is the only personal break for him. We related this time to the modern-day concept of a work-life balance," O said.

The piece "ho-long," designed by O, is inspired by a traditional Korean kerosene lamp and he tried to capture the essence of the Joseon's court culture in modest, straight lines.

O and Han Ji-woon's creation "Pastry Frame" is a tea-light holder taken from the shape of a "yakgwa uri," or pastry holder, used for ancestral rites. "Rest with Tea," designed by O and Song, is an all-in-one tea cup complete with an infuser, also inspired by yakgwa uri.

"Perfume Box" is made of silver and "hanji" (traditional Korean mulberry paper), which reveals a traditional plant pattern when the paper is moistened with a fragrance oil.

'My Guardian, incense burner with stone figure series' by Lee Sol-chan / Courtesy of KNUCH
'My Guardian, incense burner with stone figure series' by Lee Sol-chan / Courtesy of KNUCH

Na Ji-seon, a ceramic art major, created "Covered Color Box, Joseon Royal Court," a set of colorful porcelain gift boxes as part of "Spaces of Royal Court."

"During the Joseon era, the Sangeuiwon, or royal tailor's office, was in charge of gift wrapping. They typically wrapped the object with bojagi (wrapping cloth) and then placed it in a box, which was covered again with bojagi. I wanted to portray the ample attitude and balance with a large lid," Na said.

"Saek-Dong-Hab" by Kim Gyu-tae is colorful tableware that brings to mind dancheong (the traditional multicolored paintwork on wooden buildings).

"The colors used are combinations of obangsaek, or the five traditional Korean colors of white, black, blue, yellow and red," Na explained.

Inspired by moonlight on a pond in the garden of the Joseon Kingdom's royal palaces, "Royal garden incense holder," designed by Kim Hyeon-ju, consists of a brass incense holder and a lacquered dish.

"My Guardian" by Lee Sol-chan is an incense burner adorned with stone figures from the guardian statues at the Joseon Kingdom's royal tombs.

'Uigeum sanggyeong Sachet' by Kwon Yong-hyun and Woo Seung-min / Courtesy of KNUCH
'Uigeum sanggyeong Sachet' by Kwon Yong-hyun and Woo Seung-min / Courtesy of KNUCH

Led by Kwon Yong-hyun, the textile team's exhibit is themed, "Royal Attire: Uigeum sanggyeong." They created modernized versions of costumes from the Joseon Kingdom. "Uigeum sanggyeong" means wearing unlined clothes over silk clothes, symbolizing frugality.

The "baeja" is a vest made with cotton outside and silk inside. "Beoseon" socks are designed to show the inside by folding the top.

A "sachet" is a downsized bag to fit the modern lifestyle, suitable for carrying small objects.

"We tried to use one muted color for each item, emphasizing the differences between the outer and inner fabric," Kwon explained.
Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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