Japanese people seeking calligraphies and paintings gathered day and night. Park Ji-young (朴之英) and Jo Jeong-hyeon (趙廷玹), the Sajagwan civil officials and the court painter Kim Myeong-guk (金明國) could hardly stand the crush. Kim Myung-guk was on the verge of tears.


倭人求書畫者, 日夜坌集, 朴之英趙,廷玹金明國, 不勝其苦, 金明國至欲出涕。 

- Kim Seryeom (金世濂), Haesalog (東溟海蹉錄), the record of the 1636 Korean Embassy to Japan


Bodhidharma Paintings (達磨圖) by “Joseon* Envoy Painters”


Many diplomatic missions were sent from the Joseon court to the Japanese shogunate after the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598). Professional artists, hwawon (畵員),who were officials in  Dohwaseo (圖畵署) , the royal academy of painting, were sometimes requested by the Japanese to produce paintings and calligraphy and were welcomed as “painter envoys.” Zen paintings (禪宗畵) in particular were popular at that time in Japan, and the artists drew a large number of Buddhist works, many of which survive in Japan today. The Bodhidharma paintings in this exhibition depict the first patriarch of Chan K: Son; J: Zen Buddhism in China. The works are believed to have been produced in Japan by Joseon Envoy Painters. Let’s take a look at the unique Bodhidharma paintings produced as a result of the exchange between Korea and Japan.


*Joseon dynasty, 1392–1910


Kim Myeong-guk (金明國), 1600–?, Bodhidharma (達磨圖)

Joseon dynasty, 17th century, ink on paper, 57 x 83cm. National Museum of Korea. ⓒNational Museum of Korea



See other paintings drawn by the court painters accompanied the missions



Kim Myeong-guk (金明國), Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze River on a Reed (達磨折蘆渡江圖)

Joseon dynasty, 17th century, ink on paper, 98.2 x 48.2cm. National Museum of Korea. ⓒNational Museum of Korea



Han Si-gak (韓時覺), Bodhidharma (達磨圖)

Joseon dynasty, 17th century, ink on paper, 89 x 31.4cm. Busan Museum, Korea. ⓒe-Museum



Zen Paintings, the Art of Sudden Enlightenment


Bodhidharma paintings are representative Zen paintings. Zen paintings are paintings that express the spiritual world of Zen Buddhism and themes related to Zen. Zen Buddhism emphasizes intuitive enlightenment. The Zen paintings were mainly drawn with simple brush strokes using an ink wash.


What are the differences?


You may sense that Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze River on a Reed is quite different from other Buddhist paintings seen in temples. In what ways do they feel different?

Large Hanging Painting at Sinwonsa in Gongju (公州 新元寺 掛佛), Joseon dynasty, 1644, 11.18 x 6.88m, Sinwonsa in Gongju, National Treasure no.299. ⓒCultural Heritage Administration of Korea
Large Hanging Painting at Sinwonsa in Gongju (公州 新元寺 掛佛), Joseon dynasty, 1644, 11.18 x 6.88m, Sinwonsa in Gongju, National Treasure no.299. ⓒCultural Heritage Administration of Korea
Kim Myeong-guk (金明國), Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze River on a Reed (達磨折蘆渡江圖). Joseon dynasty, 17th century, Ink on paper, 98.2 x 48.2cm. National Museum of Korea. ⓒNational Museum of Korea
Kim Myeong-guk (金明國), Bodhidharma Crossing the Yangtze River on a Reed (達磨折蘆渡江圖). Joseon dynasty, 17th century, Ink on paper, 98.2 x 48.2cm. National Museum of Korea. ⓒNational Museum of Korea
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