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Past exhibition

Special Exhibition
Parallels in arts of Joseon dynasty and Qing palace
In recent years, Korea’s vibrant art and culture have been recognized across the world, a mark of the nation’s thriving creativity. Taiwan is geographically close to the Korean Peninsula, separated only by the East Sea, and the two countries share a historical connection revealed in Qing documents that describe Korean seafarers accidentally drifting to Taiwan.
Building on the Qing Court collection, National Palace Museum now presents these historical accounts in the context of a detailed exploration of Korean art and culture. This exhibition focuses on the 18th-century golden era of Joseon and the prosperous Qing dynasty and unfolds an artistic dialogue between the two cultures.
This exhibition is divided into two sections: “Envoy Missions” and “Artistic Encounters”. The first uses artifacts to bring to life exchanges between the Joseon dynasty and Ming and Qing officials, while the second explores the aesthetic and cultural traits of art from the Joseon and Qing dynasties.
Alongside pieces from the National Palace Museum collection, generous contributions from institutions such as the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in the US, the Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka, Japan, and Taiwan’s National Central Library and Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, lend depth and diversity, allowing for a comprehensive view of Joseon’s cultural and artistic heritage.

This section looks at Joseon’s language, history, and geography to shed light on its distinctive character. As the Korean Peninsula is connected to the Eurasian continent in the north, most interactions occurred overland. This section features envoys such as Dong Yue (1430–1502) and Zhu Zhi-fan (1561–1626), who were sent by the Ming dynasty to Joseon, and Bak Ji-won (1737–1805), who was sent to the Qing Empire. Their personal observations and artistic achievements provide a glimpse into these diplomatic exchanges.
This section also uses Joseon’s missions to the Qing to reveal details of travel routes and accommodation and the envoys’ appearances. Qing palace documents also recount tales of Koreans accidentally drifting to Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands during their maritime ventures.
This section showcases the various materials and forms used in Joseon art, featuring calligraphy, painting, antiquities, and rare books, and also delving into themes such as “longevity” and “scholarly accoutrements”, prevalent in late Joseon art. Interestingly, these recurring motifs not only transcend the various media but also overcome barriers of space and time, embodying an idea of universality that has been celebrated throughout the art of East Asia.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date 2023-10-06~2024-01-01
  • Location 1F S101
Joseon dynasty Photocopy of the Seoul City Korean Language Society edition, 1946
Hunminjeongeum (The Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People)
  • Collection of the Fu Ssu-nien Library, Academia Sinica
Published in 1446 by Sejong the Great (r. 1418–1450), the fourth ruler of the Joseon dynasty, the Hunminjeongeum was designed to teach ordinary people how to express their thoughts in daily life using phonetic characters. Comprising 28 letters that would later become known as “Hangul” or “Korean script”, the work initially failed to gain traction. Only in the last century did these letters become widely adopted, emerging as a unique symbol of Korean identity.
Joseon dynasty, 1783
Jahyuljeonchik (Relief of Abandoned Children), one volume
  • Collection of the National Central Library
In 1783, King Jeongjo(r.1776-1800) of Joseon enacted a set of measures to assist children who had been abandoned or forced into begging by famine. These guidelines were chronicled in Jahyuljeonchik, using a combination of Chinese characters and Hangul (Korean script). The right-hand side of the exhibited page is inscribed with the Chinese text Guimao Huoyin. Guimao denotes the year of publication, 1783, while Huoyin indicates that the book was printed using Jeongyuja font movable typeface. This typeface was created by the Pyongyang inspector in 1777, the beginning of King Jeongjo’s reign, and was based on the Gabinja font characters.
Where did the Gabin characters come from? In 1403, Joseon set up a type foundry to create new bronze types known as the Gyemija font, now recognized as the world’s earliest metal movable type. Later, King Sejong the Great remedied the printing limitations of the Gyemi font and in 1434 cast the improved Gabin font.
Late Ming dynasty
Coastal Map of Northern China
Titled “Coastal Map of Northern China”, this piece from the National Palace Museum collection offers a geographic scope that extends from the East China Sea to Henan Province, encompassing areas as far south as Jiangsu Province and Jeju Island in Korea, and reaching north into Manchuria. With a focus on the Shandong, Liaodong, and Korean peninsulas, the map also includes Bohai Bay, Liaodong Bay, West Korea Bay, and the Yellow Sea—geographic elements that align with the historical concept of the Beiyang (Northern Seas). Japan is designated as “Barbarian Island”.
Executed in ink, the map blends cartography with traditional Chinese landscape painting techniques, imbuing its depiction of mountains and rivers with artistic depth.
Informed by recent scholarship, the map appears to be inspired by a 16th - century work called Cheonha Yeojido (World Atlas), housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Created by an unknown Korean cartographer, this predecessor abounds with Korean place names. Our map exhibit is essentially a focused rendering of the northern seas from this earlier work.
What sets this map apart is the place names rendered in Mandarin and Manchu, and its enlarged representation of the Korean Peninsula, which emphasizes the geopolitical interplay among the Ming dynasty, the Jurchen-led Later Jin, and the Joseon dynasty around the turn of the 17th century. The map discreetly identifies Beijing, the Ming capital, through a mere geographical marker, while the capitals of the Later Jin and Joseon are annotated with the terms for “ruler” in their respective languages—hinting at a neutral or even friendly relationship. The map likely dates from 1616, when the Later Jin was founded, to 1623, when King Gwanghaegun of Joseon was deposed.
Joseon dynasty, c. 1786. Attributed to KIM Hong-do
Procession to Anneung
  • Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
A new governor’s arrival in Anneung in 1785 was grandly commemorated in a Banchado, a genre of painting depicting elaborate processions. This spectacle deeply impressed the son of an official, Naksanheon, who later commissioned court painter Kim Hong-do (1745–1806) to commemorate the event. Despite some stylistic differences from Kim’s usual technique, this painting stands as an essential historical piece from the 18th century.
The painting vividly depicts a grand parade, spearheaded by flag bearers and featuring a colorful array of soldiers, officers, musicians, and female entertainers. With 228 figures, 31 horses and donkeys, and three palanquins, it serves as a snapshot of Joseon-era pageantry. Intriguingly, this work shares an unexpected similarity with Shin Yun-bok’s contemporaneous piece, "A Spring Outing of the Young." Despite their contrasting moods, both paintings showcase female entertainers in similar attire, offering a fascinating glimpse into the fashion trends among Joseon women at the time.
Joseon dynasty
A set of six munjado paintings
  • Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
This artwork, made up of six characters adorned with pictorial images, is part of a tradition found in cultures throughout East Asia. Known as “flower and bird characters” (huaniaozi) in China, “flower letters” (hanamoji) in Japan, and “character pictures” (munjado) in Korea, the practice lends itself to various interpretations. Despite similarity in appearance across these regions, the expression found in the Korean Peninsula is distinctive. In Joseon Korea, character pictures were commonly fashioned into screens and sold on the mass market; they often depicted celebratory themes or reflected Confucian values. This piece, a classic example, originally depicted the virtues of filial piety, brotherly respect, (loyalty), faith, propriety, righteousness, integrity, and (a sense of shame), though two characters have been lost over time. In testament to the region’s enduring creativity, the legacy of this art form continues to this day, with many modern Korean designers incorporating these unique style into contemporary visual design.
Joseon dynasty, 1850-1900
Tiger and Magpies
  • Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The magpies depicted alongside a tiger in the same painting is a recurring theme in East Asian art but has different symbolic meanings across the region.
In early Ming China, this motif flourished, thanks to the expertise of bird-and-flower artists like Bian Wen-jin, Lu Ji, and Zhao Lian, famed for his tiger paintings. The imagery is linked to Liu Ji, a key figure in the founding of the Ming dynasty, and uses the allegory of magpies squawking at a tiger to represent .
In contrast, on the Korean Peninsula, the motif took on a different significance: the formidable tiger, often regarded as a mountain deity, was supposed to ward off misfortune. Coupled with the magpie, a bearer of good news, the composition came to symbolize good luck and became a popular choice for New Year paintings.
Joseon dynasty, 18th century
Rectangular blue-and-white water dropper with landscape design
  • Photography by MUDA Tomohiro
  • Collection of the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
This rectangular water dropper features a spout shaped like a toad, seemingly frozen mid-climb. Atop, the embossed form of the mythical Xuanwu beast appears to spew mist that seamlessly merges with the spout’s outlet. The other surfaces are adorned with blue-and-white landscapes and poetry: one displays the “Dongting Autumn Moon” scene, highlighting a radiant moon, the iconic Yueyang Tower, and a solitary boat—a tribute to the famed Eight Views of Xiaoxiang. The opposite side has a lone goose flying above a scholar parting from a friend, echoing Li Bai’s Tang dynasty poem, “Sending Off Zhang to Jiangdong”. This harmonious blend of poetic references and beautiful imagery conjures a captivating tableau for one’s desk.
Joseon dynasty, 18th -19th century
Mountain-shaped blue-and-white water dropper
  • Photography by MUDA Tomohiro
  • Collection of the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
This mountain-shaped water dropper artfully captures the craggy peaks and layered ridges of a mountain landscape, with temples nestled amid the contours. The blue-and-white glaze subtly tints the mountain tops and roof tiles, adding a touch of elegance. The piece vividly and concisely depicts the unique beauty of Mount Geumgang, a renowned mountain range. During the 18th century in Joseon, as artists began to document the landscapes they observed, Mount Geumgang emerged as a popular subject in painting and also as a miniature, three-dimensional landscape for scholars to admire on their desks.
Joseon dynasty, mid-18th century
Blue-and-white jar with dragon design
  • Donated by Dr. RHEE Byung-Chang/Photography by MUDA Tomohiro
  • Collection of the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
The Joseon dynasty left behind numerous records of royal activity and ceremonial protocol, with mentions of pairs of grand floral arrangements in oversized jars at banquets. Among these large jars, some are crafted from plain white porcelain, while others are adorned with intricate blue-and-white cloud- dragon designs. The two pieces on display here are strikingly reflective of those depicted in historical accounts. The cloud-dragon motif, finely executed, comes alive with vivid detail. Historical writings reveal that the main design was typically created by royal painters, while the accompanying patterns were probably fashioned by potters. Standing 55–56 cm in height, these magnificent jars, marked by their sophisticated construction and luxurious designs, epitomize the mastery of 18th -century Joseon ceramics.
Joseon dynasty, 1823, O Nam-un
  • Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands
Depictions of grapes, symbolizing unending life and abundance with their clustered berries and trailing vines, have been cherished in East Asia since ancient times. During the Joseon era, this motif found its way into various artistic media, including lacquerware, ceramics, and paintings.
In painting, Joseon artists often rendered grapes in a single ink shade, achieving a simple yet elegant form. From the 17th century, grapes and vines became prominent on multi-fold screens, offering striking visual effects. 18th-century painter O Nam-un (1753–?) portrayed grapevines with gentle curves, extending rhythmically from right to left. In contrast, Choe Seok-hwan (1808–?), famous for his grape screen paintings, used more dynamic, twisted vines across eight panels, creating a visually entrancing display of movement and life.
Joseon dynasty, c. 1800–1900
Scholarly accoutrements
  • Collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The artist has used books, ceramics, and plants to craft a pleasing image imbued with intellectual resonance. Such compositions, known as “scholarly accoutrements” paintings (ch'aekkohri in Korean), became popular in 19th-century Joseon. Ch'aekkohri can be categorized into three types: stacked objects , a bookshelf as the main structure, and isolated objects scattered against a blank backdrop. Similar expressions are seen across East Asia.
Research suggests that ch'aekkohri may have first appeared in the court of King Jeongjo in Joseon. These erudite paintings, celebrated for their diverse visual appeal in East Asian art, quickly gained popularity throughout the Korean Peninsula.