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‘Arhat paintings’ from Goryeo to be unveiled for the first time

‘Arhat paintings’ from Goryeo to be unveiled for the first time

Posted November. 15, 2017 08:56,   

Updated November. 15, 2017 09:26


Four Buddhist paintings from the Goryeo Dynasty called "Arhat paintings" (drawings of Arhat, disciples of Buddha) will be unveiled at a special exhibition at Dongguk University Museum from Wednesday. These paintings are significant in that they portray the Goryeo Dynasty's strong determination to fight back against Mongolian invasion in 1235 after it transferred its capital to Ganghwa Island. Arhat paintings are highly valued cultural assets as only around 10 of them remain in countries such as Korea, Japan and the United States.

Arhat refers to a monk who attained Buddhahood and is depicted as a guardian in Buddhism. On the "Paintings of 500 Arhat," which will be revealed at the exhibition, a writing has been found that read, "Please drive back the enemy and bring peace in and outside the country… Daejeong (a military officer in the senior grade of the ninth rank) Kim Eui-in takes charge of Dongryang (person in charge of public finance) in October of the year of the Ox (1235).” This writing shows the ardent desire of the Goryeo Dynasty to defeat the Mongolian invasion with the help of Buddha as can be shown in the Tripitaka Koreana.

The purpose of the "Paintings of 16 Arhat," which was drawn in the year of red monkey (1236), seems to be the same. "It takes at least 10 months to draw the ‘Paintings of 500 Arhat’ and the ‘Paintings of 16 Arhat’ together, which amounts to a total of 516 paintings,” said Jeong Woo-taek, director of the Dongguk University Museum. “It is assumed that the paintings were produced from 1235 to 1236.”

Sang-Un Kim sukim@donga.com