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Korean Joseon Artifacts May Be Designated Cultural Relics by Japan

Korean Joseon Artifacts May Be Designated Cultural Relics by Japan

Posted August. 16, 2005 03:09,   


The chief priest of Seiken Temple, Humiaki Ichizo, took out a book of poems left by Joseon envoys to Japan from the temple’s “treasure house.” (The Joseon Dynasty of Korea [1392-1910] sent teams of envoys to Japan at Japan’s request to build a peaceful diplomatic relationship).

“This is a poem by Jo Eom, who is famous for introducing sweet potatoes to Joseon for the first time,” said Kim Yang-gi, a visiting professor of Doko Hagakuen University, as he marveled at the well-preserved collection of poems. Jo Eom (1711-1777) was the chief envoy of the 472-member delegation to Japan dispatched in 1764. On his way to Edo (now Tokyo), he dropped by Seiken Temple.

Some 70 more items including drawings and calligraphic works by Joseon envoys to Japan are preserved in this temple. In 1607, nine years after the end of the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, the first envoys from Joseon visited the Seiken temple and talked about the picturesque view of the place back in Joseon. For some 200 years afterwards, the temple became a must-see stop for 12 teams of Joseon envoys.

A nearby Shoin temple, a former branch of Seiken but now separated as a main temple devoted to Hakuin, also still retains the legacy of the Joseon envoys. A painting called “Masangjae” (horsemanship) by master Hakuin (1865-1768), who is renowned for his contribution to the revival of Japanese Zen and the masterpiece “A Portrait of Bodhidharma,” is an image of horseback acrobats accompanied by Joseon envoys.

The painting is used as a trademark of a limited edition of traditional Japanese wine made by the centuries-old Dakashima Brewery in nearby Hara.

The chairman of the brewery, Dakashima Yashide, said, “Tracing back 4,000 years of history, China is the father and Korea is brother of Japan. We are like a family,” adding, “Joseon Envoys to Japan represent not only diplomatic ties between the two countries, but the exchanges of true spirit of East Asia.”

Priest Ichizo also expressed his wish that the treasures left by the Joseon envoys will be appreciated and designated as cultural assets.

“I think we can expect a good result as the Japanese academic community is trying to restore the history of the Joseon envoys, which was deliberately effaced since Meiji period (1868-1912),” said Professor Kim. He has started negotiations with Sizuoka Prefecture for the designation of the treasures as cultural assets.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com