A Korean mother-of-pearl lacquered case with chrysanthemum vine patters from the kingdom of Goryeo has been returned to South Korea from Japan. This is one of the three matryoshka-style lacquered cases from the Goryeo era still left to exist. This is the first time that South Korea has come in possession of this type of artifact.
On Thursday, the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea disclosed the lacquered case, which it secured from Japan last December through the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation. Weighing 50 grams and 10 centimeters long, the artifact is a baby size, which is smaller than a hand, and designed fit in a larger mother case.
The case was originally owned by a private gallery in Japan, and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation began to persuade the owner to sell in February last year. The piece was showcased in South Korea during the special exhibition titled “The light that lived a thousand years” at the National Museum of Korea between September 2006 and August 2008. It was in 2018 that the heritage foundation embarked on the redemption process of the artifact in earnest.
Most of the lacquered cases from the Goryeo era have been lost as they are susceptible to damage from humidity. Currently, there are only 22 pieces of Goryeo-style mother-of-pearl lacquered cases in the world including defective ones. There are only 15 pieces with an entire form, and most of them belong to the U.S. or Japan.
Now, South Korea has a total of three lacquered cases from the Goryeo era including the one with chrysanthemum vine patters and the scripture case. The artifact returned home this time will be showcased on December 22 through a special exhibition at the National Museum called “The color of the ancient times, Lacquer.”
Go-Ya Choi email@example.com