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‘The North Star Buddhist’ returns to Songgwang Temple from U.K.

‘The North Star Buddhist’ returns to Songgwang Temple from U.K.

Posted July. 24, 2020 07:50,   

Updated July. 24, 2020 07:50


A Buddhist painting from the Joseon Dynasty, which is believed to have been lost during the Korean War, has returned home. The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism said Thursday that it repatriated “The North Star Buddhist” with the help of Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and Songgwang Temple.

The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation found the painting at an auction in its search for Korea’s cultural assets located abroad last month. The cultural foundation said an inspection on the note at the bottom of the painting shows that it was enshrined in a small shrine at Songgwang Temple although the year and the name of the temple are illegible. The painting was repatriated from the United Kingdom on June 28 after discussions with the owner.

The note reveals that the painting is the work of two Buddhist monks called Hyanghomyoyeong and Yongseoncheonhui. Based in the Jeolla provinces in the late 19th century, they painted many Buddhist paintings for Songgwang Temple and Seonam Temple. It is also written that Seongsan Shrine was built at Songgwang Temple in 1857 to store the North Star Buddha paintings. It is highly likely that the painting that has been recently repatriated was also stored in the shrine.

The North Star Buddha paintings depict constellations such as the Great Bear and the North Star personified as Buddhas and wise kings. In South Korea, those painted from the late Goryeo Dynasty to the late Joseon Dynasty have been found. The North Star Buddha painting, which is believed to be painted in 1898, is silk painting with the size of 141X102 centimeters. At the center of the painting is the North Star Buddha which has a Sun Bodhisattva and a Moon Bodhisattva on its sides.

“As with ‘The Great Bear’ of Unmun Temple, ‘10 Kings’ of Bongeun Temple and ‘Guardians’ of Beomeo Temple, we will work together with the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation to systematically repatriate our cultural heritage,” said the Jogye Order.

Min Kim kimmin@donga.com