Before Korea's troubled modern era - wars, occupation, partition - this ancient and unique civilization had experienced centuries of relative peace and stability.
Coincidental with that period is a royal family’s rule that prevailed for more than half a millennium, leaving a cultural legacy that's alive to this day. In the exclusive presentation outside Korea, the Asian Art Museum's "In Grand Style" will celebrate the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), showcasing some 110 treasured objects that speak of a glorious heritage. (http://www.asianart.org/exhibitions_index/in-grand-style)
The upbeat focus of the show is on celebrations, festivals, elaborate rites, dance, music, and processions. The exhibit runs Oct. 25 through Jan. 12, 2014.
"With 'In Grand Style' we celebrate the rich pageantry of the Joseon Dynasty," says Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum. "It is fitting that we should do so in our 10th year in the museum’s Civic Center location." The opening exhibit in 2003 was about Korea’s Goryeo dynasty, Joseon's predecessor.
The Joseon dynasty upheld and cultivated the Confucian emphasis on ritual and order as part of the foundation of a stable, peaceful society, under a benevolent (but absolute) despot. Various court celebrations have been recorded through centuries in comprehensive detail in writings and paintings that form multi-volume books known as royal protocols (uigwe).
The art forming the exhibition is lent to the museum by numerous institutions in Korea and the U.S., primarily the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Korea. The former is uniquely focussed on the royal culture of the Joseon dynasty; the National Museum is a major repository of the country's history, life, and arts.
"In Grand Style" is based on the National Palace Museum's 2009 "Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Period."
Besides "In Grand Style," a wealth of Korean art is exhibited in the museum's third-floor permanent collection, featuring ceramics, paintings, textiles, metalwork, and other objects, spanning more than 2,500 years.
The permanent collection is especially noted for its Goryeo-dynasty celadons (pale sea-green porcelain and fine pottery), rare unglazed stonewares from the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE to 668 CE) and Unified Silla period (668 to 935).
The Joseon era began in 1392, when Yi Seonggye (1335-1408) established a new dynasty. A charismatic leader and victorious general over Mongol invaders and Japanese pirates, Yi reunited the country after the fall of Korea’s Goryeo dynasty and was enthroned as King Taejo.
The naming of his reign was meant to revive the ancient dynasty also known as Joseon, founded nearly four thousand years before.
"In Grand Style" narrates and illustrates highlights from the history of the dynasty's 25 kings and queens through their rituals and celebrations. In addition to centuries-old objects, there are also numerous more recent memorabilia, from a century ago when Japan enthroned two emperors during the occupation, and then ended the dynasty in 1910.