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Paradise Found: Buddhist Art of Korea

February 26, 2005–June 25, 2006

Paradise Found: Buddhist Art of Korea celebrates the varied and little known Buddhist art of Korea. It features ancient art objects from the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C.–A.D. 668) to the Chŏson period (1392–1910) in various mediums: sculpture, painting, metalwork, and ceramics. A group of Buddhist paintings from the Chŏson period, which were used to decorate the walls of temple halls, includes a rare painting of the Third King of the Underworld and a painting of the Seven Star Buddha, the cosmic representation of the Big Dipper.

Since the introduction of Buddhism to the Korean peninsula in the late-fourth century A.D., via the northern kingdom of Koguryo (37 B.C.–A.D. 668), Buddhist art flourished over the centuries and took many forms. While the Three Kingdoms period saw the development of Buddhist iconic statuary art, the Koryŏ period (918–1392) witnessed the production of fine and elaborate Buddhist paintings. During the subsequent Chŏson period, Neo-Confucianism gained prominence in the fifteenth century. Without the support of the royal court, Buddhism gradually declined, and paintings were produced mainly by monks in their temple precincts. Until the eighteenth century, Buddhist paintings were generally intended as backgrounds for statues in temples and were viewed as religious objects. Their functions were to explain ideas that could not be conveyed in sculptural form and to imbue the building with an atmosphere appropriate for a temple. Today the Buddhist heritage has endured in Korea and inspires contemporary artists such as Yoon Kwang-cho and Son Man Jin.

Main Building


Dr. Felice Fischer • The Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Curator of East Asian Art
Ariane Perrin • Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Korean Art

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