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Buddhist painting of Joseon returns home from Japan

Donga.com, May 28, 2013

Seoul, South Korea -- The Buddhist scripture Beophwagyeong (the Sutra of the Lotus) said, "The path toward Buddha is open to everyone." To spread this lesson, Buddha must have wandered around the world accompanied by Buddhist saints and his disciples. A Buddhist painting from the Joseon Dynasty that was kept overseas has returned home in about 420 years.

“Buddha Yeongsanhoido,” a national treasure-grade Buddhist painting created in 1592 (25th year of King Seonjo) of the Joseon Dynasty, was confirmed to have been repatriated to Korea. Yeongsanhoido refers to a painting featuring the scene of Buddha preaching Beophwagyeong on Mount Yeongchuk. There are only seven to eight pieces of Yeongsanhoido, which have been confirmed to be dating back to the early Joseon Dynasty. Notably, the repatriated painting is all the more valuable because it is the first discovery of artwork that was created in the year when Imjinwaeran (Japan’s invasion of Joseon) broke out, and because it was painted at the request of a court lady who took order from the king.

“Since March, we have closely examined painting records on the Buddhist painting and its style to confirm that the painting was created at Seoknam Temple on Mount Baekjok in Icheon City, Gyeonggi Province,” said Moon Myeong-dae, emeritus professor at Dongguk University, on Monday. “It is an artwork that would be valuable enough to be enlisted as a national treasure in academic and artistic aspect.” Ahn Hui-joon, emeritus professor at Seoul National University who also reviewed the painting, said, “It is a genuine artwork that has high value as historic record.” Prof. Moon will present a research paper on the results of his study in the “Lecture of Art History” early next month.

The repatriation of the Buddhist painting is the result of painstaking efforts by a researcher of ancient art. Joo Seung-jin, head of the Ancient Art Institute Muyuheon, was able to make the purchase of the artwork that had been kept at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, through prolonged persuasion. “After confirming that it was a Buddhist painting from the Joseon Dynasty, I exerted efforts for more than two years,” Joo said. “There is no future plan regarding the painting because I have only focused on its repatriation, but it will be eternally preserved in Korea for sure.”

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