In my recent articles I mentioned South Korea’s economic might, introduced Ginseng- Korea’s miraculous medicinal plant and discussed its incredibly strong Olympic performance (possibly correlated with daily Kimchi consumption- packed with vitamin C along with dozens of Ginseng shots athletes take before competing :)). Now time has finally come to discuss art in South Korea- specifically shaman inspired art from the Silla dynasty along with some inspirational objects I found on the way from one historical site to another.
The most impressive were of course the kings’ and queens’ crowns excavated from the burial sites along with many other treasures and impressive jewelry which no doubt would be so trendy today! The crowns are said to be of Siberian shaman origin dated around 5-6 century AD, they are incredibly perfect shape compared with the rest of civilization same period antique objects, which in turn are scattered into pieces and difficult even for archeologists to assign their basic functions.
The crowns are made out of pure gold and their general design entails three crosspieces adorned with jade shaped ‘tiger teeth’ and showered with pure gold rounded sequin representing drops of rain. The purpose of both details was artistic as well as functional, intended to produce a rich sound while the king moved his head.
The impressive jewelry belonged to the Silla queens who are known to be the shaman leaders and in many cases the dynasty’s political leaders- it is difficult to know from archeological tests whether the royal buried was a man or a woman. What is certain is that Silla royals were pagan and expressed their splendor by spending vast amounts of the dynasty’s budget on intricate jewelry pieces and craft objects- also very beautiful and popular are the Silla ceramics which we can still witness being made and buy approximate replicas of the original pieces.
Finally a trace of art can be found all around Gyeongju- modern day Silla dynasty capital- as I walked through the historical sites I found so many inspiring objects in Buddhist temples and even in simple souvenir shops! The representation of the Buddhist religion is truly unique compared to neighboring Japan and China and are depicted by symbols difficult to be seen in other places- such as the Hindi swastika, forbidden in many countries due to its prime association with the Nazi regime- in Korea we can see it in its true spiritual habitat along with unique and creative representations of the Buddha statue.