Korean chest (Choson dynasty)
Korean chest (Choson dynasty)

Over the past 30 years demand for fine examples of chests, celadon and artwork from “Chosun”, Land of the Morning Calm, now known as Korea, has sometimes led to the mistaken belief that traditional examples of the arts and crafts of the Korean peninsula are no longer obtainable. Fortunately, this is not the case, as regular travellers to Korea dealing in the arts and crafts of the country well know. However, antique dealers must still exercise their abilities and knowledge to obtain such pieces.

In dealing with Korea’s unique arts and crafts, they recognise and differentiate between antique, traditional and contemporary pieces. There are many fine examples of traditional Korean furniture which may not be 100 years old (the standard definition of “antique”) because furniture has continued to be made with the traditional Shaman, Taoist and Confucian belief systems associated with it throughout the various dynasties to the 20th century. Any consideration of an authentic Korean piece must include pieces that may be as little as 60 or 70 years old. Sometimes the difference between “old” and “antique” may be as little as a few years.

Arts and crafts made in the traditional way prior to the Korean War (1950-1953) are usually considered to be authentic examples of the traditional Korean heritage. Almost all pieces made after the Korean War are considered to be contemporary. A “reproduction” piece is made with new materials and modern values in imitation of older styles.

An understanding and appreciation of the unique customs and traditions of Korean society today is one of the most important factors in being able to find and acquire fine and rare pieces from the Korean peninsula for the world market.  Sometimes dealers have spent months locating the network of Korean dealers and craftsmen who have dedicated their lives to the collection and preservation of their traditional heritage.

However locating a fine piece is only the first step. There are no recommended prices and there is no requirement for the owner of the chest to sell.

(This article courtesy of Chosun Gallery)


Antique Korean wedding ducks
Antique Korean wedding ducks

In Korea, the duck is a symbol of harmony, traditionally given to young girls prior to marriage. It is placed in a prominent place in the house after marriage as a reminder of the couple’s promise of harmony.

The carved duck is also supposed to bring with it the good fortune of the carver.  The are five fortunes which the carver may possess: wealth, good health, a good wife, no divorces in his family and sons. A duck carved by a man possessing the five fortunes will pass them on to the girl to whom it is given and her future husband.

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