Painting for Longevity ‘Shipchangsaengdo’

Today, I am going to introduce another genre of Korean folk painting which is called Shipchangsaengdo. For early Koreans, the goal and desire of life was pretty simple: fortune, honor, wealth, longevity, and fertility to have plenty of descendants. Koreans portrayed their hopes for such a life in Korean folk paintings. Among them, Shipchangsaengdo portrays common people’s wish to live long.

Another interesting detail of Korean folk paintings is that they have numerical symbols. Like I mentioned in the Morando blog that Morando symbolizes ‘0’, Shipchangsaengdo  represents the number ’10.’ The word Ship means ten and the painting has a total of 10 images that symbolize longevity: deer, clouds, rocks, pine trees, red-crested cranes, sun, bamboo, immortals’ fungus, water, and turtles. There can be a variation and flexibility in drawing Shipchangsaengdo like some of the these 10 subjects are different by including fish, mountains, peaches, and the moon. But the book, “Handbook of Korean Art,” says it is still not sure whether the paintings that include different images other than 10 subjects are Shipchangsaengdo as they can actually be different genres. So, I again felt the need for further historical research of Korean folk paintings.

Also, Shipchangsaengdo does not need to contain every 10 element. For example from the picture above with me standing in front of Shipchangsaengdo, animals are not drawn. This is the one I took during this summer break, with Shipchangsaengdo behind me. It was drawn by modern people, imitating traditional Shipchangsaengdo. As drawn on a huge folding screen, the Shipchangsaengdo was the largest painting among the exhibition. Due to its normally big size painted on the folding screen, I assumed that the painting was not drawn at once on the huge screen but instead separately, with each screen painted individually. Although the picture shows eight divided screens, there are actually ten screens to be constant with the numerical symbol Shipchangsaengdo has. I think the painter intentionally, knowing the importance of the number ten, drew on ten separate screens.

In the picture above, the Sun and Moon are obvious with the clouds and five peaks. The moon on the left and the Sun on the right symbolize the king during the 17th Century, hoping to govern effectively and eternally. Therefore, this particular Shipchangsaengdo represents royal presence and used at the palace mostly until the fall of the Chosun dynasty, which was the period when Korean folk paintings first evolved. Then, the Shipchangsaengdo are used in ordinary households.

I have only been to the art exhibition of Korean folk paintings twice since I focused more on learning how to draw Minhwa for past two years. Therefore, through this senior project, I am planning to visit various Minhwa exhibitions including modernized Korean folk paintings and Korean paintings in general like ‘highly’ sophisticated Korean ink paintings. I expect that the impression from the exhibition before and after researching Korean art thoroughly and deeply through Arts Independent Project will be different. I would be more impressed and cautious in each painting. I also hope to take more pictures of going several exhibitions as the picture above is the only picture I have for visiting exhibition. I am looking forward to my senior project that will enable me to further explore, through the various resources and visuals available in Korea, to an extent that is limited at Westtown.

Citation: Yoon, Yeol-su, et al. Handbook of Korean Art. Yekyong Publishing, 2002.

One thought on “Painting for Longevity ‘Shipchangsaengdo’

  1. kevinwang11

    Each painting narrates a unique story behind the paint and the canvas. I think it is very important to learn about these stories, which is what you have been doing with Minhwa.

    I am also glad that you will continue your exploration of Minhwa during your Senior Project.

    Looking forward to reading your next blog post,
    Kevin

    Reply

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