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08. Munjado - Flowers and Birds

circa 1910, Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)

Eight-panel folding screen, ink and color on paper, Each Panel: 44.5 x 13.4 in (113 x 34 cm)

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This screen, which combines munjado (pictorial ideographs) and flower and birds elements, is an example of a genre indigenous to Korea.

Munjado screens depict the chinese ideographs of the Eight Cardinal Principles of Confucian Morality. The Eight Virtues are, in order, Filial Piety (hyo), Brotherly Love (jae), Loyalty (choong), Trust (shin), Propriety (ye), Righteousness (eui), Integrity (yom), and Sensibility (chi).For each ideograph, certain strokes are substituted with a symbolic animal, bird, plant, or fish related to
that virtue. For example, in panel 3 of this munjado-flower and birds screen, a red dragon takes the place of the three brushstorkes comprising the upper half of the character for “loyalty.” Though the virtues depicted are Confucian, the pictorial symbolism is usually Taoist. Of Chinese origin, munjado screens were found in the home of almost every middle- to upper-class Korean family.

Flower and birds screens depict pairs of birds, deers, ducks, or butterflies on each panel. The pairings of the animals symbolize happy marriage. Since the theme of loving couples was thought to encourage fertility, flower and birds screens were considered especially appropriate for the bedrooms of newlyweds, or for weddint ceremonies.

This type of combination screens, munjado-flower-birds, or munjado-chaekkori was produced only in Kangwon province (North-Eastern region of Korea). Two similar combination screens, munjado-chaekkori screens, are at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachussetts and the Art Gallery of NSW in Sidney, Australia; both of them acquired from Kang Collection.

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