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Lonely Saint (Dok Seong)

19th Century, Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Korea

Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll, 21.4 x 29 in (54.5 x 73.5 cm)

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Dok-Seong paintings are a genre of portrait painting unique to Korea. Since ancient times, these depictions of Dok-Seong, a Taoist saint that was absorbed into Korean Shaman- ism and Buddhism, show him in elaborate solitary landscapes as he seeks self-cultivation. Epitomizing the Taoist ideals of striving for spiritual perfection, longevity, and immortality, hermit paintings were typically hung in the Dok-Seong Gak, the side shrine dedicated to him in a Buddhist temple.

Here, Dok-Seong is surrounded by a lavish rendition of his hermitage in nature. Surround- ed by traditional symbols of longevity and immortality (the pine, sun, clouds, and rock) in a fantastical landscape, the hermit saint holds a scepter in one hand and a pulocho (mush- room of immortality) in the other. Several famous examples of hermit paintings are in the collection of the Tong Do Sa Temple in Kyungsang Province, Korea.

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