Your guide to the Joseon Korea exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum
The original Korean Wave
Touted as the Golden Age of ancient Korea, the Joseon Dynasty was 500 years of cultural development that disseminated its ideals to modern-day Korea, shaping everything from language and traditions to societal attitudes and norms — including the K-drama and K-pop wave of the present. Aptly titled 'Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life', this joint effort between the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), the National Museum of Korea, and the National Palace Museum of Korea brings together over 150 artefacts and treasures to give curious folks an intimate glimpse into the various facets of life during the Joseon era. Here's our handy guide on everything you need to know.
1. Prep work is key
Ready to hit up the exhibition? Check out ACM's Facebook page first, which includes crucial information such as the exhibition's opening hours and directions to the grounds. Don't forget to collect a hard copy of the museum's floor plan when you buy a ticket at the Visitor Services counter. Those looking for an in-depth experience can even book a Curator Tour, where you can hear from, interact and converse with the curator of this show, Kan Shuyi. Register for a tour session here.
2. Keep your eyes peeled
Fancy yourself a connoisseur of Korean period dramas? You might find the six-fold painted folding screen of The Sun, Moon and Five Peaks very familiar. Besides being on the backdrop of a 10,000 South Korean won banknote, this highly-stylised landscape is also part of the promotional poster for the popular television series, The Moon Embracing the Sun. The queen's ceremonial robe showcased in the exhibition can also be seen in the drama, Six Flying Dragons.
3. Take your time reflecting on the exhibits and have your phone ready to Instagram Stories it all
Whether it's the beautiful fan painting Landscape of Segeomjeong Pavilion, or Ran Hwang's mixed-media installation Becoming Again; Coming Together, it'll make you stop in your tracks. Our tip? Leave everything else behind as you soak in Hwang's spectacular exhibit, where you'll walk through curved glass panels, watch a projection of a pair of phoenixes in courtship and listen in as the chosen music — performed with instruments of the Joseon period — amplifies the magnificence of Joseon legacies. It'll make for lively content on your Instagram feed, whilst capturing the contrast between the transitory quality of the installation with the lasting Joseon dynasty.
4. Highlights not to be missed
The unusual Portrait of Seo Jiksu, which honours scholar-official Seo's life and achievements. Executed by two of the era's most famous court painters, Yi Myeonggi and Kim Hongdo, portraits featuring standing figures were rare, much less portraits featuring the subject without shoes, as Seo was portrayed. Do check out the Three-part norigae, as this tasseled ornament was the most elaborate in design, and embodied harmony among heaven, earth and humans. Look closer and you'll find that it's also made of precious materials, such as coral, as these were only reserved for three-part norigaes.
5. Leave a message behind
The final stop is a Pojagi wall, inspired by its namesake Joseon wrapping cloth painted with motifs for good luck and happiness. Just like its olden-day counterpart, visitors are encouraged to write messages of well wishes and hang them up — think along the lines of Seoul Tower and the famed 'love padlock'. It's one you don't want to miss, so grab your K-loving friends and head on down.
The Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life exhibition runs from 22 April to 23 July at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Tickets are available at the Visitor Services counter, at $10 for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and $15 for non-residents.