2005.08.28  -제137호- 
 
 
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The five basic colors of Dancheong convey beauty and majesty

n addition to Buddhism, which was the main inspiration for many of the nation's architectural feats, the Chinese philosophies of Eum (yin in Chinese) and Yang, Geomancy, Taoism and Confucianism also influenced Korean architecture. Koreans easily integrated the philosophical and religious principles of these teachings into their own work and applied their own interpretation of them into their own architectural plans and layout.

Buildings from the Goryeo Dynasty that remain standing today exhibit bright and soft coloring. Dancheong refers to Korean-style decorative coloring used on buildings or other items to convey beauty and majesty, and is done by applying various patterns and paintings in certain areas. Five basic colors are used: red, blue, yellow, black and white.

Generally speaking, Dancheong connotes the patterns painted on the exposed frames of the eaves or doors of traditional wooden buildings and is also used on wooden sculptures and handicrafts. Dancheong was used not only for decorative purposes but also for preservation, by concealing flaws of exposed naked wooden frames. It was widely used as a decorative motif in palatial and temple buildings. It was also often found on T-shape shrines in royal tombs, in filial sons’ and faithful wives’ memorial shrines, and on Confucian shrines.

The five cardinal colors are another key component of Dancheong. The Chinese have patterns similar to Korean Dancheong, but with red and green being dominate, so that they are less resplendent. Such patterns are seldom seen in Japan.

Lotus, pomegranate, and other floral designs form the major Dancheong patterns in the extant royal palaces and temples. Variations of chrysanthemum and peony were also popular subjects. The popular Dancheong paintings on lintels, interior walls, beams, canopies, ceilings, and columns of palace and temple buildings all used these motifs. These included: the four auspicious animals, namely the dragon, phoenix, turtle, and girin (or qilin in Chinese, which was a kind of legendary animal); a Pegasus-like heavenly horse; a lion; a crane above the clouds; the four gentlemen, or noble plants (namely, the apricot, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo); and stories from the Buddhist sutras.

In addition to its decorative function, Dancheong was applied for practical reasons as well. It was used to prolong the life of the building and conceal the crudeness of the quality of the material used, while emphasizing the characteristics and the grade or ranks that the building or object possessed. Dancheong also provided both a sense of conformity to certain traditions and diversity within the tradition.

During the Joseon Dynasty, red, orange, blue, yellow, green, and seokganju colors were used profusely. Seokganju, also called juto, denotes red clay or ocher that yields a dark red or reddish brown pigment typically used for Dancheong and pottery. This mineral pigment, basically ferric oxide of ferrous sulfate, is noted for its resistance to sunlight, air, water and heat. These were also mixed with white, Chinese ink color and other ingredients to derive various other colors. Inserting of white lines, thereby enhancing the distinctiveness of the pattern’s outlining and coloring, separated the colors.

Ordinarily the order of colors used was determined by the characteristics, size, and appearance of the building. Usually, however, two to six colors were used following a set rule. For instance, when a gradual reduction of colors was desired from six colors, colors immediately after the first and immediately before the last colors were eliminated first to achieve a 5-4-3-2 order. Coordination of colors for Dancheong consisted primarily of juxtaposing different and complementary colors. A technique of alternating a warm with a cold color was used to make the different colors more distinct from each other. Traditionally, typical pigments employed for Dancheong were derived from pyeoncheongseok, a kind of copper ore, for dark blue and navy blue colors and from malachite for dark greenish blue. These pigments were preferred because of their vividness, durability and relative serenity. In addition, the vermilion pigment produced from clay, also a popular color for Dancheong, was mostly imported from China ‘s western regions and was hence highly valued.

Dancheongjangs, artisans skilled in the work of Dancheong, did the painting of Dancheong. A Dancheongjang artisan was referred to by a number of titles: Hwasa, Hwagong, Gachiljang, or Dancheong. When the artisan was also a monk, he was referred to as a Geumeo or Hwaseung.

For palace construction, a governmental office, the Seongonggam, did Dancheong. Seongonggam artisans exclusively carried out Dancheong work for palaces and other places, such as guesthouses and government buildings.

Temples, on the other hand, had their own resident Dancheongjangs. In addition to performing Dancheong work, however, the temple artisans also engaged in production of other works, including Buddhist painting and sculpture.

Although there were two different categories of Dancheongjang for palace and temple painting, the technical procedures related to Dancheong work were the same. The patterns and coloring systems were therefore identical for the two categories.

At the beginning of a project, a pyeonsu, or head artisan, was chosen by the initiating party of the construction project. The pyeonsu then selected the format of Dancheong for the pertinent building and chose the patterns to be used. From the mixing of colors to instruction about construction procedures, the pyeonsu was responsible for the completion of Dancheong in its entirety.

By Gareth Barker
BusinessKorea staff reporter