Landscape painting has become a prominent and integral part of Korean cult and culture compared to other types of painting. This is because nature was considered a living entity that symbolizes an important part of the higher spiritual being as well as human life.
Landscape painting was also highly regarded because of the influence of the Confucianism and neo-Confucianism philosophy that was adopted in China. According to this philosophy, landscape painting was considered superior to any other art that comprised of the physical body, human activities, and historical events that gave a platform to human activity or achievement. Landscape painting came first because it expressed the cultivation of humility and intellect.
When Did Landscape Painting Start?
Landscape painting began during the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC- 668 AD). It did not develop immediately, but it flourished as an art during the Koryo Period (918- 1392). It then developed in Song Dynasty China (960-1279).
The development of landscape painting in Korea happened majorly during the 5 centuries of the Choson Period (1392- 1910). Two schools were established, with one being led by An Kyon who was a court artist of the fifteenth century. The other school was established in the 18th century and was led by master artist Chong Son.
Influence of Buddhism on Korean Art
Buddhism is a disciplined philosophical religion that was introduced in Korea during the Koguryo Kingdom period in 372 CE. It was introduced from China by a monk known as Sundo and was accepted by people in the Three Kingdoms of Koguryo, Silla, and Paekche during the period of 57 BC to 668 AD.
These Three Kingdoms accepted it because they considered it as the Spiritual prop for the governing structure. It was during the fifth and eighth centuries that Buddhism and Buddhist art began to take shape in Korea. This came with the development of the Buddhist sculpture as different changes were made on the statues of Buddha.
The changes were made in relation to the Chinese models, and this brought forth the development of the Buddhist sculpture from what it was in the fifth and sixth centuries. During the period of the seventh and the eighth centuries, the sculpture had developed both stylistically and conceptually.
Buddhism was not only used as a means of personal salvation or a practical guide in life but also as a way of emphasizing the political ambitions and ruling power at the time. In Korea, just like many other ancient societies, Buddhist art was done purely for aesthetic display. Buddhism became a way for the ruling power to control the people and the religion, giving them political influence.
The political elite used Buddhism and Buddhist art as the sphere of influence and the statues became available to people with various ranks in the society. During the Choson period (1392- 1910), Neo-Confucianism displaced Buddhism. Neo-Confucianism involved the religious and moral belief that was founded in the 6th Century BC by Confucius.
Unlike in Buddhism, Confucianism did not involve a god, and it gained a wide-reaching audience in the Choson society. Currently, Buddhism is not as prevalent, but it still has its followers. However, it has continued to face great competition, especially after the introduction of Christianity in South Korea.