Women and East Asian Art

A Buddhist Nun Greeting a Gisaeng

 

A Buddhist Nun Greeting a Gisaeng, Shin Yun-bok, 1758, color on paper, 35.6 cm x 28.2 cm. oriental painting, Gangsong Art Museum, Korea Database Agency

The genre painting titled A Buddhist Nun Greeting a Gisaeng—painted in the late 18th century by popular Joseon artist Shin Yun-nok— depicts three subjects in an outside setting. Formatted as color on paper, Shin demonstrates a scene of interaction between a gisaeng followed by a servant girl carrying material for her who both approach a bowing Buddhist nun.[1] The nature of this interaction is displayed alongside the presence of a weeping willow tree accompanied by desolate land filled with scattered rocks. In addition to these visual elements, the land and both the nun and servant girl are all expressed in subtle tonalities with soft shades filling the backgrounds, whereas the gisaeng is drawn in bold colors that draw the attention to her on the right side of the painting.

A Buddhist Nun Greeting a Gisaeng

Upon closer analysis of the composition of the gisaeng, it can be concluded that her garment is a representation of the traditional garment worn during the Joseon era called a hanbok.[2] This traditional garment is comprised of an upper and lower garment that varies in form and design. In the painting, the ginsaeng is wearing four pieces of garment that are composed of a pink jeogori (blouse-like jacket), a long blue skirt that reaches her ankles, a pair of underpants, and a green jangot (veil). Both her skirt and jangot is painted in a darker color in opposition to the space around her that creates a drape like physique highlighting the natural flowing silhouette of her figure. Along with this observation, the presence of a jangot creates a sense of mysteriousness and seductiveness by covering her head and face from the outside world, hiding her beauty.[3]

Overall, the use of the hanbok in this painting accentuates the simplicity of female entertainers’ beauty in early day Korea and creates a sophisticated sense of attractiveness.

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1. Sin Yun Bok. “A Buddhist Nun Greeting a Gisaeng.” Korean Data Agency, Seoul, South Korea. 1758. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/a-buddhist-nun-greeting-a-gisaeng-shin-yun-bok. Accessed November 26, 2019

2. “Hanbok: An Introduction to South Korea’s National Dress.” Culture Trip. 2017. https:// theculturetrip.com/asia/south-korea/articles/hanbok-an-introduction-to-south-koreas- national-dress/

3. Byong Won Lee. “The Evolution of the Role of Status of Korean Professional Female Entertainers (Kisaeng).” The World of Music, vol. 21, no. 2., 1979, pp. 79

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