One man’s love and devotion for South Korean history and cultural assets has allowed a 700-year-old Buddhist painting to return to the homeland after decades of overseas life.
According to Kolmar Korea Co., the country’s leading cosmetics original design manufacturing (ODM) company on Monday, its chairman Yoon Dong-han spent 2.5 billion won ($2.3 million) to buy “Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara,” a Buddhist painting from Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) that was taken out of the country by Japan, and decided to permanently donate the painting to the National Museum of Korea.
Yoon bought the Buddhist painting of Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara from an antiquary in Japan through an art dealer in June after obtaining information this spring that an art dealer is looking for a buyer of Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara possessed in Japan.
Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara is considered one of the best Goryeo paintings of the 14th century. Currently, about 160 pieces of Goryeo Buddhist paintings exist around the world, and of them, 130 pieces are in Japan and 20 pieces are held by museums in the United States and Europe. Most of them have been looted by Japanese raiders in late Goryeo period while others have flown out of the country during the Japanese colonial period.
When it comes to Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara, which depicts one of the most popular Buddhist deities in East Asia, there are only about 40 pieces left in the world. In Korea, only a few private museums and galleries including Leeum (Samsung Museum of Art), Horim Museum, and Yong In University museum own the paintings considered the country’s best masterpiece so far, but none of national or public museums has it, the fact that has led Kolmar Chairman Yoon decided to donate the painting to the National Museum of Korea, according to an unnamed official at Kolmar Korea. The National Museum of Korea is expected to receive the donation in early October after internal administrative procedure.
By Lee Dong-in