Category Archives: Korea

Unique performance of Sri Lanka

Korea Times
Posted : 2017-06-12 18:10
By Choe Chong-dae

Buddhist contact between Korea and Sri Lanka can be traced back to the 13th century. In the modern era, Venerable Anagarika Dharmapala, a Ceylonese revivalist of Buddhism whose adopted name means “homeless,” visited Korea in 1913 and donated the Sacred Relics of the Buddha (sarira) to the Jogye Buddhist Order. Since my office in Seoul is near Joogyesa Temple where the Sacred Relics are enshrined in a seven-story stupa, I frequently pay respects to them and am reminded of Sri Lanka’s contribution to Korean Buddhist culture.

Sri Lanka is known to us as “the Pearl of the East” which shines brightly for its breathtaking natural beauty where refined jewels are produced. The country boasts centuries of arts and culture amidst the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. It has a rich artistic tradition, with distinctively creative forms that encompass music, dance, the visual arts and its seemingly endless tea plantations producing the world famous Ceylon tea. In Marco Polo’s autobiography, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” co-writer Rustichello da Pisa describes Sri Lanka as the most beautiful island in the world. Also, in the sixth voyage of “Sinbad the Sailor,” Serendib (the old Persian name for Sri Lanka) is known as “Treasure Island,” where “diamonds are in its rivers and pearls are in its valleys.” No wonder Korean tourists have increasingly been drawn to the allure of this ancient tropical paradise.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Sri Lanka and Korea Foundation organized a special performance by choreographer and percussionist Ravibandhu Vidyapathy and a traditional Sri Lankan art troupe at the National Theater of Korea on May 19. Many figures from a variety of sectors of Korean and foreign society, including the Minister of Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka Thalatha Atukorale and Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, took delight in the wonderful display of moving art.

The unique performance under the title of “Sri Lanka ­ The Treasure Island of Dance and Music” featured a feast of traditional Sri Lankan drums and dances showcasing the history, religions, myths and art of Sri Lanka.

Ravibandhu Vidyapathy’s ensemble stage fascinated the viewers with a mysterious Kandyan and passionate performance of traditional Sri Lankan music, recitals and dance named Raksha, Vannam, Krishna and Salu Paliya.

Vidyapathy, renowned as an outstanding percussionist, excels at playing various drums of Southeast Asia, traditional drums of northern India and common percussion instruments in Hindustani music such as “Pakkawaj,” “Tabla” and “Kandyan” drums. Drawing on his extensive musical knowledge, he has created new percussion instruments to reflect his eclectic musical style.

Of all the 10 distinctive stages titled Swasthi, Naga Raksha, Gajaga, GetaBera, Krishna, Thelme, Macbeth, SaluPaliya, Mayura and Bheri Nada, my favorite was the Swasthi. I was captivated by the harmony found in its intense drum sounds, music from various traditional instruments, swift dance moves, female dancers’ colorful costumes and graceful gestures. Swasthi’s initial ritual drum sounds were followed by Kandayan dance that was originally performed at court banquets of the Kandy Dynasty.

Most recently, there have been an increasing number of people-to-people exchanges between Korea and Sri Lanka. Many Korean Buddhist organizations participate in social welfare activities benefiting Sri Lankans. For example, Jeong Heon-dae, Chairman of the Korean-Sri Lanka Buddhist Welfare Association in Gyeongju, has been providing financial assistance and charity since 2002 to support the health and education of children at Uda Walawe Kumara Primary School in southern Sri Lanka and other schools in the northeastern Trincomallee region.

This longstanding Buddhist connection between Sri Lanka and Korea is the drum that will lead the beat as the two countries expand their political, economic and cultural ties.

Choe Chong-dae is a guest columnist of The Korea Times. He is president of Dae-kwang International Co. and Director of the Korean-Swedish Association. He can be reached at


Mystic and Glamorous Exhibition of Goryeo Buddhist Painting

Flushing Town Hall (New York)
Sat Apr 22, 2017 – Wed May 3, 2017

In partnership with New York Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, Inc., this exhibition features the art works of three contemporary Korean artists: Joy Rock, Chang Ho Kang, and Seoung Jo Hyun, who have inherited and developed the spirit and traditional techniques of Goryeo Buddhist Paintings. The genre of Goryeo Buddhist Paintings is one of the highlights of the renaissance in Korean fine arts during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Opening Reception: SAT, APR 22, 5-7 PM

Lecture & Demonstration: SAT, APR 22, 7-8 PM (Theater)

Gallery Dates: SAT, APR 22 – WED, MAY 3

Gallery Hours: TUE-SUN, 12-5 PM

$5 Suggested Donation/FREE for Members & Students

The art of the Goryeo Dynasty is represented by three distinguished genres: Goryeo Buddhist Painting, Goryeo Pottery, and Goryeo Sutra Transcribing Art. Though Goryeo Pottery is widely known, many people are unfamiliar with Buddhist Painting and Sutra Transcribing Art.

Goryeo was a Buddhist Kingdom that lasted 474 years (from 918 to 1392), and the people of Goryeo had a deep sense of faith in Buddhism and after a 30-year war against the Mongols the people of Goryeo returned to Gaegyeong and produced Buddhist paintings on silk with gold powder. The Buddhist paintings that remain today – about 160 pieces – are all works after Gaegyeong was reestablished as the capital of Goryeo in 1270.

All of those works were painted on top of silk canvasses and hung on walls with hanging poles. Unlike wall paintings, they had the advantage of being hung up only when necessary and were thus mobile. Goryeo Buddhist paintings involved the use of gold powder and the technique of coloring the back of the silk canvas. They are distinguishable by patterns of exquisitely drawn lines.

The three artists whose works will be presented at Flushing Town Hall this Spring have long and distinguished careers focusing on Buddhist Painting. They all received Masters in Fine Arts in Buddhist Painting at Yongin University, currently serve in research roles, and have had their works awards – presented in solo and group exhibitions. Continue reading

This Korean documentary on Gandhara civilisation will show the ‘tolerant face’ of Pakistan


A Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) team has filmed Buddhist sites in Taxila, Lahore, Peshawar, Swat, Swabi and Gilgit

A two-member Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) team filmed various Buddhist sites of Gandhara civilization, which they will air on South Korean official television .

Lee Heon and Miss Hong, Eun Hee, producers of the KBS, are visiting the ancient sites on the invitation of Dr Esther Park, General Secretary, Gandhara Art and Culture Association (GACA).

Before coming to Taxila the KBS team also visited Lahore, Peshawar, Swabi, Swat and Gilgit and filmed various Buddhist sites.

“I have visited Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and Armenia to record various cultural sites but the potential and cultural diversity Pakistan harbours is unique and significant,” said Miss Hong while talking to Dawn.

“What has really captured me about Pakistan is the kindness of the people here; really they are generous and hospitable,” she added.

Replying to a query, she said it was her first visit to Pakistan and like other foreign media persons she had some misconception about Pakistan but after visiting various cities, she found it an enlightened and diverse country. “Through her documentary she will now show peaceful, tolerant and hospitable face of Pakistan to the world especially to Buddhists across the globe,” she added.

Monk Maranantha, credited for spreading Buddhist teachings across the Korean peninsula in the late 4th century AD, was originally from Chota Lahore in district Swabi, therefore Buddhist followers of Korea have deep-rooted spiritual and religious attachment with Pakistan and this documentary would further strengthen relations between the two countries. Continue reading

Buddhist nun and temple food aficionado invited to Berlin Film Festival

Jeong Kwan appeared in Netflix food documentary series “Chef’s Table”, discussing how temple food is eaten “to gain realization”

Jeong Kwan appeared in Netflix food documentary series “Chef’s Table”, discussing how temple food is eaten “to gain realization”


A Buddhist nun who has led the push for the globalization of South Korean temple cuisine has earned an invitation to the Berlin International Film Festival.

Jeong Kwan, who appeared in an episode from Season 3 of the Netflix food documentary series
“Chef’s Table”, plans to depart for Germany on Feb. 11 after being invited to the “Culinary Cinema” section at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.

Produced and overseen by food documentary director David Gelb, “Chef’s Table” reflects thoughts on the food-making process and cuisine made by six renowned chefs from around the world, including Jeong Kwan.

The documentary came about after Jeong Kwan appeared in 2015 on a cooking program by New York-based star chef Eric Ripert to show the essence of South Korean temple food. A New York Times Style Magazine reporter who observed a preview of the temple food at a New York restaurant run by Ripert wrote a piece titled “Jeong Kwan, the Philosopher Chef.” After seeing the article, Gelb requested the nun’s appearance on “Chef‘s Table.”

In May 2016, the producers stayed at Cheonjin Hermitage of Jangseong’s Baekyang Temple in South Jeolla Province for 15 days around the Buddha‘s Birthday holiday to record South Korea’s traditional Buddhist culture, with a focus on Jeong Kwan‘s temple food.

“I wanted to share how the entire process of preparing food for Buddha’s Birthday - which includes cleaning the ground of enlightenment, making and hanging the lotus lanterns, holding early morning Buddhist services, and preparing, cooking, and serving ingredients raised in the garden - is a form of practice and meditation in itself,” said Jeong Kwan.

“I wanted to emphasize that South Korea’s temple food isn’t just a meal, it’s food you eat to gain realization, and that I am not a chef but a practitioner of cultivation,” she added.
Jeong Kwan received her precepts as a novice nun in 1975 and as a bhikkhu in 1981. She served as chief nun at Hongnyeon Hermitage and Mangwol and Sinheung Temples before going to create a temple food education center at Baekyang Temple’s Cheonjin Hermitage, where she currently provides lectures and training.

By Kim Kyung-ae, senior staff writer

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Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea at the Frist

February 10 – May 7, 2017
Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee

Jijang Bosal (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha) and the Kings of Hell, Korea, late 19th or early 20th century, late Joseon Period (1392–1912). Colors and cloth. Newark Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden, 2001, 2001.75.1

Jijang Bosal (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha) and the Kings of Hell, Korea, late 19th or early 20th century, late Joseon Period (1392–1912). Colors and cloth. Newark Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden, 2001, 2001.75.1

Related Programs
One-Day Educator Workshop: Secrets of Buddhist Art Thu, Feb 16, 2017
Tibet, Japan, and Korea all practice a form of esoteric or “secret” Buddhism. Called Vajrayana Buddhism, this form utilizes works of art that reveal a complex array of both human and divine figures. This exhibition showcases superlative works from the Newark Museum’s first-rate collection and will make its first appearance at the Frist Center, introducing a general audience to the dazzling aesthetics of Buddhist art and providing a basic understanding of these objects’ function within Buddhist practice.

This exhibition was organized by the Newark Museum.


Kolmar Korea Chairman to donate 700-year-old Buddhist painting to national museum

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


Stolen Buddhist painting to be returned from U.S.

"The Obuldo," an 18th-century Korean painting of Five Buddhas. Its American owner Robert Mattielli will return it to South Korea next year as it was belatedly discovered that the work had been stolen from Buddhist temple Songgwangsa in South Korea's southwestern city of Suncheon, in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Korean Cultural Heritage Administration) (Yonhap)

“The Obuldo,” an 18th-century Korean painting of Five Buddhas. Its American owner Robert Mattielli will return it to South Korea next year as it was belatedly discovered that the work had been stolen from Buddhist temple Songgwangsa in South Korea’s southwestern city of Suncheon, in the early 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Korean Cultural Heritage Administration) (Yonhap)

Yonhap News Agency
2016/09/01 16:32

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) — An 18th-century stolen Korean Buddhist painting will be returned from the United States in the first half of next year as its American owner and a U.S. art museum now holding it have agreed to do so, cultural heritage authorities here said Thursday.

The painting, called “Obuldo” in Korean, a depiction of Five Buddhas, was stolen from Songgwangsa Temple in Suncheon, 415 kilometers southwest of Seoul, sometime in the early 1970s. “Obuldo” was made as one painting in a series of 53 Buddhas in 1725.

American Robert Mattielli, who lived as an artist and teacher in Seoul for three decades from the 1960s, visited an antique shop in Insa-dong, called “Mary’s Alley,” one day in the early 1970s, and bought the roughly folded Buddhist painting for just US$10, although it had large areas of loss at that time. He then took the damaged painting to a famous Korean restorer who flattened, cleaned and framed it.

Mattielli and his wife Sandra moved back to Oregon in 1985 with the artwork.

The two, advocates for Korean art, decided to donate the work to the Portland Art Museum in 2014, when a team from the Korean National Research Institute for Cultural Heritage was conducting a survey of the U.S. museum’s Korean collections to publish a bilingual catalogue, according to the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration (KCHA).

Several months later, the team reported to the museum that the Buddhist painting was stolen from Songgwangsa sometime in the early 1970s.

Upon hearing the news, the couple offered to repatriate the painting to South Korea, and later the museum and the KCHA agreed on its return after a special exhibition and symposium in the latter half of this year.

The exhibition will run from Sept. 3-Dec. 4, and renowned scholars Robert Buswell of UCLA and Maya Stiller of the University of Kansas are to deliver their lectures on “Songgwansa and its Significance in the Korean Buddhist Tradition” and “Repentance for the Living and the Dead: The Avatamsaka Compound and Songgwansa” at the symposium set for Dec. 3, the KCHA said. The KCHA also is sponsoring the events.

“The ‘Obuldo’ might have disappeared forever if there were not Mattielli who bought and framed the severely damaged work,” a KCHA official said

“We’ll invite the Mattiellis to the painting’s enshrinement ceremony set for next year in order to officially convey our thanks to them,” he added.