A homecoming najeon chilgi box is on display for the pubic

Do Jae-gi 입력 2023. 12. 8. 17:52
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The Najeon Chrysanthemum Vine Patterned Box, the highest-quality Goryeo Dynasty Najeon lacquerware ever returned from Japan, is on public display for the first time in a special exhibition at the National Palace Museum of Korea. Courtesy of the National Palace Museum

A najeon chilgi box of the Goryeo Dynasty with only 20 examples in Korea and abroad, has made a homecoming from Japan and is now open to the public through a special exhibition.

It is a cultural heritage that received great attention not only from academia but from the public, as the the Cultural Heritage Administration purchased it from a Japanese owner and first showcased it to the media in September.

The National Palace Museum of Korea said that "People can enjoy the najeon chilgi box, which was returned to South Korea from Japan and opened to the media only once, in a special exhibition which kicked off at the museum on December 7 and will last until January 7 next year.”

The najeon chilgi box, which was made more than 800 years ago, measures 18.5×33.0×19.4 cm. It is a typical najeon chilgi of the Goryeo Dynasty, decorated with mother-of-pearl (najeon) that is delicately processed with abalone and conch shells with beautiful colors and finished with lacquer.

The typical patterns of Goryeo najeon chilgi, such as chrysanthemum vines and peony vines, were used along with metal wires. In particular, the lid and body part are wrapped with around 770 chrysanthemum vinescapes, giving off a brilliant glow. On the outside, about 1,670 mother-of-pearl patterns of dots and small circles connected like beads.

It is estimated that about 45,000 mother-of-pearls were used in the box. The Cultural Heritage Administration said, "The elaborate expression of details in small mother-of-pearl pieces with engraved lines and the use of metal wires to create vine patterns is a characteristic of Goryeo Najeon decorations." It added that, "These boxes were mainly used in the Goryeo Dynasty as scripture boxes to store Buddhist scriptures, but there are only about 20 intact examples around the world, making them extremely valuable.”

In addition to the actual Najeon najeon chilgi box, the exhibition will showcase three-dimensional computerized (3D) scans of the artifact from various angles, as well as the results of scientific investigations. X-ray photographs taken for detailed analysis of the artifact will also be opened for the public, revealing detailed production techniques such as the mokseongjerip method, a representative technique of Goryeo Dynasty Najeon artifacts in which fabrics such as moss or veil are attached to a wooden frame and decorated with mother-of-pearl.

The museum said, "In early January next year, we will also have a special lecture by Choi Eung-cheon, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, under the theme of 'Excellence of Goryeo Najeon Craft' for the general public."

It added that "The title of the special exhibition, ‘Semilgagwi,' is borrowed from the phrase of 'Seonhwabong Sagoridogyeong,’ written by Seo Geung, a North Song’s envoy who visited Goryeo in 1123, saying 'The fine technique of Goryeo najeon is worthy of being called precious.’ We hope that this exhibition will be a great opportunity for people to appreciate the beauty of the high level of Goryeo's najeon crafts and to raise awareness of the cultural heritage that are collected from abroad."

※This article has undergone review by a professional translator after being translated by an AI translation tool.

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