Korean Stone Art Museum, Seoul, South Korea

Korean Stone Art Museum was opened in Seongbuk-dong, a beautiful district surrounded by Bugaksan Mountain and the Seoul City Wall to introduce the aesthetic beauty and significant cultural values of old Korean stone sculptures.

The museum, consisting of six exhibition halls including an outdoor exhibition garden, is a place where tradition and modernism come together in harmony.

To introduce the aesthetic beauty and significant cultural values of old Korean stone sculptures, the Korean Stone Art Museum was opened in Seongbuk-dong, a town surrounded by Bugaksan Mountain and the Seoul City Wall.Ancient-stone artifacts, traditional embroideries, and modern Korean paintings are gathered here at the Korean Stone Art Museum, a place where Korea’s past and present coexist harmoniously. Our mission is to provide a modern interpretation of the philosophy and wisdom of our ancestors embodied in these artifacts, and to create a participation-oriented museum.

For many centuries, stone sculptures in Korea have portrayed the Korean people’s values and their desire that transcend both time and space. In an earnest attempt to discover and bring to light the cultural values and aesthetic beauty of these stone sculptures, the Korean Stone Art Foundation established the Korean Stone Art Museum in Seongbuk-dong, a beautiful district surrounded by Bugaksan Mountain and the historic Seoul City Wall.

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As the saying goes, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is up to the sculptor to discover it.” It was about 40 years ago when I was first introduced to the amazing world of stone art. I became fascinated with the power and simple nature of Korean stone sculptures, so I started collecting these innumerable treasures scattered all over the world.

Although these stone sculptures have yet to be regarded as representative cultural assets of Korea, the fact that they embrace the joys and sorrows of the Korean people cannot go unnoticed. Therefore, it is one of the Korean Stone Art Museum’s missions to unveil and shed light on the cultural significance of these stone sculptures and to rediscover another aspect of the beautiful aesthetic sensibility of Korea.

Ancient-stone artifacts, traditional embroideries, and modern Korean paintings are gathered here at the Korean Stone Art Museum, a place where Korea’s past and present coexist harmoniously. Our mission is to provide a modern interpretation of the philosophy and wisdom of our ancestors embodied in these artifacts, and to create a participation-oriented museum.

Ancient-stone artifacts, traditional embroideries, and modern Korean paintings are gathered here at the Korean Stone Art Museum, a place where Korea’s past and present coexist harmoniously.

The Korean Stone Art Museum strives to transcend the constricted traditional view of regarding stone sculptures as mere decorative artifacts in Buddhist temples or in tombs, and introduces a modern perspective that focuses on our ancestors’ wisdom and their philosophy of life.

Korean Stone Art Museum anticipates active communication with the public. Through various exhibitions and participation programs, visitors will be able to experience these precious stones that bear our ancestors’ deepest wishes and desires. We aim to become an open museum that fulfills the function of fostering academic exchanges among people who are interested in stone art and contributes to the development and enrichment of our culture. Your continuous interest and support will help KOSA accomplish its missions successfully.

Exhibitions:

Tomb Guardians Who Crossed the Sea to Korea:
Muninseok is a human-shaped stone sculpture made to protect tombs against evil spirits, along with other animal-shaped stone sculptures. Unfortunately, a large number of Muninseok were smuggled out to Japan during the Japanese colonial period. Chairman Chun Shin-Il of Sejoong corporation aspired to bring back to Korea these long-lost cultural assets, which by then were scattered all over the world, and regain Korea’s national pride.

​In 2000, after hearing about Mr. Kusaka Mamoru, a Japanese citizen who owned hundreds of ancient Korean stone sculptures, Chairman Chun made numerous visits to Japan to persuade Mr. Kusaka Mamoru to cede the lost Korean assets.

In 2001, Chairman Chun’s tenacity succeeded in bringing about the return of more than seventy precious Korean stone sculptures to Korea. The returned sculptures attest to the power and dignity of Korean stone arts.

Along with Janggunseok and other animal-shaped stone sculptures, Muninseok were made to protect tombs against evil spirits. Muninseok are portrayed as wearing official hats and holding a Hol, an object held by courtiers when they were addressing the king.

A Hill of Prayers Accommodating Many Wishes:
Dongja is a child attendant while Dongjaseok is a stone figure of dongja. Found in and around Seoul, these sculptures were placed before the graves of high-ranking government officials or members of the royal family, except for kings and queens, during the 16th-18th centuries. Wearing plain clothes and double-knot hairdos, they stand obediently and submissively in front of the graves, lending an appearance of vitality to the solemn atmosphere of the graveyard. Dongja were deemed to serve various gods in Taoism, the Buddha in Buddhism, and the occupants of the graves in Confucianism. Therefore, the shape and role of dongja vary from grave guardian to village guardian depending on the religion.

Village Guardians with Faces of Korean People:
People in the past believed that Beoksu, standing at the entrance to a village or at the end of a street, protected them from evil spirits and illnesses. Since Beoksu were thought to possess superpowers that can bring good fortune and prevent troubles, people prayed to Beoksu in the hope of making their wishes come true.

Though Beoksu drove away evil spirits, they did not have a scary look. Moreover, there was no set standard for the face of Beoksu. The various forms of their candid and humorous faces reflected how simply and sincerely ordinary people thought. Stories and fables of Beoksu blended with Korean people’s sentiments over time, creating not only unique artistic splendor but also creatures that allow us to have a conversation with the past.

Mother’s Love Expressed in Devoted Stitches:
Embroidery work has long been a way for Korean women to express their intricate artistic sensibility and cultivate beauty in their daily lives. As embroidery was a basic skill that Korean woman had to learn, the skill was handed down naturally from mother to daughter. While weaving and sewing, women would pray for the happiness of their families.

Embroidery was widely used in all classes of Korean society from the royal family and aristocracy to the commoners. Thus, the history of embroidery plays an important role in understanding the lifestyle of Korean women in the past, and embroidery is the fruit of traditional feminine culture.