[KS] Percival Lowell

Best, Jonathan jbest at wesleyan.edu
Tue Apr 21 10:03:04 EDT 2015

Humm . . . Frank makes an interesting point about the lack of a kura-like structure in traditional Korean architecture, a point that implicitly raises the interesting question of why? As far as I know, which admittedly isn't based on any specific research, similar structures also did not exist in China. Yet certainly China had a long and widespread history of elite collecting art and clearly some collecting existed among the Korean elite during the Chosŏn dynasty, although it's not clear to me that it was widespread. So why did a value on collecting stuff by those that could afford it exist in China and Korea, but not an architecture created to preserve and protect what was collected? It's different in some fundamental ways from putting stuff in a kura, but it's at least tangentially relevant to note that more than a thousand of Shōmu Tennō's personal possessions ranging from art works to his underwear were placed in the Shōsōin at the Tōdai-ji in the middle of the 8th century and have, astoundingly, for the most part been preserved in remarkably good condition to the present day. (I do recognize that the architectural technology of the Shōsōin is totally different from that of the typical Tokugawa period kura.) But the question why the kura existed in Japan and nothing, to my knowledge, comparable in Korea or China is an interesting one.

From: Koreanstudies [koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com] on behalf of Frank Hoffmann [hoffmann at koreanstudies.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 3:15 AM
To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
Subject: Re: [KS] Percival Lowell

Dear All:

Here is something to enjoy!!!

But first: there is one more point I like to add -- did that years ago
already, but it was not taken on -- so allow me to repeat it in this
new context:

PRESERVATION problems with hats are said to be a reason why there are
so few serious studies. Hats cannot be preserved, etc. -- that was one
of the points. First, up to the 1960s there were still plenty of hat
makers around. Second, if we take that argument serious, then I would
at least like to look at it from a different angle: in traditional
Korea there was POSSIBLY less an interest in preservation. Repeating my
old argument: there was nothing that comes close to the 'kura' 倉, the
storehouses of Japan. Nowadays there even is a Wikipedia entry for this:
Many of these were fireproof, they were away from the main house (so,
if that burned, the kura would not), and some were even build like a
bunker underground. That is one of the main reasons why large
collections of art and documents of all sorts survived in Japan but not
so in Korea. Japan hat its own wars -- wars are certainly responsible
for destructions, no doubt. But such systems of preservations -- or the
lack thereof -- are also.

Okay, and here a collection of Korean hats that you might enjoy looking
at Korean Research Institute of Cultural Heritage who took on the new
The city of Leipzig in eastern Germany did in 1902 buy a collection of
over 1200 (!) Korean items -- art, cloth, jewelry, and tools for daily
use. The entire collection was bought from a Hamburg art dealer of the
name H. Saenger. That dealer used and abused the periods of political
unrest and instability in Korea to buy just about everything he could
get, to then resell it (and the Grassi Museum in Leipzig became his
customer). Among the items are many that seem to originate from the
Korean court.

In any case, this is something to enjoy! Have a look at the new
catalog, and the Korean hats (with good good descriptions) -- and as
you see, preservation of horsehair hats seems not the issue there (if
there is an interest to do so).

Grassi Museum - Korean Collection Catalog (2013)
(64 MB -- so, download takes a while)

There are many highly interesting, beautiful, and refreshing works --
but you will find the hats on pages 189, 195, 240-271 (!!!).
Following that section, you will find many hairpins, headbands, hat
ornaments of all sorts (some seem Chinese), and later there are also
military helmets (pp. 570 ff) and more.


Frank Hoffmann

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