[KS] Percival Lowell

Maya Stiller geumgangsan at gmail.com
Tue Apr 21 15:13:45 EDT 2015

Dear Jonathan,

In the late Chosŏn period, lettered people were avid collectors of
Chinese luxury items (and by the 19th century at the latest, they
collected Japanese items as well). The Unjongga commercial district in
Seoul was full of Chinese antiques and treasures.

"The collecting of Chinese luxury goods, including ancient paintings,
precious books, rare bronzes, exquisite ceramics, exotic plants and
flowers, was widespread." (Chang 2013, 118) Please see:

Chang, Chin-sung. “Ambivalence and Indulgence: The Moral Geography of
Collectors in Late Joseon Korea.” In Archaism and Antiquarianism in
Korean and Japanese Art, edited by Elizabeth Lillehoj, 118-142.
Chicago: Center for the Art of East Asia, Department of Art History,
University of Chicago, 2013.

For reasons too many to explain here, the elite had little interest in
collecting Korean objects (except certain styles of painting and

As for "kura", the Korean elite was perhaps not interested in the
long-term preservation of their collections, and we therefore don't
find a "kura" culture in Korea. However, late Chosŏn ch'aekkŏri
culture clearly evidences the urge to display one's collection, and
illustrates the prestige associated with owning luxurious foreign


Maya K. Stiller
Assistant Professor of Korean Art and Visual Culture
University of Kansas
209 Spencer Museum of Art
1301 Mississippi St.
Lawrence, KS 66045

Tel: 785-864-1157
Fax: 785-864-5091

On 4/21/15, Best, Jonathan <jbest at wesleyan.edu> wrote:
> 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.
> Jonathan
> ________________________________________
> 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:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kura_%28storehouse%29
> 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
> cataloging.
> 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)
> http://goo.gl/qHtzai
> (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
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreanstudies.com

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