A House Fit (for the Portrait of) a King

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If you visit the perfected state, Jeonju, one of the places you are likely to visit is Gyeonggijeon, a palace shrine built for, not a king, but his portrait. More specifically, it was built for King Tae-jo’s portrait, the founder of the late Joseon Dynasty. Tae-jo, not his portrait. His portrait didn’t found anything.

Just wanted to clear that up.

The shrine is basically set up as a palace, complete not only with a throne room (where the painting is hung), but servants quarters, a library and various smaller shrines and monuments and a little bamboo grove! Let’s have a look!

It’s easy to find. It’s just across the street from the Jeonju Cathedral and all the buses and taxis going to the hanok village will drop you off nearby.

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You can see the entrance on the left, right behind that crowd.

Once you enter, you have three choices: You can go left to the servant quarters (sans servants), you can take the middle to the enthroned portrait, or you can go right to adventure!

And a restroom should you need to use it. The only reason I mention it is because I can tell the contractor squeezed in an extra urinal, probably to sell an extra unit.

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Seriously, how are we supposed to use this?

Anyway, head north from the restrooms and we find this little monument.

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Yeah! Giant Turtle! This turtle guards another monument called a taesil. You can see it just behind the turtle.

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What’s a taesil? Well, it holds the umbilical chord of a king. This one belongs to King Yejong. Why is it here? Good question.

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You can find these in various places around Korea, and they’ll generally take the same shape.

Walking on, we come across a little bamboo grove…

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…where almost every stalk has a name or love note carved on it.

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On the left we have Jeon Changmin and on the right we have Saebom (heart) Minsu. How cute.

Past the bamboo stand we come across a library on stilts!

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It’s on stilts to help regulate temperature and protect the library from vermin. Now its not actually a library, but a little gallery showing how the library used to work and the ceremonies involved with the maintenance. The reading would be fairly dry for most moderns as the contents were about the daily lives and records of kings past.

Turning back to the central path, we see the throne room.

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But because this is a shrine, the main path is blocked and you have to walk around the sides. What does that sign say on the main path?

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Literally the path for spirits, or as they so eloquently translated: “Road of God”. Only the spirits are supposed to use this main path as the king enthroned is a painting, a representation of the deceased king.

Along the sides we also see big pots. These are supposed to be filled with water for easy access in case of a fire. They’re pretty much just decorative now.

But what of the king? Where is the king?

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The inner room of the throne room.

 

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There he is, a painted king sitting on his painted throne. The table, now empty, will be filled with food and offerings during ceremonies. It only looks sad and lonely because we aren’t allowed inside. We can only peer in.

The library and throne are painted red for the royalty. But the last part, through this door, is all brown and white, the servants’ prep area.

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In this last area, there are many small buildings with their own purpose. Some are for preparing food of one type or another, another for preparing cloth, etc.

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Of course it was built for much smaller people. It’s easy for us to hit our heads on the beams. Behind me is a well, capped off for safety.

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The backside of one of the servant buildings with a nice view of the Jeonju Cathedral.

It’s a nice little palace to visit if you find your way to Jeonju. The only advice I would have to give is don’t eat the bamboo.

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It’s a little tough.

A Quick Trip to Jeonju (2014)

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It’s been a while since Jihye and I traveled around, so in February, while she had a break between school years, we decided to visit Jeonju. Why Jeonju? My number one reason was hanji. Beautiful, beautiful hanji.

That’s mulberry bark paper, the traditional paper used in Korea, for those not in the know.

Oh, and it has some landmarks, history, a touristy hanok village, and is also known for its food. Plenty of reasons if you ask me! Let’s see what’s in Jeonju already!

Jeonju

One can get to Jeonju a number of ways depending on how much time and money you are willing to spend. We decided to take the slow train (Mugunghwa) and ended up here at Jeonju Station! Since Jeonju is all about longing for the past, it makes sense the train station would be reminiscent of traditional architecture.

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Now, if you want to go about and see the sites, you could take almost any of the buses that stop by the station. Or you could just walk. We decided to walk.

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While it was a nice walk, it took us an hour or two to actually get where we wanted to go. But the day was beautiful and we had fun talking, so walking we did! We walked through mostly residential areas and schools, the highlight of which was a wonderful little market. Which we forgot to take any pictures of. Ah well!

After a while we finally started approaching the tourist, er, I mean city center. Coming in from the North, we first stumbled across the Jeonju City Hall.

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I’m a huge fan of this one. Often I dislike hackneyed attempts at merging modern with traditional, but here I feel it works. The base evokes the Pungnammun gate, mirrored above by another more modern squared ‘gate’ which overshadows the traditional gate roof.

We started feeling hungry so we dropped by Waengi Kongnamulgukbap!

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While Jeonju is most famous for its Bibimbap, it is also famous for many other dishes as well. Kongnamulgukbap is one of those. For desert we dropped by one of the oldest bakeries in Korea: PNB! We had to pick up a choco-pie or two.

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No really. We only had one each. The rest we brought back to Seoul. Now for the touristy stuff. We dropped by Pungnammun, the southern gate of old Jeonju. Now it’s surrounded by a small traffic circle.

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There are tourist walks that go through this area, but one of the things that struck me was not a tourist spot, but rather an open area that served as a local park.

IMG_0464Funky sculpture, younguns skateboarding, and if you squint, plenty of old folk sitting, jabbering and enjoying the day. This was a small look at the locals. But soon we were to dive deeper into the tourist zone.

Guarding the tourist zone was a giant nose turtle!

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Gaurding the Way to Taejo-ro

What sites can you see in Jeonju? Well, there’s the Jeonju Cathedral,

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The first cathedral built in Korea. It’s actually called the Jeondong Cathedral, but call it the Jeonju Cathedral and I don’t think anyone will care.

This Romanesque structure is nice on the inside too!

IMG_0561Just across the street was Gyeonggijeon, a national shrine, a complex designed like a palace to enshrine a painting of the founder of the Joseon dynasty, Tae. You might ask why the shrine is here in Jeonju rather than Seoul, the capital. Well I would then answer that Jeonju was his birthplace, thus the shrine belongs there!

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The heart of the complex honoring King Taejo

To my delight, on the palace grounds there was another giant turtle! This one was guarding something else…

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What is that behind the turtle?

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Okay, it’s the Taesil of King Yejong. What’s a taesil? It’s a stone structure that houses an urn which in turn houses King Yejong’s umbilical cord. Oh, right, that was a thing in Korea.

Back to the street we find… Oh my. Oh my.

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WAY too many tourists. I kinda dropped the ball on taking photos at this point. We walked around, enjoyed the sites, went back to Jeonju Cathedral to see their mass and found ourselves hungry.

Well, all the famous places had lines. Crazy lines. One such place was Gilgeoria. It’s famous for its baguette burger.

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Not interested in standing in line for that. We had some spicy pork hocks and ddeokgalbi instead.

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We spent the night at a guest house named Doldamjip. The owner was quite kind and they had a large gathering of college freshmen enjoying their week before their first uni classes.

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But finding it was terrible. If you’re in the vicinity there is a sign by the street implying where it is. But the actual place there was no sign. You would only know it is the proper house if you actually paid attention to the name. See it literally means ‘stone wall house’. And low and behold, it was the only residence on that street walled off with rough stone.

Ah, Jeonju, we hardly spent any time. We didn’t get to see even a third of what we wanted, but it was a nice relaxing walking sort of day and trip. Too bad I didn’t get to my hanji. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you up to date once I return!

Intermission – unstable internet and wordpress

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Well, here is an unintended intermission. What I had wanted to do was upload my post on Jeonju. Unfortunately uploading pictures over a wifi network that is not always 100% leads to freezing and subsequent loss of all unsaved data.

I need to be pickier about my cafe choices or just upload all the pics before heading out.

So instead, enjoy a proverb I just learned:

호랑이에게 물려가도 정신만 차리면 된다

Rough translation:

Even when a tiger is biting, if you maintain awareness, you will be okay.

Or perhaps I could paraphrase it:

If you keep your wits about you, you will be fine, even in the jaws of a tiger.

I’ll chew on that one a bit more.

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A Week of Goblins Past (2014)

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One of the first pleasant surprises of 2014 was my discovery of Goblin Week.

Goblin Week started by Evan Dahm!

What is Goblin Week you ask? It’s a week for drawing goblins of course! It was started by one of my favourite web comic artists, Evan Dahm of Rice Boy fame. He’s currently working on a story called Vattu. Seriously, go check him out if you haven’t already.

So naturally, I had to take part.

Day 1: How to catch a goblin…

How to Catch a Goblin

Lifehack Tip #3728

To catch pesky goblins, leave a bottle of soju out.

 (Digital Drawing)

Day 2: A Goblin Shaman

Goblin Shaman

A well fed goblin shaman with stylish hat in a trance-dance for day 2 of Goblin Week!

(Digital Drawing)

Day 3:

Garden Goblin

Garden Goblins like to cause mischief in your garden. Rather than directly attacking your plants, which is waaaay to obvious, they’ll instead make living conditions for your plants nightmarish, making you think that you are terrible at raising plants. Here we see one munching on an earthworm.

(Pen on Paper)

Day 4:

Goblin Idea

Goblin has an idea. Or a quest. The latter probably will get you killed, though to be fair, so will the former.

(Pen and Highlighter on Paper)

Day 5: Goblin Kitty Rider

Goblin Kitty Rider

All Goblin Kitty Riders come with a mandatory skateboard and monocle for the kitty. Anything less would be uncivilised.

(Digital Drawing)

Day 6: A Portrait of Goblin

A Portrait of Goblin

A goblin portrait for Goblin. His mother started numbering all her children, but she gave up after eight, so 9-? are just named goblin. But she loves them all.

(Digital Drawing)

Day 7: Goblin Karaoke

Goblin Karaoke

Little known fact: When a singer claims they have a muse, they actually mean they have a goblin that makes up the songs for them. Many goblins love singing, but the record industry doesn’t think that goblins would sell.

(Digital Drawing)

Check out my tumblr if you’d like to see not only my goblin drawings, but other random doodles and sketches!

Engram – Stumbling Across Jeong Ui-Ji

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Everyday, as we walk down the streets and live our lives, we form and reinforce memories of time, place, and things. A familiar scent can recall distant memories of childhood, or a song in a foreign land can make us think of our distant friends and family. Sometimes these memories feel locked deep, just waiting for the right key to unlock them and bring them out. This is where serendipity comes to play.

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As I walked around the Insadong area I stumbled by this statue. What’s this? It’s the kind of attention grabber any gallery would love to have. It’s recognisable, it stands out, its different enough, yet friendly and familiar. For me it stands precariously on the edge of cliché and popularism, yet remembering that the line between cliché and power, between the accessible and a sell-out isn’t so much a fine line as it is a giant, fuzzy blur, I decide to look closer.

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Revival-Moose  Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
240x220x140cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I’m not sure how I feel about this piece. I love the size. I love the brute power. However this particular piece isn’t quite… dynamic in movement. It’s a familiar kind of creature, yet it’s made of familiar objects. For my non-Korean audience, a good portion of this sculpture seems to be made of these nickel-silver pots:

They’re cheap and plentiful. Use them for cooking ramyeon (ramen). Look closer, you can see these pounded and disfigured forms creating the apparent bulk of the beast.

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Playing with the memories of discarded cooking ware and memories of fauna most have probably never seen in person. Interesting. Well, even though I have mixed feelings on this piece, I decided to enter the gallery to see what’s inside.

IMG_3019 An invitational exhibition of Jeong Ui-Ji called Engram.

Engram? That sounds familiar. What does that mean?

en·gram
noun
noun: engram; plural noun: engrams
  1.  hypothetical permanent change in the brain accounting for the existence of memory; a memory trace.

What traces of memory do we find?

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Engram 잊혀진 기억 2 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

The texture rich triptych is composed of abandoned cans crushed together and cut to create a flat surface. The frame is as much a part of this work as the cans contained. Fleeting memories of the thousands of times we thoughtlessly enjoy a drink. How many memories from childhood are crushed and compressed inside our failing, rusting mind?

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A growing trend in contemporary art seems to be that of ‘upcycling’, which is just a fancy rebranding of the word ‘reusing’ – but with a twist. It is to reuse but to create something of greater value than the original. A great way to get more money out of people willing to buy into branding. A reused or recycled object is dirty. An upcycled object, well, that’s special. This is not a new thing of course, but the rebranding of this action is. Forgive me, I love the idea, but I’m exceedingly cynical of the terminology and the shallow opportunistic feel it gives.

There were two more ‘Engrams’ of abandoned cans:

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Engram – 잊혀진 기억 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

Engram - 잊혀진 기억 3 (Forgotten Memory) Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)

(2014)
Abandoned Cans, Steel

These two are almost identical. While the texture is interesting, I can’t say I’m a fan. Overall the texture becomes very flat and similar overall. There is at least a little bit of variety in the triptych, though it suffers from the same problem. Up close though, it becomes a bit more interesting:

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A bit. I feel a little bad for not liking these more. It’s not quite as accessible as his Revival series due to the apparent abstract appearance. I do like the idea of buried or forgotten memories, but concept alone does not carry an idea for me.

While interesting, the real stars of the show are the other members of the Revival series. Meet the Kudu.

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Revival – Greater Kudu Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
200x120x220cm (2014)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

All for the low, low price of 16 million won. Or approximately $16,000.

I find this piece more impressive than the moose guarding the gallery. While not extreme, the posture is more dynamic with the twist of the head and the hind legs in a more natural pose. The ears seem to be scanning their surroundings, not quite focused on anything yet. I love the texture of the pot lids as they go down the spine and tail of the creature.

And to finish off this gallery exhibit are a pair of iguanas:

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Revival – Iguana Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
15x75x75cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

 

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Revival – Iguana 2 Jeong Ui-Ji (정의지)
113x50x15cm (2013)
Abandoned Nickel-Silver Pots, Rivets, Steel, Stainless Steel

I think I like these guys. The texture and rhythm of the nickel-silver pounded and moulded together in the familiar iguana shapes is entrancing. Or was that enchanting? If you get to the gallery before the exhibit gets pulled down (March 4th, 2014!) they include a nice little video showing how the artist created the work.

Or you could visit his blog over on Naver:

http://blog.naver.com/loveart21c

He has some very nice work up there. I particularly love the pangolins, which, after seeing them on the video and his blog, I wish had been at the exhibit. But we can’t have everything in life, now can we?

If you want to drop by before the show is taken down, check out:

Gallery Soo (갤러리수)
서울시 종로구 인사동5길 21

You can find it easily from the Insadong McDonalds. They usually have good shows there, so check ‘em out after the date too!

Intermission – The Year of the Wooden Horse (2014)

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Happy New Year!

Belated, yes, yes, I know. I’ve been distracted. Over the last few months I’ve been a bit busy, but mostly distracted. Aside from my regular work, I’ve…

Participated in Goblin Week

Finished a Painting

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Laid the Ground Work for my Next Painting

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Visited Jeonju

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Started Translating a Korean Picture Book

….

..

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These all will give me plenty of blogging fodder, so hopefully I’ll get a post or two a week. If I manage to not get too distracted. If I don’t have a huge work load next month. Crossing fingers!