Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600: A Review


In the recent past, the Asian empire, from China, to Thailand, to Malaysia, to Japan, to South Korea and finally to North Korea, to name a few of the countries, have been in the news. To understand, for example, what has led to the China- North Korea alliance, Park -Geun-hye’s election, or the intransigence of China, North Korea and Japan, one has to know and realize the significance of history.

So many sources of history are available. One is Soyoung Lee’s Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600,



published by the Yale University Press as a catalog for an exhibition of the same name housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to the exquisite pictures and detailed and insightful descriptions of pottery, paintings, and drawings, Art of the Korean Renaissance is a walk through the history of Korea relations with her people, China, and Japan. One can see how the close relationship with China evolved. The history, of course, merely touches on numerous points. In no way could the writers of the essays do more than a 101-style history lesson. It is a jumping off point. Avenues for further exploration are noted in the footnotes at the end of each chapter and an extensive bibliography.

The one area that I wonder about which I did not see touched on is how far the Korean Renaissance spanned northwards. In particular, what was the impact on Pyongyang and the area known now as North Korea? Was any of the art and pottery commonly found there? Other than those type questions, Soyoung Lee, JaHyun Kim Haboush, Sunpyo Hong, and Chin-Sung Chang delivers.