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Korean Sculpture 

North Korea 도자기 (만수대 창작사)

The oldest known sculpture in Korea are some rock carvings at a riverside cliff named Pangudae in Kyongsangbuk-do Province.  Figurines were actively created in bronze, earthenware, clay during the Bronze Age.  Sculpture, however, did not formally begin untill the introduction of Buddhism to the Three Kingdoms.  All Three Kingdoms were enthusiastic about Buddhism, and Buddhist images and pagodas became a main theme of their artisans.


The Koyuryo Buddhas have lean elongated faces, prominent marks of a Buddha (usnisas) on mostly shaven heads, spiritually blended with the rugged style of Koguryo.  The most notable of Koguryo sculpture is the "Tongga Seventh Year" gilt-bronze Buddha.  Characteristics unique to Paekche sculpture are clearly evident in all the Buddhist images of the sixth century, characterized by warm, human features, a stately but relaxed body, and voluminous curvature under the robe.  Early Shilla sculptures are marked by Sui and Tang influences, such as round full faces, relaxed bodies, and realistic rendering of garments, which affected such famous works such as the Buddha in the Sokkuram Grotto.


Buddhist carving continued to flourish during Koryo, which produced a great number of Buddhist images and pagodas  die to state patronage of Buddhism.  The Buddha figures become distinctively Korean in the eyes and cheekbones, but figures were stiff and formal compared to the vitality of the previous periods.  Buddhist sculpture rapidly declined with the inception of the Choson Dynasty, as the rulers suppressed Buddhism, and sculpture suffered as a result.  After Choson, creativity was stifled even further during the Japanese colonial period, and most sculptors simply imitated Western techniques.  Modern sculpture became an art form in its own right in the sixties, when the opposing schools of realism and abstractionism grew and sculptors began to use a great variety of materials. 




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