“Mutual Interchange Between Korea, China, and Japan through Oriental Painting”

CSIA 2012 Project Research(Term Paper)

Mutual interchange

Between Korea, China, and Japan

Through Oriental Painting

May 29, 2012

Students Joo Yeon Lim
Supervisor 조형우 선생님
Advisor 조형우 선생님



ABSTRACT……………………………………………………… iv

Ⅰ. INTRODUCTION…………………………………………… 1

1. Purpose of Research

2. Method of Research


1. What is “Chinese Character Cultural Sphere”

(1) Chinese Characters

① Korea

② China

③ Japan

III. ORIENTAL PAINTING…………………………………………… 6

1. Introduction of Oriental Painting

2. Compare and Contrast of Oriental Painting in each nation

(1) Korean Oriental Painting

(2) Chinese Oriental Painting

(3) Japanese Oriental Painting

3. Aspects of Traditions and Culture reflected through Paintings

(1) Traditions and Culture

(2) How Oriental Painting is different from Western Art

IV. CONCLUSION…………………………………………… 14


(1) Art in modern society

(2) Solutions to inform the modern society on Oriental Art

REFERENCE…………………………………………………… 17


[Table 1] Chinese Characters of Korea, China, and Japan…………4


[Figure 1] The Battle of San Romano, 1438-40……………………6

[Figure 2] Journey of the Magi, 1459-62……………………………7

[Figure 3] Pomegranate 3, 1988………………………………………8

[Figure 4] Lotus in Rain, 1982………………………………………8

[Figure 5] Day lily and frog, ?………………………………………9

[Figure 6] Dalmado, 1636-37…………………………………………10

[Figure 7] Lunch, 1780?………………………………………………10

[Figure 8] Snowscape-01(no.10), 1987………………………………11

[Figure 9] Protection, ?……………………………………………… 11

[Figure 10] Early Spring, 1072………………………………………12

[Figure 11] Confucius, ?………………………………………………12

[Figure 12] Fall landscape, ?…………………………………………13

[Figure 13] Portrait of Uragami Kyokudo, ?………………………13

[Figure 14] Belle, 18centuries………………………………………13


   Even though the art of Asia is the Oriental Art which contains its own personality as a representative of Asia, most of the people are not well informed on Oriental Art and is often times considered as a humdrum image. Despite its own comfort and warmth, Oriental paintings are not as widespread as the Western paintings.

Personally even when I was studying the history of Art I have no doubt that more than eighty percent of the art history was about the western art even when it was taught by a Korean school. Although we know the chronology and the aspects of each eras of artistic movements in western nations, we are not aware of the characteristics of Oriental paintings.

Thus, in order to maximize the efficiency in notifying the world on Oriental Art I believed that converging the efforts of all Korea, China, and Japan was one of the most prestigious way to lead such movements since they are basically the major three nations that are tied to each other both culturally and historically when people imagine the word “Asia”.

Starting out by introducing what Oriental Art is, comparing and contrasting the features of each nations under both the cultural sphere of Chinese characters and Oriental paintings provides analysis on how each nations are sharing similarities but yet contains differences and is looked forward to share connections with each other.

Although it may seem mere, an effort by an individual to have eagerness to learn about what Oriental paintings are and to have passion to widespread his or her knowledge to the others who are not informed could contribute greatly to the development and popularization of Oriental paintings. Thus, in expansion. the government should also seek rational solutions to the ignorance that most people have toward Oriental paintings.


1. Purpose of Research

Since Korea, China, and Japan had settled as a nation, they have been influencing each other in diverse fields. Maintaining a mutual relationship, and specifically through Chinese characters(漢字), they have established a distinctive culture such which is evident through their own traditional form of art, known as the “Oriental painting”.

Thus, this research aims to find out the most effective way for these three countries to maintain yet develop their mutual relationship through Oriental painting. Especially because there is more attention given to Western art these days, an emphasis on Asian Painting is needed so that more people in the world can recognize an area of art that might be new to them considering the fact that it contains various features that are different from that of the West.

Based upon the fact that Korea, China, and Japan have been inhabited in the cultural sphere of Chinese characters, the Oriental painting is one of the most effective way to compare and contrast the features of the bridge that these three countries have been building in the field of art.

2. Method of Research

Primarily, because the research is conducted by a high school student, there were several restrictions that followed. First and foremost, compared to any research papers especially that are usually done by an expert of certain area or at least a person with a master degree or Ph.D., this research may lack expertness. Moreover, because there are limited sources of information and a method to conduct a research, this research may seem parochial from some of the reader’s perspective. However, in order to overcome these following restrictions, this research was progressed by referring to diverse books and previous research papers so that it could establish accuracy as a research paper.

As mentioned above, the method of the research will be mainly based on various books and research papers that were written by other professionals. Furthermore, because the research is not only about referring to the written words and also in order to reflect more of a reality into the paper, this research plans to hold an interview with a professor who is currently working in a school and lecturing students on the subject of art.


1. What Is “Chinese Character Cultural Sphere”

 (1) Chinese Characters

“漢字(Chinese Characters)” conveys the meaning of “the letters of China”, which is combined with “漢” meaning the Han dynasty and “字”meaning characters. The origins of Chinese character date back over to the period where pictorial cliff carvings were recorded which was during 6000-5000B.C. Moreover, there are also an investigation that asserts that basis of Chinese character is actually from the inscription on tortoise shells that seems to be from 6600-6200B.C.

Although few documents such as Han Fei Tzu say that the creation of Chinese character is believed to be done by Cangjie (c. 2650 BC), who was a bureaucrat during the reign of the Yellow Emperor, most of the experts disagree to this point.

Those who assert that Cangjie (Cangjie) brought up the creation of Chinese characters say that while he was hunting, he found a tortoise and its veins, which caught his attention. He became curious about it and his curiosity had led him to conduct a study on the “logical relation” of the veins, animals and even of the nature and the environment. Thus, he extended his study and invented the first Chinese characters-zi(字).

While on the other hand, most of the investigators or professionals affirm that it would have been impossible for an individual to contrive a character by himself and that it would have also been impossible for such foundation of Chinese characters to be created during one certain period since a language is more about the gradual composition that develops as time pass by rather than a temporary creation.

Thus, the actual existing record that shows the earliest form of Chinese character is “the oracle-bone inscriptions”. Specifically, during the Shang dynasty (1200-1050BC), China had composed a well developed writing system through the oracle bones and was identified by experts in 1899. Although only less than a half of the written letters were deciphered based on current/late Chinese characters and professionals, this oracle bone script is the oldest Chinese inscriptions.

Accordingly, “The amount of Chinese characters that are in common use differs depending on each countries. Korea has 80 letters, China has 727 letters and Japan has 170 letters(Kim 56).” Although there are some differences in the amount of the Chinese characters that are commonly used, all of these three nations shared common features in the exterior shape of each characters as it is evident through the image provided below

Korea China Japan Meaning

[Table 1] Chinese Characters of Korea, China, and Japan

① Korea

Although Chinese characters are crucial to Koreans’ literacy, in comparison to China and Japan, Koreans usage of Chinese characters are less often. Thus, Korea uses the traditional form, which is different from the simplified form that of other nations. Similar to the Chinese characters that Taiwan uses, Korean Chinese characters maintain its original form that is more complex than the simplified version. Moreover, because Korea makes use of “Hangeul”, its own language which basically means “Korean” as a language, Chinese characters are used in order to express certain terminologies or idioms when writing news articles, research papers, or any other official reports.

② China

From the first place, because Chinese characters originated from China, it is used whenever Chinese read or write. Just like how English use the alphabets and is composed by it, Chinese as a language is established by each Chinese characters and even the culture of China is founded under the cultural sphere of Chinese characters. Thus, for its convenience Chinese characters use the simplified form, which has reduced how many strokes each characters require. For instance, even when writing a letter that means ‘country’, the traditional Chinese character requires eleven brush strokes; on the other hand, the simplified Chinese character of the same letter requires only eight brush strokes, which is shown in the chart mentioned above.

③ Japan

Similar to that of China, Japan uses the simplified Chinese characters. As Japan makes use of ひらがな(hiragana) カタカナ(katakana), their own language, the Chinese characters are used together. Therefore, just like China who uses Chinese characters all the time, it is crucial to know how to read and write Chinese characters and for its convenience, Japan also uses the simplified form.


1. Introduction Of Oriental Painting

The classification of Oriental Painting depends on the materials used for each painting: ink-and-wash painting, colored painting, and so on. Moreover, the types of oriental painting differ on the subject and topic: landscape, figure, flowers and birds, insects on the grass, and so on.

Although western arts are categorized into various fields according to certain standards, its general purpose of art was slightly different from that of Oriental paintings. For instance, especially the European art has contained a lot of paintings that were created for or patronized over the centuries for the powerful family such as the Medici family, which is evident through Paolo Uccello’s “The Battle of San Romano” and Benozzo Gozzoli’s “Journey of the Magi” during the Florence Renaissance.

[Figure 1] Uccello, The Battle of San Romano, 1438-40

[Figure 2] Gozzoli, Journey of the Magi, 1459-62

   On the other hand, the purpose of Oriental paintings was not centered on the patrons or certain families and instead it is believed to have contained more of a purpose to reflect “relaxation, comfort and artistry(Lee 147)” Therefore, the paintings were more related to the nature, life, and landscape. Moreover, following to the feature of how the paintings were related to such subjects, it also contains a lots of symbolism.

Each subjects had their own implications. “For instance fruits that are composed in clusters such as pomegranate, grape, and bottle gourd means fertility and fecundity. Moreover, such fruits were always drawn entwined in vines because people believed that generation of descendants will not stop and continue perpetually when they draw in such way. Furthermore, flowers like lotus conveys the meaning of simplicity which means a life without any luxury extravagance, which is referred from the life cycle of a lotus itself. It’s true that lotus represents Buddhism. However rather than the religious ideal, because the petals and leaves of the lotus is fancy and clean while the roots of lotus is sink under murky mud it means that the parent’s endurance of hard life worth it (Cho 107). “

[Figure 3] Jae-Hun Kim, Pomegranate 3, 1988

[Figure 4] Dae-Chun Jang, Lotus in Rain, 1982

   Developed in Asia, Oriental Painting shows various similarities and differences between Korea, China, and Japan since it was the major nations where it developed and because the three nations are both closely related to each other in diverse aspects and located close to each other geographically.

2. Compare And Contrast Of Oriental Painting In Each Nation

(1) Korean Oriental Painting

Overall, Korean Oriental Painting conveys the sense of humane and comfort with mildness when depicting landscapes or any other subjects. Similar to both China and Japan, Korean oriental painting also reflects the influences of Buddhism and Confucianism.

[Figure 5] Saim-dang Shin, Day lily and Frog, ?

[Figure 6] Myeong-guk Kim, Dalmado, 1636-1637

[Figure 7] Heung-Do Kim, Lunch, 1780?

[Figure 8] Bum-Ho Meng, Snowscape-01(no.10), 1987

(2) Chinese Oriental Painting

Also strongly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism, Chinese Oriental paintings shows the typical features of Asian paintings. Moreover, it especially depicts the portrayal of philosophers such as Confucius and Mencius since Confucianism originated from China.

[Figure 9] Baek-In Moon, Protection, ?

[Figure 10] Hee-Gwak, Early Spring, 1072

Confucius Tang Dynasty.jpg

[Figure 11] Do-Hyun Oh, Confucius, ?

(3) Japanese Oriental Painting

Influenced by the western culture earlier than other two nations, Japanese Oriental paintings tend to be more estimated and calculated in that the figures or the subjects seems to tally with each other.

[Figure 12] Setshu Doyo, Fall Landscape, ?

[Figure 13] Uragami Kin, portrait of Uragami Kyokudo, ?

[Figure 14] unknown artist, Belle, 18c

3. Aspects Of Traditions And Culture Reflected Through Paintings

(1) Traditions and Culture

As it was mentioned previously, Oriental Paintings reflect the historical and cultural aspects of each era. Overall, considering the fact that Korea, China, and Japan all shared the features of Buddhism and Confucianism, they show similarities in their subjects or the purpose of drawing. However, the way they express their message or the portrait of the society during certain eras is all different depending on which nations the artists are from. It’s true that the impression varies among the artist who created the painting but they still share some features of each nation’s oriental paintings.

(2) How Oriental Painting Is Different From Western Art

Generally, in comparison to the Western paintings Oriental painting contains less diverse colors or subjects but is mostly related to the nature and environment. Even without the vibrant impressions, Oriental painting still possess calmness and comfort through its paintings.


1. Interchange Through Oriental Painting

(1) Art in modern society

In comparison to Western Art, Oriental Art is not well-known among the people these days. Thus, even the people in Korea, China, and Japan are more used to the Western Art since they had a lot of chances to get used to the western paintings that has spread its branches into diverse fields. For instance, especially to the students nowadays, a majority of them are used to the well-known western artists like Hamilton, Andy Warhol, or David Rachapelle, Davinci, Bernini, Mary Cassatt, Caravajjo and so on. On the other hand, they are not informed on Oriental artists who are usually less popularized to the people.

(2) Solutions to inform the modern society on Oriental Art

In order to solve such problems on ignorance on Oriental Art, people should find effective solutions that can maximize the effects. Therefore, all of Asian countries should cooperate each other.

Primarily, the support of the government in each nations is necessary. For instance, in Japan they invite and send celebrities of Oriental Art to foreign countries both to share knowledge or techniques and to acknowledge the other diplomats on Japan (Shin 10-11). Thus the government of every Asian nations should support financially and in diplomacy to alert the world on Oriental Painting. Specifically, the government could establish official organizations that works to publicize and widespread the awareness on Oriental Art or develop an already existing organizations by sponsoring.

Moreover, a advocacy on education of Oriental Painting could be more emphasized. Before trying to widespread the recognition to countries that are not included in Asia, the first step to take is to inform the people living in Asian nations on Oriental Art through education. For instance, the government can arrange free lectures in the city hall that provides chance for anyone interested in art or exhibitions that gives more opportunities to the people to easily get used to what Oriental Painting is. On the other hand, Ministry of Education can also publish specific textbooks that copes with Oriental painting and approaches to the readers with easy explanation that induce interests in Asian art.

Not only the public and official organizations but also individuals can participate in popularizing Oriental art. Although it may seem trivial, anyone can contact with their friends who are either abroad or were never aware of Oriental Art and can introduce what lies beneath it and how it is also valuable even though it is not widespread as western art.

Thus the very primary step that everyone in Asia should take is to first have interests in what Oriental Art is and discover how related it is to the emotion and sentiment of themselves in that it represents their country.


1. Books

Kim,Sun-Hyun.  Reading Oriental Painting with mind. EdamBooks, 2011. Print.

Cho,Yong-Jin. How to Understand Oriental Painting. Jibmundang,1998. Print.

Cho, Yong-Jin. What is Oriental Painting. Yulhwadang, 2002. Print.

2. Essays

Lee, Sun-Woo. “Understanding Oriental Painting.” TTA Journal  No.113: 147,148. Print.

Kim, Baik-gyun. “Finding new paradigm of east-west convergence.” Exhibition: borderline of Oriental and Western painting, Misulsegye. March, 2008: 76-79. Print.

3. Internet Articles

Canjie, Web. 24 April. 2012.                             <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cangjie/&gt;

4. Thesis Articles

Kang, Mingi. “Modern Seeking of Oriental Paintings: the Boundary between Korean Painting Techniques and Japanese Painting Techniques” (2010)

Kang, Mingi. “1930~1940s Haponism on Modern Oriental Painters: The and acceptance of Haponism “ (2009)

Kim, Baik-gyun. “The concept and effects of imagination in the theory of Oriental painting”(2007)

Kim, Hee-kyong. “Language and Linguistics.” “A study of the categorization of Chinese characters: For the Comparison of Chinese characters of Korean, Japanese and Chinese” (2011)

Shin, Seung-bin. “A study on cultural diplomacy based on arts exchange for building up East Asia Culture community”(2009)

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