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Posted : 2013-03-19 20:01
Updated : 2013-03-19 20:01

Museum tour offers close look into embroidery pieces

A semiformal robe on display at the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum

By John Redmond


Embroidery is one of humankind's oldest art forms, and for millennia people around the world have utilized needle and thread to embellish textiles with dazzling colors and patterns.

On an excursion on March 23, the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch (RASKB) provides a visually stunning exploration of embroidered silk masterpieces in several of Korea's greatest collections of this art form.

The excursion includes the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum, the Sookmyung Women's University Museum and the Museum of Korean Embroidery. It offers the opportunity for visitors to purchase some magnificent needlework for yourself.

The group will meet at the Yongsan Post Office at 9:00 a.m., and from there proceed to two of Seoul's newer museums — the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum and Sookmyung Women's University Museum.

Opened in May 2005, the embroidery museum houses an extensive collection of embroidered textiles representing various historical periods and geographical regions.

Primarily focused on East Asian costume and decorative arts, the museum's permanent collection ranks among the most comprehensive of its kind in Asia, and encompasses a broad range of embroidery from around the world.

The spectacularly embroidered imperial robes, military uniforms, folding screens, wedding robes, rank insignia, and various types of garments, accessories, and furnishings are on display.

Those pieces created over the last 2,000 years in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other countries illustrate the characteristic forms, techniques, and ornament of East Asian silk embroidery as well as the historical significance, expressive potential, and profound beauty of the embroiderer's art.

Beautifully arranged and dramatically lit within an elegantly designed gallery, the museum's large, colorful, and sumptuous exhibition provides a stimulating feast for the senses.

The tour will proceed to Sookmyung Women's University Museum, housed within the same complex as the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum and displayed within equally well-appointed galleries.

As part of a women's university, the main museum at Sookmyung focuses primarily on women's roles, lifestyles, and creativity in Korean society. In Korea, particularly during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) when women were largely confined within their homes and received no formal education, embroidery represented the primary outlet for women's creative expression.

The skillfully worked textiles the women left behind rank among the nation's greatest artistic treasures. As Sookmyung was founded by Korea's royal family, the museum houses a large collection of clothing, costume accessories, and jewelry worn by the Yi royal family.

In keeping with the theme of the excursion, we will focus on the embroidered textiles in the museum collection. Among the highlights are a rare eight-panel screen embroidered by Sin Saimdang (1504-1551), Joseon Kingdom's greatest female artist, an extensive collection of Korean rank badges, and the reconstructed studio of one of Korea's most renowned 20th century embroiderers, Yi Hak.

The Sookmyung museum complex offers indulgence not only for the eyes, but also for the stomach, and after a morning spent enjoying the beautiful embroideries here, we will proceed to lunch at a newly opened restaurant called Gotsandal.

Operated by Sookmyung's Korean Culinary Institute, Gotsandal serves Korean cuisine prepared with only the finest, organically grown ingredients. Choices range from simple noodle soups to more substantial offerings. Those who wish to bring their own lunch or prefer Western fast foods may dine in a café attached to the Museum.

After lunch, visitors proceed south of the Han River to the Museum of Korean Embroidery, which pioneered the study and display of historic Korean needlework.

The museum has been collecting, researching, and exhibiting traditional embroidered works, wrapping cloths, and costumes since 1976, and has organized more than 30 local and international exhibitions.

The founder and director of the museum, Huh Dong-hwa will be the host of the tour, giving visitors a private excursion of the many masterpieces in his collection. Huh was one of the first in Korea to recognize the contribution of women to Korea's rich and varied culture, and has spent half his life collecting and researching the treasures now housed in his Museum.

Visitors will have the chance for up-close examination of fantastically embroidered screens, Buddhist textiles, wrapping cloths, and other textiles, as well as sewing implements.

The tour will also stop by some embroidery shops where people will see many beautifully embroidered textiles available for sale.

"Although we will have spent the day examining many wonderful historical examples of embroidery, in this those shops we will see that this ancient art form remains a vibrant, constantly evolving creative outlet for Korean women," states a press release.

The cost of the excursion is 29,500 won for members and 35,400 won for non-members. This cost only covers transportation. The bus will leave from the Yongsan Post Office just outside exit 1 of Sinyongsan Station (Subway line number 4, blue line) at 9 a.m. and return at 4:30 p.m.

For more information, contact royalasiatickorea@gmail.com.


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