Art & Places: Korean Dancheong Art

Emila Yusof

During my visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, I noticed that every building has a very attractive and vibrant paintings.

Curious of finding more about the art, I took pictures for the purpose of studying the design and went Yahoo-ing the net. I didn’t know what the name of the style was, but I just typed in “culture of Korea” and voila! I found a wiki page about the art. It is called Dancheong.

Dancheong is a multi-coloured decorative painting mostly done on wooden buildings and artifacts for the purpose of style and to protect surfaces and conceal the crudeness of materials.

Emila Yusof

Originally arriving with Buddhism when it was brought from China, the patterns of Dancheong were modified in Korea. It is said that during the Shilla period, Dancheong was even found on commoners’ home. Now it is limited to temples and palaces as well as some musical instruments.

Dancheong is based on five basic colors; blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (centre).

According to its design, colour and style, Dancheong is classified into five types: Gachil Dancheong, Geutgi Dancheong, Moru Dancheong, Geummoru Dancheong and Geum Dancheong.

There are also special kinds of Dancheong such as Gobun Dancheong, Chilbo Dancheong, Geumbak (Eunbak) Dancheong, Geumni (Eunni) Dancheong and Ottchil Dancheong.

Emila Yusof

Gachil Dancheong usually uses a green or reddish-brown monochromatic under-painting with no patterns. Geutgi Dancheong adds some decorative patterns by drawing black and white lines on a single-colored under-painting. Moru Dancheong draws a simple-shaped Meoricho (pattern) only on the ends of the bracket, and adds the finishing touches to the middle part of the bracket with black and white lines. Geummoru Dancheong is a crossover of Moru Dancheong and Geum Dancheong, adding some geometric patterns to Moru Dancheong. Geum Dancheong boasts the most colorful paintwork, with various kinds of elaborate silk patterns and Byeoljihwa (decorative pictures) drawn on the whole part of the bracket, except the part on which Meoricho is drawn.

The process of Dancheong is as follows: at first, workers begin to work with polishing the foundation of Dancheong. After applying boiled water including glue to the foundation, they prepare the drafting paper by coating it 5 times.

In order to put figures of drafting paper on a building, they must spread blue & green soil on it. When they tap a powder bag on framework-covered surface, it flows out from a hole and outlines the figures carved in the frame. After, they decorate the building with paint using the basic five colours.

Emial Yusof

Overall, I really love this one unique aspect of Korea. To me, art truly reflects the culture values of a country and I am glad that I had the chance to experience and see this art form myself.

Here’s my take on Dancheong on watercolor paper with my color preferences. It doesn’t have specific meaning as I was just exploring the design.

Sketch by Emila Yusof


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