This Online Gallery introduces the major belief (Shamanism), religion (Buddhism), and philosophy (Neo-Confucianism) that have shaped modern-day Korea in various ways.
Description: This Online Gallery introduces the major belief (Shamanism), religion (Buddhism), and philosophy (Neo-Confucianism) that have shaped modern-day Korea in various ways. It explores the range of works in the MFA’s renowned Korean collection, including ceramics, paintings, and sculptures. The images of artworks demonstrate connections between art and the important role of Shamanism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism, which have influenced almost all aspects of Korean culture today.
Korea’s ancient shamanistic belief reflects its Siberian origins in the worshipping of natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, and mountains. Shamanism was widely practiced in early Korea during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE – 668 CE), until the arrival of Buddhism in the sixth century via China. Although Shamanism was gradually replaced by Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, it is still practiced in contemporary Korea, particularly by women.
Buddhism originated in India around the fifth century BCE and reached the Korean peninsula around the sixth century CE. Despite its foreign roots, Buddhism came to be an influential political, religious, and cultural force through the three Korean kingdoms (57 BCE – 668 CE) and the Unified Silla period (668 - 936 CE). Buddhism was not only a religion and the way of life in Korea, but also an effective unifying force for the state.
With the establishment of the Joseon dynasty in 1392, Neo-Confucianism quickly replaced Buddhism, which had been a state-sanctioned religion for more than a thousand years. Although the new government officially rejected Buddhism, private worship and artistic production of Buddhism continued. Based on the moral and ethical teachings of Confucius (551-479 BCE), the Confucian philosophy dominated Korea from the fourteenth century. The legacy of Confucianism can still be seen in modern Korea, for example, in the respect shown for elders and education, as well as in the tendency for men to dominate society.
In addition to the basic concepts of Shamanism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism in Korea, this Online Gallery offers an opportunity for students to learn about Korea’s geographical location and how it affected its religious and cultural development over two thousand years.
- The basic concept of Shamanism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucian philosophy.
- The role of belief, religion, and philosophy in Korea’s artistic production.
- Various symbols used in religious art in Korea.
Using this Resource:
- Social Studies teachers and students will be interested in the historical and artistic developments of Shamanism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism in Korea. This Online Gallery will also encourage students to cultivate a greater awareness of the religion and philosophy that are important to Asian language speaking cultures, including Korea.
- Art teachers and students will be interested in the methods, materials, and techniques used to make the objects utilized in Shamanist, Buddhist, and Confucian rituals and rites. This Online Gallery will also enable students to understand the use of symbols in art.
- Korean Language teachers and students will become knowledgeable in the religion and philosophy. Understanding the development of religion and philosophy will deepen the knowledge of cultural, social, and political aspects of Korean culture.
For sample related classroom activities, download the PDFs available under Related Resources. The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. We encorage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web source -- or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries -- to look for other objects that will provide further insights into this topic.