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CHA to designate 17th century Buddhist sculpture as treasure

The Ven. Hyunjin’s Wooden “Seated Amitabha Buddha” from the temple Baekyangsa in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province (Cultural Heritage Administration)
The Ven. Hyunjin’s Wooden “Seated Amitabha Buddha” from the temple Baekyangsa in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province (Cultural Heritage Administration)

The Cultural Heritage Administration on Wednesday announced that it will designate the Ven. Hyunjin’s earliest sculpture from the 17th century as treasure.

The piece is called “Jangseong Baekyangsa Mokjoamitayeoraejwasang,” or “Wooden Seated Amitabha Buddha” from the temple Baekyangsa in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province. The sculpture is a 208-centimeter-tall statue that the Ven. Hyunjin created with the Ven. Hueil and the Ven. Moonseub in 1607.

The Ven. Hyunjin was a renowned sculptor who also led a project to restore Buddhist sculptures that were lost or damaged during the 1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea.

According to CHA, the sculpture from Jangseong was created with an aspiration for the country’s royal ancestors to attain Buddhahood, a goal of the Buddhist path. The sculpture demonstrates a natural and realistic body structure as the Ven. Hyunjin used a woodcarving technique to form the frame and then added mud for details.

Along with the Ven. Hyunjin’s work, another Buddhist sculpture, “Sangju Namjangsa Gwaneumsunwon Mokjogwaneunbosalsang,” or “Wooden Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva” from Gwaneum Hermitage of Namjangsa in Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, was also selected to become a treasure on Wednesday. CHA estimates that the statue from Sangju was created in the 15th century. Although details about the statue have not yet been discovered, CHA believes it is valuable for its depiction of the body and wrinkles on the robes. The administration also views the piece as representing the unique sculptural style from the 15th century.

Meanwhile, CHA on Wednesday also announced that it will delist National Treasure No. 168, “White Porcelain Bottle with Plum and Chrysanthemum Design in Underglaze Copper.” The vase from the Joseon era was designated as a national treasure in 1974, but its value has been in question since 2018. According to recent research, experts say the vase is not originally from Korea as many similar pieces have been found in China. The experts also evaluated the vase to be of poor quality.

The final decision for both listing and delisting will be made after CHA‘s Cultural Heritage Committee reviews opinions from diverse experts over the next 30 days.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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