조선시대 회화에 나타난 팔선(The Eight Immortals in Joseon Dynasty Painting)
2021년 가을 증산도문화사상 국제학술대회 발표논문
The Eight Immortals in Joseon Dynasty Painting
Nelly Russ, Korea University
4. Group images of the Eight Immortals in multifigured Sinseondo
Images of the Eight Immortals were an essential part of the genre Sinseondo (Paintings of Immortals) of the late Joseon period. Korean painters domesticated a theme that was particularly popular in Chinese art, however, group images of the Eight Immortals failed to form an independent theme in Joseon painting in the sense they did in China. Although the majority of small and large group representations of immortals include its members, the assembly was not treated as a separate painting subject. Questions arise as to what extent was the Eight Immortals’ integrity preserved following its transmission to Korea, how was the theme adapted by Joseon painters, and what specifically Korean versions were produced in response to the local discourse. In this survey, their depictions will be approached in the broader context of multi-figured compositions of the genre Sinseondo with addressing the related issue of their perception and practical use by Joseon intellectuals who had a predominantly Neo-Confucian mindset. Regarding the parameters of transmission of the assembly to Korea, an important factor defining the initial perception of the Chinese Eight Immortals by the Korean people was the existence of an indigenous cult of Eight Immortals deeply rooted in the tradition of mountain worship and native to the peninsula.
In the collection of Dong-A University Museum there is a painting of the Eight Immortals floating on the sea waves attributed to Kim Hongdo. The tightly crowded figures fill the whole space of the painting surface while the waves are hardly noticeable at the bottom part. The painting is square and cropped at the four sides. Zhongli Quan is depicted heavily drunk and supported by Han Xiangzi. This work stands in sharp contrast to Korean depictions of the Eight immortals that gained sway in the 18th - 19th century. With figures in close up and tightly packed, it rather stands in a row with Chinese representations from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The most essential mark though is that it features exclusively the members of the Eight Immortals assembly, with no inclusion of other characters, which is highly unusual for the Korean tradition. In producing this work, Kim Hongdo was most probably inspired by a Chinese original.
The Eight Immortals is only one among the numerous themes derived from China in Korean art. However, its special status in its homeland makes the issue of the ways it was transformed and reinterpreted in Korea a matter of particular interest. Images of the Eight Immortals produced by Korean painters pose a number of questions. Their ubiquitous presence in Korean figure painting from the 17th-early 20th century is a fact. The large majority of small and large group paintings of Daoist immortals include some or all members of the group; however, there is no painting where the whole assembly is featured together as an independent subject. The purpose of this survey is to investigate more deeply the Eight Immortals in Joseon art in order to cast light on this paradox. I will address the following issues, to what extent was the Eight Immortals’ integrity preserved following its transmission to Korea, how was the theme domesticated by Joseon painters, and what specifically Korean versions were produced in response to the local discourse. I will also address the question, what Chinese prototypes served as a referential source of knowledge in iconography and hagiography for Korean painters. Providing answers to these questions would explain the status of the assembly in Joseon and unveil the ways in which Korean painters manipulated a theme, marked by exceptional popularity in Chinese art. In addition, I will propose some clues to the problem of the highly versatile iconographies characteristic for the assembly, starting from the earliest stage of its development in Joseon painting.