A New Middle Kingdom
Painting and Cultural Politics in Late Chosŏn Korea (1700-1850)
By J. P. Park
University of Washington Press
Historians have claimed that when social stability returned to Korea after devastating invasions by the Japanese and Manchus around the turn of the seventeenth century, the late Chosŏn dynasty was a period of unprecedented economic and cultural renaissance, in which prosperity manifested itself in new programs and styles of visual art. A New Middle Kingdom questions this belief, claiming instead that true-view landscape and genre paintings were likely adopted to propagandize social harmony under Chosŏn rule and to justify the status, wealth, and land grabs of the ruling class. This book also documents the popularity of art books from China and their misunderstanding by Koreans and, most controversially, Korean enthusiasm for artistic programs from Edo Japan, thus challenging academic stereotypes and nationalistic tendencies in the scholarship about the Chosŏn period. As the first truly interdisciplinary study of Korean art, A New Middle Kingdom points to realities of late Chosŏn society that its visual art seemed to hide and deny.
Brings important new insights to the understanding of Korean painting. Careful research such as Park's-incorporating history, literature, trade, cultural values, and painting-is long overdue in Korean art history.
Extremely thought provoking. Offers a wealth of new information to the Western reader and is a most valuable contribution to Korean art and Korean cultural and social history.
J. P. Park's remarkable erudition permits him to question a host of hasty generalizations that continue to haunt the historiography of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese art. Densely documented yet easy to read, this book may set a new standard for regional studies of East Asian art, an exemplary instance of transcultural scholarship.
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