Wednesday, November 14, 2012

서예 - Korean Calligraphy

Six "fonts" for Hangul calligraphy; the phrase is: 창원한글학당: Changwon Hangul Hakdang (School). Plus, some hanja on the very left. I can read about half of the characters... pity.
Our calligraphy teachers demonstrating their skills!
Korean calligraphy, called 서예 (seoye), is an art that has been practiced in the country for hundreds, even thousands of years. The calligraphy that uses Chinese characters, which were introduced to the peninsula in the 2nd or 3rd century, is called 한자 (hanja). In 1443, King Sejong and his court invented a script for Korean that wasn't based in Chinese characters; this new writing system is called 한글 (hangeul), or Hangul. Currently, Korean calligraphy includes character writing in hanja and Hangul, as well as minimalist still life paintings of things like trees and flowers.

Yesterday was "Korean Culture Day" at the Korean class in Jungang-dong. I was only vaguely aware that there would be some food provided at the class, but what I didn't realize was that we were going to have a husband-and-wife pair of calligraphers come to show us their art and teach us the art itself. That, plus the 귤 (kyul/tangerines), 김밥 (kimbap/rice rolls), and 떡 (tteok/rice cakes) made it a party.

There was also a lottery at the end of the class/party, where winners received a calligraphy painting done by one of our teachers. I was the first one called! That's unusual... I almost never win lotteries of any kind. But I took home a nice painting of some reeds, as well as a painting of a hanja character: 忍 (Mandarin: rěn; Korean: in), which means "longsuffering", that the teacher did for me just on a whim.

It was fun to chat with the Korean teachers about hanja and how much they did or did not know. I also had a casual conversation with one of them about his Mandarin studies in college. A feeble attempt to retain my rapidly declining Mandarin...

Well, I didn't learn much Korean yesterday, but I got a taste of Korean culture, plus some souvenirs, so I guess that's good enough!
They also helped some of us make our own paintings! According to the teacher, traditional Korean painting is much simpler and minimalist than what you'll find in most Chinese paintings. There's a lot of white space left on the canvas.