New exhibition on the Joseon era at the ACM

The Sun, Moon and Five Peaks six-fold silk screen, from the Asian Civilisation Museum's Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life exhibition.
The Sun, Moon and Five Peaks six-fold silk screen, from the Asian Civilisation Museum's Joseon Korea: Court Treasures and City Life exhibition.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Asian Civilisations Museum's largest exhibition features 150 artefacts from the country's last and longest-running dynasty

Fans of Korean period dramas such as court romance Love In The Moonlight (2016) will be over the moon with a new blockbuster exhibition on the Joseon era, Korea's last and longest-running dynasty, at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM).

The Joseon Korea: Court Treasures And City Life exhibition, which opened last Saturday, is the museum's largest to date and the first of its scale to come from South Korea to Singapore.

The 500-year Joseon dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1897, fundamentally shaped Korean culture as it is known today, whether through hanbok fashion or the hangul writing system.

The exhibition, which was three years in the making, features more than 150 artefacts cherry-picked from South Korea's national museums, such as a sun and moon silk screen that the king sat in front of, or a 45m-long handscroll depicting in enormous detail the 6,000 people accompanying King Jeongjo on his visit to his father's tomb.

  • BOOK IT / JOSEON KOREA: COURT TREASURES AND CITY LIFE

  • WHERE: Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place

    WHEN: Till July 23; 10am to 7pm (Saturdays to Thursdays), 10am to 9pm (Fridays)

    ADMISSION: $10 (Singaporeans and permanent residents), $15 (tourists); admission to Becoming Again; Coming Together is free for all. Tickets include entry to permanent galleries. Visitors may inquire about concession prices at the visitor services counter

    INFO: acm.org.sg/exhibitions/joseon-korea

    CURATOR TOURS

    WHEN: May 12, June 9, July 14; 7.30 to 8.30pm

    ADMISSION: $25 a session, book at ACM front desk or at acmcuratortours.peatix.com. At least 15 people are needed to proceed. Registration closes a day before each tour. Payment must be made at the front desk or Peatix before then.

    SEOUL AWESOME! WEEKEND FESTIVAL

    WHEN: June 17, 1 to 9pm; June 18, 1 to 5pm

    ADMISSION: Free admission, including free entry to special exhibition

ACM director Kennie Ting, 38, says: "Many Singaporeans are familiar with Korean TV shows and music and food. There is a natural affinity and we hope that through this exhibition, they will find the origins of the things they are familiar with in popular Korean culture."

Curator Kan Shuyi, 33, hopes visitors will be drawn not just to the major artefacts, but also to the humbler ceramics, such as a "moon jar" of white porcelain which embodies the pure aesthetic of the era's neo-Confucianism, and a 17th-century vessel she describes as "the crazy dragon jar", on which is drawn a googly-eyed dragon that is more whimsical than fearsome.

The historical exhibition is accompanied by a multimedia art installation, Becoming Again; Coming Together, by award-winning South Korean artist Ran Hwang.

National Museum of Korea director-general Yi Young-Hoon, 60, says through a translator: "I hope through this exhibition, Singaporeans can better understand Koreans' minds and this will help mutual exchange and deepen relationships between our cultures."

Visitors describe the exhibition as "well-connected".

Tourist Hanne Larsen, 45, a senior museum consultant from Denmark, says: "The way it showed the historical context was very illustrative, otherwise, it would have been just a lot of beautiful artefacts you didn't understand."

Singaporean housewife Elena Lee, 55, a fan of Kdramas such as Saimdang, Light's Diary (2017), about a Joseon-era female artist, says: "I've always liked Korean history and would go to Wikipedia to read up about it. This is a good opportunity for me to see the real thing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'A look at life in Joseon Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe