Aspirations for the Pure Land Embodied in a Modern Korean Temple, Anyang’am
Vol. 22 No. 1
pp. 35~59 (all 25 pages)
court patronage, Korean Buddhist painting, lay Buddhist society,
pure land practice, royal votive temple
A binary model of patronage has often guided previous studies on modern Korean Buddhist paintings from the metropolitan area around present-day Seoul. This model sharply contrasts works sponsored by the royal court at the end of Chosŏn with those commissioned by abbots of prominent temples during the colonial period. In this model, formal features of paintings are aligned with social status and the political stance of patrons; court-sponsored works are considered as displaying conventional style and iconography, while those sponsored by abbots who collaborated with Japanese colonialists show new painting techniques and iconographic motifs. Yet the complex history of Korean Buddhism and its visual culture complicates any attempts to address the history of Korean Buddhist art at the turn of the twentieth century from a monolithic and linear perspective. The Buddhist art and architecture of Anyang’am, founded in 1889 by a devout layman who later became fully ordained, provide a case study for rethinking this binary model of art and patronage. My investigation reveals that the Buddhist art and architecture of the temple, dating from the 1890s to 1910s, show stylistic, iconographic, and spatial affinities with those sponsored in the region by the court a few decades earlier. I argue that the patron emulated royal sponsorship to promote the newly founded temple through visual representation. This study challenges the presumed relationship between art and patronage, while arguing that differences of painting styles and iconographic motifs are modulated by far more diverse factors rooted in the changing religious and cultural context.