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Korean Culture Series

Under its "Korean Culture Series," the Foundation publishes informational books in English to provide an in-depth explanation about various aspects of Korean culture to general readers. In early 2007, the Foundation will be publishing Seasonal Customs of Korea (Vol. 7), Buddhist Sculptures of Korea (Vol. 8), and Buddhist Architecture of Korea (Vol. 9). In addition, another eight volumes are currently in the works, on such subjects as Korea's traditional music, Jongmyo and Munmyo rituals, folk dance, court dance, traditional performing arts, ceramics, and wood and metal craftwork.

< Seasonal Customs of Korea >

◀ Seasonal Customs of Korea serves as an especially useful and comprehensive introduction to the seasonal customs of the Korean people.

A growing number of social customs practiced just a generation ago have already disappeared or are gradually being forgotten amidst the tumultuous change of Korea's modern-day society. Although various traditional customs are no longer overtly practiced, the essence of the past still manages to manifest itself in the present time. Seasonal traditions and annual rites, observed from long ago, continue to influence the behavior and attitudes of the Korean people.

Seasonal Customs of Korea has been written by Professor David Shaffer, College of Foreign Studies, Chosun University. Professor Shaffer, also known by his Korean name of Shin Dong-il, has been curious about Korean seasonal customs ever since he came to Korea about 30 years ago and began to study Korean culture. As such, this book is based on his personal experiences in Korea and related reference materials. Although writing about Korea's thousands of years of culture and tradition can pose a daunting challenge, Professor Shaffer very much enjoyed the task of describing in detail Korea's longstanding social customs. In fact, he notes that his attachment to Korean traditions has only deepened over time. The author depicts, in a straightforward manner, a variety of traditional customs in which he has participated, such as the burning of dry grass on the embankments of rice fields (jwibulnori) and circle dance (ganggangsullae), on the first full-moon evening of the lunar year; hanging of auspicious writings on the front gate on Ipchun, the first day of spring; and preparing kimchi, which might be commonplace to Koreans but unique to foreigners.

There are a few existing books in English on Korea's traditional customs. However, with Seasonal Customs of Korea being based on the firsthand experiences of Professor Shaffer, the book serves as an especially useful and comprehensive introduction to the seasonal customs of the Korean people. In addition, the book features vivid photographs that highlight the key points of the narrative deions of Korea's seasonal customs and social traditions.



< Buddhist Sculptures of Korea >

◀ Buddhist Sculptures of Korea depicts how Buddhist art remains alive and well in the everyday life of the common people today.

Written by Professor Kim Lena, College of Fine Arts, Hongik University, Buddhist Sculptures of Korea provides a comprehensive overview of the Buddhist sculptures of Korea, from the Three Kingdoms Period through the Joseon Dynasty, based on her 40 years of related research. Thus far, books on Korea's Buddhist sculpture have been published mainly in Korean or Japanese. A handful of scholarly publications or catalogues have been published in English on Buddhist art, however, these have tended to cover Buddhist sculpture rather broadly or focus on individual artifacts. Therefore, Buddhist Sculptures of Korea will serve as a valuable reference resource for general readers who have an interest in learning about the culture of Buddhist sculpture in Korea.

From a historical perspective and through comparisons of Buddhist principles, iconography, and forms, the author differentiates the Buddhist sculpture of Korea from that of China and Japan, which are generally better known to foreigners. With a focus on various elements of the development processes, changes, and standardization of Buddhist sculpture throughout history, the author provides in_depth deions of Buddhist Sculpture from the Joseon era, which has only been covered more generally in existing publications. Contrary to conventional wisdom that Buddhist art declined noticeably after the fall of Goryeo, because of the Joseon Dynasty's endorsement of Confucianism and suppression of Buddhism, the author demonstrates how Buddhist art remained alive and well in the everyday life of the common people.

Although targeted for general readers without specific knowledge about Buddhist art, the book offers footnotes on related research sources about Korea's Buddhist sculpture, for those interested in conducting further research. The book, which includes chapters on Buddhist sculpture during the Three Kingdoms Period as well as the Unified Silla, Goryeo, and Joseon periods, also features an abundance of photographs to help illustrate the various distinctions of sculptural style and details.

< Buddhist Architecture of Korea >

◀ Buddhist Architecture of Korea offers a systematic introduction to Korea's Buddhist architecture.

In Buddhist Architecture of Korea, Professor Kim Sung-woo, Department of Architectural Engineering, Yonsei University, focuses on the role that architecture played in Korea's Buddhist culture. While life at Buddhist temples and the austere practices of Buddhism can be a matter of spiritual complexity and religious consciousness, the author seeks to explain the physical characteristics of Buddhist-related architecture. There are already several books on this theme. However, Buddhist Architecture of Korea offers a systematic introduction to Korea's Buddhist architecture, which foreign readers will find easy to read and understand. To enhance understanding about Buddhist architecture in Korea, the book features overall deions that do not rely on technical explanations.

The book includes chapters on the background of Korea's Buddhist architecture, building layouts of Buddhist temples, basic principles of Buddhist architecture, design of interior spaces, and the notable characteristics of Buddhist architecture in Korea. In addition, there is chapter on distinguished Buddhist temples in Korea that are well worth visiting.

According to the author, this book should serve primarily as an introductory guide to Korea's Buddhist architecture, while encouraging readers to visit Korea in order to personally experience the more subtle characteristics of various Buddhist temples on the Korean Peninsula. In this way, people can see that the Buddhist architecture of Korea differs from that of China and Japan, not to mention the religious structures of the Western world. Even today, the influences of Buddhist architecture can be seen in Korea's contemporary buildings and architectural designs.


▶'Historical Evidence of Korean Sovereignty over Dokdo'

The Foundation has recently published Historical Evidence of Korean Sovereignty over Dokdo (Kyongsaewon Publishing Company), a compilation of historical documents and reference materials on Dokdo. Of note, the book is written in English as well as Korean in an effort to broaden international awareness on the significance of Dokdo, a valuable territory of Korea, and to make known a proper historical account of the disputed islets.
To provide clear evidence that Dokdo is undoubtedly Korean territory, the book includes references to 119 maps and 59 historical records that confirm Korea's sovereignty over the Dokdo Island in the East Sea. Annotation of the historical materials and a related research paper have been written by Dr. Lee Sang-tae, Chair Professor of Graduate Studies of Korea International Culture University, and former-chief of the Historical Document Research Section of the National Institute of Korean History, who has dedicated his professional career to the research of historical geography and old maps. As such, Dr. Lee is recognized as one of Korea's foremost authorities on matters related to Dokdo and the East Sea.
It is especially meaningful that this compilation of historical documents, maps, and reference materials of Korea's sovereignty of Dokdo has been published in English. As such, Historical Evidence of Korean Sovereignty over Dokdo is expected to serve as a valuable resource for setting the record straight, in regard to the Dokdo controversy, among English-language readers.