Korean Face to Foreign Eyes


The period of the Three Kingdoms was the time that Korean nation had been completing the improved national structure. In the process of competition, understanding and development of each kingdom, those three dispatched delegations to China, Japanese Islands, Mongol highlands and further more far countries to the west of China to increase national interests. Those delegations naturally attracted foreigners' interests, and as a result several pictures describing them still exist.
Samarkand of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Russia was once the place where the nation of Sogd people, Iranian residents of 6th to 7th century, was growing, in which wall painting was found at some parts of the relics of that time in the Aprishap palace. The noticeable fact is that on the painting two persons regarded as Korean envoys were found.
The time this was drawn is the latter 7th century, which belongs to the latter period of the Three Kingdoms. They wear round collar, long-sleeved half-coat, long pants, big sword with circular ring at the end of the handle to one side of the waist, and convenient hat with two plumes on it. Their nationality is not accurately found out but the possibility that they belonged to Koguryo is much. At that time Koguryo was in desperate situation, facing the threat of Tang dynasty which was trying to build an Empire and at the back surrounded by Shilla, the newly rising power. As it devised to unit with even the far powers of Central Asia to break through this crisis, the envoys could have been dispatched to Samarkand as part of diplomatic policy.
Somewhat, the envoy of Baekje is drawn in the Liangzhigongtu belonging to Beijing History Museum in China. This painting is a kind of epistle, which describes the envoys from many countries bringing tributes to Liang dynasty with brief explanation about those countries. The original work of the existing painting which is the copy made in Song dynasty is estimated to be drawn by Suyi(later Liangyuandi) of the time of Liangwudi. The envoy of Baekje wears the long Korean topcoat with the left trail folded upon the right, wide pants, leather shoes and a kind of hat that can be tied up with strings. His face is very elegant, having well-defined features of long slanted eyes, big and handsome ears and nose, small and red lips and so on. This painting is not also the evidence of Baekje's diplomatic activity which was briskly negotiating with Nan dynasty of China but also one of the few important materials that shows the definite face of that time's Baekje people.
In the tomb of Lixian(the son of Gaozong, 654бн684), which was buried again in Qianling(Qianxian, Shanxi, China), the tomb of Tanggaozong, remain various wall paintings of hunting, honor guards, court ladies, music and dance performances, and foreign envoys. On the envoys' painting of these is found the Korean. This figure who wears the short Korean topcoat with the left trail folded upon the right, wide pants and hat with two feathers pinned is very characteristic with small but dignified stature, round and happy-looking face, the neat hair in a knot, raised eyebrows and eyes, high nose, full lips, and thin mustache. It's the obvious Korean face compared with the ones from the western world or northern nomadic tribes on either side. From the supposition that this wall painting is related to the activities reached before Lixian's death, the envoy is guessed to be the one of the early United Shilla.
Thus we can imagine that time's atmosphere of active international exchange by the ancient Korean features in those foreign relics.
The 1920's Korean manners and costumes described by American painter would be the writings and paintings that show the new viewpoint of foreigners on Korean culture. Though these paintings were published in 1946, in which they are printed is not published in Korea. The painter, Elizabeth Keith and the writer, Elspet Keith Robertson Scott are sisters. Robertson Scott had stayed in Korea from March to May in 1919, of which period is what she recorded in the book from her direct experiences. The painter, Elizabeth Keith had stayed for a few years right after her sister left, and visited Korea several times until 1936. They had different views on Korea with the missionaries who came before and after the opening of the port. They admitted the Korean culture and art as the separated from the Japanese and had considerate standpoint about Korean people.
The paintings are the descriptions of various faces from Korean lives such as a middle-aged man wearing a Korean topcoat with a pipe in his mouth in a restaurant, innocent children flying kites who are dressed in rainbow-striped garments, sight of a sewing woman's back, tired bride wearing a ceremonial coronet and Wonsam(Korean wedding dress made of satin or silk fabric with a purple collar, rainbow-striped sleeves and slits on the sides), a hat shop, studying children in a schoolhouse and playing kids, a widow with gentle but sad look, a government official with solemn look dressed in a court suit, etc. They look more realistic and the feeling seems to be expressed freely maybe because they were reflected to the foreigner.