A dancheong in Seoul.
Dancheong (Korean: 단청) refers to Korean traditional decorative coloring on wooden buildings and artifacts for the purpose of style. It literally means "cinnabar and blue-green" in Korean. It is based on five basic colors; blue (east), white (west), red (south), black (north), and yellow (center). Dancheong has various symbolic meanings. Dancheong also represented social status and rank by using various patterns and colors. It functions not only as decoration, but also for practical purposes such as to protect building surfaces against temperature and to make the crudeness of materials less conspicuous. Applying dancheong on the surfaces of buildings require trained skills, and artisans called dancheongjang (단청장) designed the painted patterns.
The origin of dancheong can be traced from cave paintings and wall paintings which appeared more than 20,000 years ago in the history of mankind, although they may be served for different purposes and functions from the stylized dancheong.
In the 12th century a document titled Goryeo Do-Kyung (高麗圖經) which literally means "Illustrated Account of Goryeo" (918-1392), the Chinese author Xu Jing described the luxurious dancheong on the places at that time. Goryeo Do-Kyung illustrates the dancheong in detail that the handrail was painted in red and decorated with vine-flowers. The coloring and patterns were very vivid, so that the palace stood out among other royal palaces. There are several examples of the dancheong from the Goryeo period such as Josadang (조사당) of Buseoksa Temple in Yeongju, Geukrakjeon (극락전) at Bongjeongsa Temple in Andong, and Daeungjeon (대웅전) of Sudeoksa Temple in Yesan.
Types of Dancheong
The system of patterns is categorized into four different types based on the structural characteristics and positions within the decorative composition. The four types include:
- Bidan munui
- Dandong munui
- Architecture of Korea
- Korean Buddhist temples
- Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Korea
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