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T'aenghwa (Hangul: 탱화, translation: "hanging-painting";[1] alternate: Hwaom zhenghua)[2] is a characteristic type of Korean Buddhist visual art.[3] A genre of Buddhist art, the paintings of icons can be on hanging scrolls, or framed pictures, or wall-paintings.[1] T'aenghwa may be small, private and made for indoor display, or large and made for outdoor display.[4] The craft is considered an extension of an earlier tradition of mural painting. There are no manuals that describe t'aenghwa painting, instead, the tradition preserves its models through paper stencils.[5] Though most of the Koryo era t'aenghwa are held in Japanese collections, museums in Berlin, Boston, and Cologne carry some as well.[1]

Buddhist hanging scroll from Joseon, cc. between 1768 and 1833


The t'aenghwa tradition was part of the Buddhist heritage that came to the Korean Peninsula during the Three Kingdoms period. The earliest paintings to survive date back to the late 13th century, late Koryo dynasty. The early t'aenghwa tradition followed the norms of Central Asian and Chinese traditions with regard to icon modelling and the use of stencils. Most of the early t'aenghwa were painted on silk gauze using mineral colours.[1] Popular themes included the Pure Land Buddhism (Korean: Chont'o) and Avalokiteśvara.[1] T'aenghwa were popular from the 17th century onwards. In the Chosŏn period, mural painting started to lose its popularity, making way for t'aenghwa.[6] The scrolls were often hang behind the central Buddhist sculpture in a Buddhist temple. This was meant to enhance the sculptural image as well as provide an ambiance to the temple interior. Towards the end of the 20th century, t'aenghwa were in decline.[7]

The t'aenghwa was considered more of a craft than a high art practice, thus novice monks who showed talent were trained on the tradition by painting various mandatory images.[8] Workshops were sometimes located within the temple grounds and it was here that painters shared their craft with pupils. In the past, painters worked on commission but with few competent masters of t'aenghwa painting left, the tradition may die out within the next couple of generations.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Sorensen, Henrik Hjort (1989). The iconography of Korean Buddhist painting. BRILL. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-90-04-08940-2. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Wong, Dorothy (2007). "The Huayan/Kegon/Hwaŏm Paintings in East Asia" (PDF). Reflecting Mirrors: Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. virginia.edu. p. 8. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Ars decorativa. 16-18. Népművelési Propaganda Iroda. 1997. p. 145. 
  4. ^ "Review/Art; What an Old Scroll Tells About Buddhism in Korea". The New York Times. May 10, 1991. p. 2. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Sorensen, Henrik H. "The T'aenghwa Tradition in Korean Buddhism". buddhapia.com. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Walraven, Boudewijn; Breuker, Remco E. (2007). Korea in the middle: Korean studies and area studies : essays in honour of Boudewijn Walraven. CNWS Publications. pp. 229–. ISBN 978-90-5789-153-3. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Pratt, Keith (15 August 2007). Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea. Reaktion Books. pp. 203–. ISBN 978-1-86189-335-2. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Buddha Amitabha and his pantheon". artgallery.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 30 December 2010.