1500s, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
Ink, color, and gold on silk
Here Shakyamuni Buddha sits in a paradise in a meditative pose. Two guardian figures appear before the throne, with an infant—representing a soul newly reborn in paradise—on each side. In the circle in front of the pedestal, the artist has illustrated Shakyamuni’s palace on Mount Meru, where he resided before his final incarnation as Siddhartha Gautama, the prince who would become the Buddha.
The style and quality of this painting of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, is similar to Ming dynasty (1368–1644) examples, suggesting Chinese influence. In Korea during the earlier Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), Buddhism enjoyed wide influence, but in the Joseon dynasty, Buddhism suffered under the state doctrine of Neo-Confucianism, a school of Confucianism developed in China that advocated secularism and rationalism, making fine Buddhist paintings from this period rare.