Reflections of Ancestrial Life in Ewha's Sculptural Heritage
Reflections of Ancestrial Life in Ewha's Sculptural Heritage
  • 이은아
  • 승인 2006.04.05 00:00
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▲ Photo by Kim Ji-sun. Sadly, most students are too busy to appreciate these statues of boy attendants which are located in front of the museum.
   Amid the massive construction taking place around campus, there are a few spots where small stone figures have been standing since?well does anyone really know? In actual fact, most Ewhaians may be too busy running past these little stone men on the way to class to give a second thought to just where they've from and how they got there. These ancient carvings may not stand out when juxtaposed against the towering gray walls, plastered with multi-colored posters, but at one point in history (the oldest from 7th Century A.D., unified Shilla period) they would have been standing around the tombs of royalty, as both a sign of protection and as artwork in their own right.
   These ancient pieces once had a more romantic setting at Ewha too. They were first displayed on campus in 1997 when the Centennial Museum opened the Ewha Sculpture Garden by the gingko trees which stood next to the bridge at the front gate. However, when Ewha started its huge make-over in 2003, remodeling the bridge and its surroundings, the garden was also removed and the statues were temporarily placed inside the museum. When the museum itself started its renovation, the statues were placed outside  in three different places: in front of the museum, next to the International Education Building (IEB) and in front of the Welch-Ryang Auditorium, where they are still standing now.
   If you take a closer look at all three sites, you will see that there is quite a collection of work, with each piece unique. Standing next to the IEB, there are what are called "oo-in-suk" and "oon-in-suk" which can be translated to "stone statues of military and civil officials."The military officials are slightly bigger and armed with swords, emitting a sense of power, while the slightly smaller ones with more delicate features are civil officials, with simplistic but charming contours.
   In front of the Centennial Museum, there is a small collection of stone statues of boy attendants, or "dong-ja sang," in Korean. These statues are known for their diverse features and expressions of purity and innocence. They also play the role of bringing different cultures together with Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, and Shamanistic influences all contributing to the style of these masterpieces.
   Down the slope between the IEB and museum, you may come across two stone tigers (which strangely look more like gigantic rottweilers), carefully preserved inside a cart. According to Kim In-ho of the Centennial Museum, these tigers are representative examples of some of the most remarkable pieces of carvings in Korea's past. They too served as guards for tombs in ancient times, and their distinct features show off the prowess of the anonymous sculptors in Korea's history.
   Up the stairs to the auditorium, there is another body of work which is yet again different. They are not, this time, statues of little people, but rather stone tools and machines, which were put to everyday use back in the Shilla, Koryo, and Chosun dynasties. There is a horse-powered grindstone, the lid of an ancient well, and some stone pagodas, which were all features of the rural lives of our peasant ancestors.
While on one side of Ewha, bulldozers and cranes are working away to build a "state-of-the-art" campus, there are still other places which preserve the beauty, richness and rustic energy of ancient Korea.  "When Ewha is done with all the renovation, we're planning to reopen the garden," says Kim. 

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