Korean Funerary Figures: Companions for the Journey to the Other World
August 22, 2010 to November 28, 2010
Koreans have a tradition of creating charming and festively painted wooden dolls. But rather than being placed in a toy box, these joyful figurines of clowns, tigers and acrobats adorn coffins. See seventy-four Korean funeral dolls, known as kkoktu— most carved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—and learn about their rich cultural and spiritual meaning. Their costumes and poses reflect the realities of rural Korean village life during a period for which few written records remain. More importantly, the kkoktu are a window on a timeless, characteristically Korean attitude towards death. Though the kkoktus’ gaiety seems incongruous with mourning, they express a culture’s deep desire that the dead enter the next world surrounded by joy— and its appreciation of the fleeting nature of all experience.