Minhwa Korean Traditional Folk Art

About the Artist

Jackie Kim is a renowned Korean artist, focusing on painting and jewelry. Born outside Seoul, Jackie has lived in the United States since 1988. Jackie's painting focuses on the Korean traditional folk art called "Minhwa" (민화 or 民畵). For references or to purchase artwork by Jackie Kim, please contact her family at info@jackiekimart.com.

About Minhwa

Literally translated, Minhwa means "folktale", a sort of painting of the people, and consists largely of colorful scenery and mythical figures that are thought to bring beneficial virtues and offer protection from evil forces to those who posses the artwork. Important stages of life are often marked by the subject in a Minhwa picture. Everyday people, as well as nobles would often commission artists to create Minhwa for them. It traces its history back to the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from about 1392 to 1910.

Minhwa works on many levels, showing figures of mythology, symbols of happiness, wealth, & health, as well as scenes from everyday life. As examples, the use of carp is meant to symbolize success while a tiger is meant to represent power. Other popular themes of Minhwa usually include dragons, rocks, water, mountains, cranes, butterflies, deer, clouds, the sun, and trees.

Though Minhwa were painted by and for the people, they caught the eye of the ruling class and could be frequently found in the royal court and palaces. Today, Minhwa is frequently used during wedding ceremonies like Pyebaek (폐백 or 幣帛); birthday ceremonies like Dol (돌), Baek-il (백일), and Hwangap (환갑); funerals; ancestral rites like Jesa (제사 or 祭祀), Gijesa (기제사, 忌祭祀), Charye (차례, 茶禮), Seongmyo (성묘, 省墓), Myosa (묘사, 墓祀); and for autumn harvest ceremonies during Chuseok (추석 or 秋夕).

Artistic Objectives

Jackie Kim's particular style of Korean traditional folk art brings incredible use of color and is meticulously drawn on parchment paper using natural materials, such as turmeric, mugwort, jacho, cambogia, and gardenia as paint. Her objective is to bring the owners of her artwork happiness, power, wealth, and health. Ms. Kim is often commissioned to create semi-custom Minhwa where certain elements and colors can be changed to make them more personal. Below are low resolution examples of some of her work. For references or to commission artwork by Jackie Kim, please contact her family at info@jackiekimart.com.

Minhwa Use in Feng Shui

Minhwa can be used in Feng Shui to attract energy, or Chi, by placing these paintings or other objects strategically in your home or office. For more information on Feng Shui, go to www.MsFengShui.com.

Minhwa Styles

Sun, Moon, and the Five Peaks

Il-wol-obongdo일월오봉도 (Sun, Moon and the Five Peaks) represents fame & reputation in life.

Il-wol-obongdo일월오봉도 (Sun, Moon and the Five Peaks) includes five mountain peaks that, in combination with the waterfalls, the ocean, and magnificent pine trees, represent the power and longevity. This painting was made famous not for its imagery, but because it was the backdrop to successions of Joseon kings over hundreds of years, as it was positioned behind the royal throne, the Eojwa (어좌). In fact, the sun and moon symbolize the king and queen, in balance like yin and yang.

10 Symbols of Longevity

Sibjangsaengdo 십장생도 (10 Symbols of Longevity) is complex traditional artwork that has been used on everything from folk paintings and folding screens to embroidered decorations on fabrics for all kinds of uses in daily aristocratic life.

Not limited to its name, in Sibjangsaengdo 십장생도 (10 Symbols of Longevity), there are now more than a dozen interchangeable symbols in this painting style that represent longevity. The heavens represent an immortal father figure, the earth represents Mother Nature, and the sun nourishes life with its constant source of life. Flowing water represents infinite flexibility which can overcome earth and stone while clouds are the heavenly form of water that drift without care. Meanwhile, the mountains seem to keep their shape forever while large stones are the most enduring objects in nature. Bamboo grows quickly while the pine trees can live for centuries and both can keep green even in winter. The mushroom of immortality mythically grew in the land of immortals while the peaches of immortality offer everlasting life. While mandarin ducks represent a long and happy marriage, cranes are the ultimate representative of longevity of a marital relationship to the heavens together (they say that cranes have a 100-year marriage). Turtles are known to live for centuries while deer are the companions of immortals. The origin of the Sibjangsaengdo painting is said to lie in the Koryo dynasty, when sick men would hang images of and wrote poems about these items, because of their association with health.

Paintings of Divine Animals

Yongsudo 용수도 depict divine animals that act as guardians and are meant to act as talismans against evil spirits. These types of paintings have different purposes based on the qualities of the divine animals depicted. Tigers, in particular, play a very important role in Korean culture because of how common they were in nature until recently. It was said that there was a tiger for every mountain (and there are a lot of mountains in Korea). There is a very long folk story about a tiger and a bear who went into a cave to eat garlic for 100 days in order to become humans. The tiger couldn't handle it and left, but the bear was able to eat the garlic for 100 days and came out of the cave as a human. It is said that this evolution is how today's Koreans came to be. Yongsudo should be placed in areas of a home that need powerful energy or near the entryway of the home to ward off evil spirits.

호랑이와 매
(Holang-iwa Mae)
Tiger and Hawk

In this particular Yongsudo called Holang-iwa Mae 호랑이와 매 (Tiger and Hawk), the king of the earth (the tiger) and the king of the sky (the hawk) share stories of their experiences at a pine tree.

담배피는 호랑이
(Dambaepineun Holang-i)
Smoking Tiger and Rabbits

Dambaepineun Holang-i 담배피는 호랑이 (Smoking Tiger and Rabbits) gives a perfect representation of the Korean equivalent of "Once upon a time...", which is, "A long time ago, when tigers smoked long pipes...." Rabbits often appeared with tigers in MinHwa, as one of the few animals that could outsmart the tiger. Why did the rabbits give the tiger a long pipe to smoke? Perhaps it was to make the tiger happy so he would not eat the rabbits.

청룡 백호도
(Cheonglyong Baeghodo)
Blue Dragon and White Tiger

In Cheonglyong Baeghodo 청룡 백호도 (Blue Dragon and White Tiger), the blue dragon is a sacred animal that chases away evil spirits and offers protection. It was a familiar and trusted image in the everyday lives of common people. The white tiger represents power with purity and nobility. Both feared and respected, the tiger is considered the "prince of the mountain".

Blue Dragon

Cheonglyong 청룡 (Blue Dragon) represents intrepidation and courage to move forward, even in challenging circumstances. Many people hang this artwork behind their office desk.

Lotus Paintings

In Yeonhwado 연화도 (Lotus Paintings), lotus flowers emerge from murky water on their water lilies, representing rising beauty. Magpies represent welcoming news. Kingfisher birds are excellent hunters and represent focused effort. Mandarin ducks are lifelong partners and represent happiness in marriage. Fish generally represent generational and familial devotion, as sons would commonly go to frozen lakes to provide fish for their mothers. When animals are in pairs, this further represents happiness in marriage. The colors used in paintings of lotus flowers can be generally muted to evoke a cool image, which allows for decoration in many areas of a home.

For references or to commission artwork by Jackie Kim, please contact her family at info@jackiekimart.com.