|The Kokdu Museum|
“Kokdu,” traditional wooden figurines which were used to adorn a bier to drive out evil spirits for the deceased, can now be seen in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul.
The Kokdu Museum, which is based in Dongsoong Art Center in Daehangno, opened a new branch in a “hanok” (traditional Korean house) there last week, showing some 60 pieces of the antique figurines dating back to the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).
The Bukchon annex named “Kokdurang Hanok” (Kokdu with Hanok) is designed to show how kokdu can be exhibited in harmony with the traditional house and attract more foreign tourists who are interested in traditional Korean culture. The new museum offers not only the antique figurines but also hands-on experiences to visitors in hanok.
“In this area, many hanok close the doors as they are private residences and tourists can only see the exterior view of the hanok. But our museum is open to visitors so that they can look around inside the house and even touch and feel every corner of the house. The museum will be a new cultural complex and tourist spot in Bukchon,” Kim Ock-rang, director of the museum, said.
Ppened a new branch in Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul last week. Some 60 pieces of antique figurines are on show in the traditional Korean house at the Bukchon annex of the Kokdu Museum. / Courtesy of Kokdu Museum
The antique figurines from the museum’s collection are on show — some on the shelves and others hanging on the wall and the ceiling to break the conventional display style which puts artifacts behind glass.
Kokdu takes various forms of human beings, animals or plants used as a means of decoration on the funeral bier. In the museum’s collection, the oldest extant kokdu dates back to the early 18th century. Human-shaped kokdu are designed to guide, protect, support and entertain the dead. Dragons and phoenix are the main motifs of the animal-shaped figurines as the mythical animals symbolize water and fire, wishing immortality and power.
The funeral bier was used to transport the coffin to the burial site and was traditionally believed to be a temporary dwelling place for the deceased. Ancient people believed that the dead are grieved while leaving this world for the other world.
The figurines with various facial expressions and gestures were made to protect the deceased during their long journey. Also, kokdu is comparable with angels in the West as it is believed to be a guardian for the dead during the long sojourn from Heaven to Earth.
The museum said that it will enhance the understanding of foreigners, who often tour the area, about the afterlife in ancient Korean society.
The museum holds some 20,000 kokdu, which have been collected over a period of more than 30 years by the director. It is located on the second floor of the Dongsoong Art Center with two exhibition halls, an education area and an art shop.
The Bukchon branch is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 3,000 won for adults and 1,000 won for children. For more information, call (02) 766-3351 or visit www.kokdumuseum.com.