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Special Exhibition Peonies: Flowers of Peace and Prosperity to open at the National Palace Museum of Korea
International Cooperation Division

Special Exhibition Peonies: Flowers of Peace and Prosperity to open at the National Palace Museum of Korea

- The Joseon royal court wedding dress from Changdeokgung Palace to meet the public for the very first time, along with 120 other objects on display, from July 7th to October 31st -

The National Palace Museum of Korea(Director Kim, Dong-Young) of the Cultural Heritage Administration holds a special exhibition under the title Peonies: Flowers of Peace and Prosperity, from July 7th to October 31st,. The theme of the exhibition is peonies, embedded in the culture of the Joseon royal court. One of the highlights of this exhibition is a hwarot, a type of bridal gown, which had been housed in Changdeokgung Palace and will be presented to the public for the very first time. Also, a large number of folding screens of peonies will greet the visitors. Special efforts have been made to enchant the visitors with what they see, smell and hear at the exhibition .


Ritual objects and everyday items at the royal palaces, including clothing, vessels, and furniture, were commonly adorned with peony designs. This exhibition sheds light on how the Joseon royal court enjoyed peonies as plants and designs and what these flowers symbolized.


The special exhibition Peonies : Flowers of Peace and Prosperityconsists of three sections. ▲ Section I ‘Growing and Enjoying Peonies’, ▲ Section II ‘Blooming Peonies in Designs’and ▲ Section III ‘Peonies Embodying Wishes for a Peaceful Royal Court and a Prosperous Dynasty’.


Section I, ‘Growing and Enjoying Peonies’explores the tradition of cultivating, appreciating, and painting peonies. The exhibition hall is decorated as a garden with visual effects and flower decorations. Visitors will enjoy representative artworks from the 18-19th century such as the works of Heo Ryeon (1808–1892) and Nam Gye-u (1811–1890), as they walk through the garden, welcomed by a gentle breeze carrying a subtle floral fragrance developed from the fresh peonies that bloom in Changdeokgung Palace and entertained by the sounds of chirping birds and falling raindrops.


Section II, ‘Blooming Peonies in Designs’ presents a variety of objects bearing peony designs that decorated the royal court andexplores the meaning carried by each piece. These designs not only served a simple decorative function, but also carried symbolic implications. The Joseon royal court enjoyed using peonies, which symbolize wealth and honor, as decorative designs and hoped for prosperity and abundance for the Joseon royal family. The peony designs were used in various objects including mother-of-pearl inlayed furniture, box decorated with painted ox-horn plate, white porcelain jar in underglaze cobalt-blue and other embroidered objects.

The most dramatic display of its use can be found in royal marital items, including traditional royal wedding dresses, or thehwarot (bridal robe), the royal palanquin and other marital ceremony items. There are two hwarots on display at this exhibition and one of them is the hwarot worn by Princess Bokon (1818~1832), the second daughter of King Sunjo, on her wedding day. This is the only hwarotwhose wearer and date of making are known. The other exhibited hwarot is a traditional piece from Changdeokgung Palace. In the process of preserving the dress, it was found that the paper padding used to shape the gown is actually repurposed test papers from a civil service exam held in 1880. The hwarots will meet the public for the first time through this exhibition.


The exhibition space in Section II is divided into two, using a glass wall, to achieve both the separation of space and visual continuity. This helps to better showcase the diverse types and the wide range of objects on display. The front area of the exhibition hall is designed to appear as if visitors were inside one of the rooms in the palace. Furniture and accessories are arranged enclosed by walls incorporating the traditional lattice doors of palace architecture and are caressed by the lighting falling from the ceiling. The royal marital items are displayed along with a media art installation utilizing diverse motifs from hwarot that is replete with embroidered floral designs, including peonies. It aims at conveying the wishes for good fortune embodied in the designs to all the visitors.


Section III, ‘Peonies Embodying Wishes for a Peaceful Royal Court and a Prosperous Dynasty’ highlights peonies as they were used in funeral ceremonies and rituals to honor the ancestors in the royal court. The exhibition introduces how the peony design was used in the different stages of royal funeral rites, in the royal protocols, chair for laying a spirit tablet, palanquin for transporting a spirit tablet, incense burner and the folding screen with peonies. The highlight of Section III, no doubt, is the folding screen with peonies, which was used throughout the entire stage of a funeral rite, baring wishes for peace and prosperity for the royal court. The exhibition space is surrounded by folding screens with peonies, which are placed much closer to the glass walls, so that the visitors can see the details up close. Towards the end of Section III, a space depicting a shrine has been set up, where the ancestral rituals honoring the deceased kings with royal portraits were held. The folding screens with peony designs, incense burners, royal chair for laying a spirit tablet and royal protocols are arranged together to help visitors better understand the special relationship between the peonies and the ancestral rites of the royal court.


Visitors must make on-line reservations or register off-line to see the special exhibition at the National Palace Museum. The number of daily visitors from both on-line and off-line registration may not exceed 100 persons per hour and a total of 1000 persons per day, due to COVID 19. Also, please note the following. ▲ No group tours are allowed. ▲ All visitors must wear a mask and check their temperature upon entry to the museum. ▲ All visitors must follow the designated route for viewing the exhibition.


Just as the Joseon royal court wished for peace and prosperity through the beautiful peonies, the special exhibition Peonies: Flowers of Peace and Prosperity, by the National Palace Museum of the Cultural Heritage Administration, carries the hopethat we will soon regain our peaceful and beautiful life, overcoming the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

Division: The National Palace Museum of Korea

Exhibition & Publicity Division

Contact person: Lim Gyeong-hee (02-3701-7631)

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