[Global Seoulmate] SEOUL Collage Prize, Najeon Chilgi – Korean Traditional Art

As in my previous posts, last June I was appointed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government as one of the 2014 Global Seoul-Mates, in which foreign participants (living in or outside of Korea) are to seek out Seoul’s many hidden attractions and promote Seoul in colorful and interesting ways to the global community. We will share the beauty of Seoul and its attractions to other users in the form of writing, photos, and videos through personal channels such as SNS and blogs.

Throughout the year, we will be given missions to produce contents to promote Seoul and if successful will be given a gift. For our First Mission, we were tasked to introduce ourselves and to share our aspirations as a Global Seoul-Mate 2014, and make a photo collage of S-E-O-U-L from our daily lives, and luckily, I was one of the winners!


See my simple winning entry at the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s website and the full entry here in my blog.

Here is the prize sent through EMS. I love it and like the boxes that contain the items also has the traditional Korean feel in it! Thank you Seoul Metropolitan Government! We Global Seoul-Mates are excited what the second mission will be. 🙂

Inside the box with the butterfly is a business card holder from Kalavinka and the grayish-black box with traditional Korean letters is a Korean traditional lacquer ware (vase) inlaid with mother-of-pearl from Hanol Handicraft.


I was curious to the lacquer ware as it had a small description on the box and it was called Najeon Chilgi, so here is what I got from the National Museum of Korea.

Najeon-chilgi 螺細漆器 is a representative art form of Korea based on the technique of mother-of-pearl inlay. First, natural lacquer made from the juice of the sumac tree is repeatedly applied upon the “skeleton” until a slick lacquer layer is formed on the surface. Designed patterns of mother-of-pearl are then inlaid followed by the topcoat. Finally, the lacquer topcoat is selectively removed to reveal the shimmering patterns.

Najeon” is a sino-Korean word based on the Chinese characters “螺鈿” which are also used in China, and Japan to refer to the mother-of-pearl inlaying technique. In Korea, the word “Najeon” is used interchangeably with “jagae,” a indigenous Korean term, and often combined with “Chilgi” 漆器, lacquerware as mother-of-pearl inlaying has been applied predominantly on lacquered objects. The public recognition of Najeon-chilgi is as such that lacquerware without mother-of-pearl inlaying is almost unthinkable in Korea.

Existing antique Najeon-chilgi pieces mostly belong to the 17-18th century Joseon. While the exuberance of Najeon-chilgi may not seem right for the Confucian Joseon society which valued modesty as one of the most desirable virtues, the heritage of Najeon-chilgi had never diminished throughout the Joseon period. Rather, the Joseon Najeon-chilgi managed to create its own tradition which is different from Goryeo Najeon characterized with sophisticated appeal catering to the taste of the aristocracy.

Najeon of the early Joseon period (15-16th century) demonstrates strong transitional characteristics as a result of experiment intended to seek a new direction from the Goryeo tradition. The mid-Joseon Najeon, in the meantime, reflects the social movement pursuing ethnic identity and originality which was prevalent after Joseon survived the two major foreign invasions, namely the Imjin War 壬辰倭亂, 1592-1598 (the first Japanese invasion of Joseon) and the Byeongja War 丙子胡亂, 1636-1637 (the second Manchu invasion of Joseon). In this period, pattern design diversified from the usual peony and chrysanthemum scrolls to plum, orchid, bamboo, grapevine, birds, and flowers. Also notable is the full exploitation of the technique of the artificial flattening or crackling.打擦法 Invented in the early Joseon period, the technique enhances the shimmering effect of the mother-of-pearl.

The use of motifs such as Sagunja 四君子 (the four gracious plants of plum, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo that represent the four seasons of Korea respectively) and phoenix motif was allowed only for the royal objects. ~ (www.museum.go.kr)


A short video I found on Youtube on Korean Artisans making Najeon Chilgi


Thanks for the visit! Annyeong!



2 responses to “[Global Seoulmate] SEOUL Collage Prize, Najeon Chilgi – Korean Traditional Art

  1. Journey Forgotten September 8, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Congratz on your winning entry! I got mine too, the gifts were really great! Never expected such awesome gifts from them though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: