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Talk to explore puzzle left by Buddhist mural

The Royal Asiatic Society’s Korea Branch will host a talk on Jan. 13 on the mysteries surrounding a Buddhist painting, the Amitabha Buddha triad mural at Muwi-sa in South Jeolla Province.

The mural was painted during the early Joseon era in 1476, despite Joseon’s suppression of Buddhism.

It is also a continuation of the Amitabha Buddha “welcoming descent” genre popular during the Goryeo Dyanasty, but the surviving Goryeo paintings of this genre are small scrolls for use at believers’ deathbeds or private meditation, and there are also compositional differences.

Pusan National University faculty member Hal Swindall will discuss how this difference might be explained by the existence of similar Goryeo Kingdom altar murals that were removed or destroyed by the Japanese in the 1590s.

Swindall adds that recent scholarship has argued that some Buddhist ceremonies were supported in early Joseon despite its general repression of the religion, including a ritual for the dead. Since the subject was associated with a good afterlife, this could also help explain the mural’s creation.

The lecture will take place at Somerset Palace near Anguk Station from 7:30 p.m. Admission is free for RASKB members and 7,000 won for nonmembers.