The 14th century Korean Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting before conservation

One of the best, and perhaps the largest Buddhist painting of Suwol-Gwaneum-do literally painting of the Water Moon Buddha (Avalokitevara Bodhisattva in Sanskrit) house in a Japanese shrine for nearly 600 years, returned to South Korean in 2009 for a special exhibition at a Buddhist temple.

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting after conservation

The Korean Times reports (updated and edited for clarity) that –

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do Buddhist painting from Kagami-jinja (Kagami Shinto Shrine) in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan, was created on the orders of Queen Kim, of the Korean Goryeo Dynasty, by eight court painters in 1310. The painting was then pillaged soon after by Japanese pirates who took it to Japan where it has remained for nearly 600 years. Queen Kim was the second wife of King Chungseon, the 26th monarch of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

The Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting during conservation in Japan

Dubbed ‘the largest and most beautiful Suwol-Gwaneum-do Buddhist painting’ by art historians, this Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva (executed on a single piece of silk) went on exhibition on 30 April 2009 at the Tongdosa Buddhist temple in Yangsan, south Gyeongsang Province. It is the second time for this great masterpiece of the Goyreo Dynasty to be exhibited in South Korea. In 1995 it was on displayed at Hoam Art Gallery south of Seoul.

Experts say that this Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting is one of 38 extant Buddhist paintings of the Goryeo Dynasty depicting Suwol-Gwaneum, or The Water Moon Avalokitevara Bodhisattva. It was during Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty that Buddhist paintings of such quality were produced and there are still some 160 Goryeo Buddhist paintings existing worldwide. There are no more than 10 such paintings remaining in South Korea however; the rest are in Japan, along with 20 more scattered throughout Europe and America. The remaining paintings, over 130, were taken by force or sold illegally to Japan a long time ago, with most pillaged by Japanese invaders during Korea’s history. Experts agree that this Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting is the most beautiful, the oldest, and the largest that exists anywhere.

Detail from the Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting before conservation in Japan

Some critics have compared this Buddhist masterpiece to the Mona Lisa; others argue that it is even better. For conservation reasons the painting is on public display in Japan for only 38 days of the year. Tongdosa Buddhist temple sources in South Korea said that they started negotiations with the Japanese Kagami Shinto shrine one year ago to arrange this exhibition. In 2003 the Suwol-Gwaneum-do painting was exhibited for 20 days at a San Francisco museum under the tile Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment (918 to 1392). The exhibition period this time was double that of the San Francisco one, and the painting was on show at Tongdosa temple for 40 days.

Original article here.