A New Middle Kingdom: Painting and Cultural Politics in Late Chosŏn Korea (1700–1850)
2018, University of Washington Press
J.P. Park, author

Historians have claimed that social stability returned to Korea after a series of devastating invasions by the Japanese and Manchus around the turn of the seventeenth century. Thus, the late Chosŏn dynasty is characterized as a period of unprecedented economic and cultural renaissance whose prosperity was firmly demonstrated in new programs and styles of visual art. This book questions this age-old belief by claiming that true-view landscape and genre paintings were most likely adopted to propagandize social harmony under Chosŏn rule and to justify the status, wealth, and land grabs of the ruling class. This volume also documents the popularity and misunderstanding of art books from China and, most controversially, Korean enthusiasm for artistic programs from Edo Japan to challenge academic stereotypes and nationalistic tendencies in the scholarship. As the first truly interdisciplinary study of Korean art and literature, A New Middle Kingdom points to realities of late Chosŏn society that its visual art seemed to hide and deny.