|Buddhist Sanshin with 8 Immortals!
but promting many iconographic questions...
Arrayed in front of him are eight elderly aristocratic gentlemen, long white eyebrows indicating advanced age & wisdom,
sitting at their leisure. Two in the background watch a group of birds, three in the left-foreground play the ancient strategic
game Baduk [a.k.a. Wéiqí, Wei-chi, Go]. One sits near the mountain-spirit playing a lute, and two in the right-foreground are
enjoying a discussion over cups of tea. From their number, appearance and department one would think that they are of
the famous Chinese Daoist "Eight Immortals" (八仙 / Bāxiān). However, two of those Eight Immortals are women, one has
a disabled leg and walks with a wooden crutch, and they are otherwise depicted quite individually (see below), whereas
these here all look basically the same, as healthy elderly man. Groups of seon immortals often appear and are even main
subjects in traditional Korean paintings, including those on the walls of Sanshin-gaks and Samseong-gaks, but they are
almost never painted as the Chinese depict these standard eight. I would therefore assume that the artist indeed
intended the Daoist Eight Immortals motif, but just casually rendered them all in the usual Korean generic style.
Four dongja child-attendants, three boys and one girl, are busy preparing and serving the tea -- standard in all these types
of icons. Two mystical turtles-with-tails walk across the grounds towards the Sanshin. Both the Sun and the Moon are
shown in the sky, like in some Shamanic-Daoist and Neo-Confucian paintings (the il-wol motif) but not those of Sanshin or
Dokseong -- but one is red and the other yellow, as if they are two suns -- and in fact the one on the left looks just like the
halo around the Sanshin's head -- I cannot explain this except as crude carelessness on the part of the artist.
A grove of bamboo is also in the background, on the right, and misty clouds, a pool and waterfall are vaguely suggested.
Altogether then, this painting contains 9 out of the 12 traditional Ship-jangsaeng or symbols of longevity.
It's quite a unique new painting! -- but by including / blending elements of Folk, Shamanism, Daoism, Buddhism and
Confucianism, it is classically Korean. Just goes to show how this kind of traditional artwork continues to evolve here...
This unique new painting depicts a highly-unusual "Buddhist-saint" Korean San-shin, with a group of
figures very similar to the Chinese Daoist "Eight Immortals", but with significant differences. It was used
to promote the 2010 Third Inwang-san Sanshin-daeje to be held on April 21st (1st) (2nd); artist unknown.
He is holding a Daoist master's-staff and is accompanied by a fairly typical prowling tiger. However, his robes are
colored and worn like those of a Korean Buddhist monk, and his head is completely bald without any hat or topknot-cover
and his exposed foot is bare. Behind him is a table laden with books (scriptures) and a Chinese-style decorative stone.
All of those points -- robes, bare head & feet, table with books -- are highly unusual for a Sanshin, but are characteristic of
icons of Dok-seong or Lonely Saint (one of Sakyamuni Buddha's disciples, popular folk-spirit in Korea). This figure has
not only the very long white eyebrows indicating extended age and wisdom common to both figures, but also a thin white
beard -- and Dokseong is usually clean-shaven. Therefore, my judgment is that this main figure is a Sanshin with
very-heavily-conflated characteristics of Dokseong. In fact he would be iconographically identified as a Dokseong if only
the tiger were not there or if his right hand were holding a yeomju (Buddhist rosary). But because of these two strong
factors, I'm going to call him a Sanshin. This figure conflates those two primary deities more than any other modern icon
I've ever seen; it's perhaps comparable in conflation to the classic antique one at Haein-sa.
a common classical Chinese
Daoist painting of the Eight
Immortals, here depicted
"crossing the sea".