Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art During the Joseon Dynasty

Oct 25, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014

In Grand Style

Among Korea’s historical distinctions is the memory of a royal family’s rule that prevailed for more than half a millennium, leaving a cultural legacy that’s alive to this day.

In this exclusive presentation, In Grand Style celebrates the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), showcasing more than 110 treasured objects that speak of a glorious heritage. In Grand Style focuses on celebrations, festivals, elaborate rites, dance, music, and processions.

In Grand Style narrates and illustrates the history of the dynasty’s 27 kings and its queens through their rituals.

The art highlighted in the exhibition is lent to the museum by numerous institutions in Korea and the U.S., primarily the National Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea. In Grand Style is based on the exhibition Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Period held at the National Museum of Korea in 2009.

Learn more in this special presentation, produced by ABC7 and the Asian Art Museum, as we travel to Korea to explore the origins of the artworks in the exhibition and how they continue to influence food, travel, and lifestyle in Korea today.


Visitors can spot and identify connections between more than 110 objects, grouped thematically.

In the first theme, To Be a King in the Joseon Dynasty: From Birth to Throne, the historical transitions of the Joseon dynasty and the meaning of being a king are traced.

In Royal Procession and Banquets: King Jeongjo’s 1795 Visit to his Father’s Tomb in Hwaseong, we present art relating to royal celebrations surrounding a king’s historic journey.

Several artworks highlighting the importance of women’s roles during the Joseon dynasty are featured in Women at the Royal Court: Ceremony and Celebration during the 19th Century.

The final theme is Life and Celebrations of the Elite: Birthdays, Weddings and Achievements. Among the objects marking weddings, banquets and celebrations are a bridal robe and a ceremonial parasol.

To Be a King in the Joseon Dynasty

The exhibition tells the story of the culture of the Joseon dynasty and the legacy of the royal court.

The story is explored through such treasured objects as a king’s seal and jade book, royal placenta jars, and a large screen painting that celebrates the birth of a crown prince.

The Joseon era began in 1392 with Yi Seonggye (reigned 1392–1398), a general victorious over invaders of Korea. Yi led the country after the fall of Korea’s Goryeo dynasty and was enthroned as King Taejo, whose royal family went on to rule for more than 500 years, one of the world’s longest dynasties.

Royal Procession and Banquets

The Joseon dynasty upheld and cultivated the Confucian emphasis on ritual and order as part of the foundation of a stable, peaceful society.

So important are these rituals and celebrations that they have been recorded throughout centuries in comprehensive detail in writings and paintings that form multi-volume books known as royal protocols (uigwe).

The uigwe commemorative documentation is so detailed that it is possible even today to reconstruct the ancient ceremonies. These remarkable books serve as vivid and reliable documentation of life in Korea.

The 1795 ceremonial journey of the king to his father’s tomb was so meaningful with its spectacular display and demonstration of filial piety (the Confucian virtue of respect for parents) that it is re-enacted by thousands of people annually in Korea today. The journey has historical significance because King Jeongjo made great efforts to rehabilitate the status of his father, Crown Prince Sado, who had been killed before he could take the crown. The son named his late father King Jangjo.

Women at the Royal Court

Women’s roles in the Joseon dynasty provide a revealing glimpse into the past and present of Korean culture.

Queens at the time (1392–1910) could not become official rulers but could acquire political power indirectly through their male relatives, especially their sons and grandsons, who could become heirs to the throne.

Ceremonies and celebrations demonstrated the legitimacy of their male heirs’ claims to the throne, and in this way reinforced the women’s power.

A birthday banquet for Queen Sunwon, an elaborate wedding reception for Queen Hyojeong, jewel-encrusted accessories, and other objects indicate the importance of women’s roles in celebration. Even while forbidden from direct participation in political affairs and made to attend meetings from behind screens, royal women managed to gain positions of political influence.

Life and Celebration of the Elite

Many aspects of Korean art during the Joseon period reflect spiritual themes: bringing good fortune, repelling evil spirits, and conveying hopes for a long life.

These themes are found in the symbolism of objects like paintings and clothing, and in the traditions observed on major Korean holidays such as Lunar New Year and Thanksgiving.

Thousands of people participated in the festive events depicted in Welcoming Ceremonies for the Governor of Pyeong-an, involving night boating on Daedong River and celebrations at Yeon-gwang and Bubyeok pavilions.

Elaborate bridal robes (pictured in the slideshow) were originally part of a princess’s ceremonial attire, but commoners were allowed to wear them too, although only for wedding ceremonies. Patterns are often embroidered on these robes, including the Ten Symbols of Longevity (turtle, deer, crane, pine tree, bamboo, clouds, mountains, water, sun and mushroom of immortality).


Weddings during the Joseon dynasty were influenced by Confucian tradition, which calls for many small rituals to take place throughout the ceremony.

In Korea, marriage represents the joining of two families rather than simply the bond between two individuals. It is the largest and most important ritual among the four ceremonial occasions in Korea (coming of age, wedding, funeral, and ancestral rites).

There are several procedures that make up the wedding ceremony:

  • Chohaeng-gil: The groom’s procession to the bride’s family for the wedding.
  • Jeonan-rye: The groom presents a goose, which is known as having only one mate throughout its lifetime, to the bride’s parents in order to make a promise that they will stay husband and wife for life.
  • Gyobae-rye: The bride and the groom accept each other by facing and bowing to one another.
  • Hapgeun-rye: The bride and groom drink the wine together from the gourd dipper as an act of making an oath to stay as one

Main image: King Jeongjo’s Procession to his Father’s Tomb in Hwaseong, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). Korea. Color on Paper. National Museum of Korea.

Organizers & Sponsors

This exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum in collaboration with the National Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea based on the exhibition Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Period held by the National Museum of Korea in 2009.

Exhibition Lenders:
Dong-A University Museum 동아대학교박물관
Jangseogak Archives, the Academy of Korean Studies 한국학중앙연구원 장서각
Korea University Museum 고려대학교박물관
Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Seoul National University 서울대학교 규장각
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art 삼성미술관 리움
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Museum of Korean Embroidery 한국자수박물관
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
National Museum of Korea 국립중앙박물관
National Palace Museum of Korea 국립고궁박물관
National Folk Museum of Korea 국립민속박물관
Sookmyung Women’s University Museum 숙명여자대학교박물관

Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Koret Foundation, Samsung, The Korea Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Silicon Valley Bank, Jamie and Steve Chen, John and Barbara Osterweis, and Suno Kay Osterweis.