Portrait of the Great Master Seosan

Artist: Unidentified Artist

Period: Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)

Date: late 17th–18th century

Culture: Korea

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

Dimensions: Image: 59 7/8 x 30 5/8 in. (152.1 x 77.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 88 1/2 x 37 1/8 in. (224.8 x 94.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 88 1/2 x 40 1/8 in. (224.8 x 101.9 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Seymour Fund, 1959

Accession Number: 59.19


This painting of the eminent monk Ch’ōnghodang is a rare early example of a portrait of a Korean Buddhist monk and one of several surviving copies of a now-lost portrait of Ch’ōnghodang executed during his lifetime. The artist's careful delineation of the monk's face was intended to give a realistic appearance to the subject. Painted portraits of revered monks, particularly those of patriarchs or founders of doctrinal schools, were enshrined in Buddhist temples.

When Buddhism was repressed by the Chosōn government in favor of Neo-Confucianism, Ch’ōnghodang restored order to the community of monks and wrote the basic text that is still followed by members of the Sōn (Chinese: Chan; Japanese: Zen) order. In addition to being a pivotal leader of the Chosōn Buddhist establishment, Ch’ōnghodang led an army of Buddhist monks against Japanese invasion forces in the late sixteenth century and helped to recover the Chosōn capital, Hanyang (modern Seoul).