• Artwork

    Datjib – The Canopy: 닺집

    Introduction Inside almost all Korean Buddhist temple shrine halls, and standing above the main altar, is a canopy. While this canopy is brilliantly adorned and beautiful, the meaning behind it is less clear. So why are there canopies above the main altar? And why do they have somewhat differing designs? The Canopy The Korean Buddhist canopy that stands above the main altar inside a temple shrine hall is known as a “datjib – 닺집” in Korean. “Dat” means “separate” in English, while “jib” means “house” in English. So the canopy literally means “Separate House.” Another name for this canopy is “Celestial Canopy” in English, which is in reference to the…

  • Artwork

    Gwimyeon – The Monster Mask: 귀면

    Introduction If you look close enough at temple paintings, you’ll probably notice a menacingly grotesque face staring back at you. To the uninitiated eye these faces appear to be nothing more than ornamental. However, these paintings do in fact have a meaning. So what are their meaning? What do they look like? And why are they are adorning Korean Buddhist temples? Gwimyeon Design The name of these ornamental designs that take up residence in and around temple shrine halls are known as Gwimyeon, or “Monster Masks” in English. These ornamental Monster Masks have noses with flaring nostrils. They can also have whiskers, horns, and sharp teeth. They have a broad,…

  • Artwork

    Gamno-do – The Sweet Dew Mural: 감로도

    Introduction One of the more difficult Buddhist murals to find at a Korean Buddhist temple is the Gamno-do, or “Sweet Dew Mural” in English. In fact, I’ve only ever seen this mural at a handful of temples and hermitages in all of my travels. So what is a Gamno-do? What does it look like? And what is it supposed to mean? Gamno-do Design A Gamno-do depicts the Ullambana Sutra. Other names for this type of painting is “Gamnowang-do” or “Gamno-taenghwa.” The Gamno-do is used in the Sweet Dew Ceremony for the dead. Prayers are said by those alive to help and comfort the souls of dead ancestors already in the…