New Year's Paintings(歲畵)

New Year's Paintings

Headword

세화 ( 歲畵 , Sehwa )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > January > 1st Lunarmonth > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimYoonjung(金潤貞)

Sehwa (Kor. 세화, Chin. 歲畵, lit. New Year’s painting) refers to the paintings exchanged between the king and his ministers in celebration of the New Year. The preferred subjects for such paintings were historical and mythical figures, and flowers, particularly peonies. An early record of the tradition is contained in the writings of Yi Saek (1328-1396), a famous scholar and statesman of the Goryeo period (918-1392). In this record, Goryeo kings and their ministers exchanged paintings depicting creatures with auspicious meanings to celebrate New Year’s Day.

More detailed descriptions of the tradition are found after the mid Joseon period (the 16th century). They clearly reveal that the practice of exchanging New Year’s paintings was popular among the ruling class of the Joseon dynasty, which included the royal family and the leading aristocrats. The practice later spread to the lower classes of society, where such paintings were used as a charm to expel evil spirits. The tradition was passed down until the modern period, but the mass circulation of printed paintings led to its gradual decline. Some believe that the modern practice of exchanging New Year’s greeting cards is a continuation of this tradition.

New Year's Paintings

New Year's Paintings
Headword

세화 ( 歲畵 , Sehwa )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Seasonal Customs > January > 1st Lunarmonth > Seasonal Holidays

Writer KimYoonjung(金潤貞)

Sehwa (Kor. 세화, Chin. 歲畵, lit. New Year’s painting) refers to the paintings exchanged between the king and his ministers in celebration of the New Year. The preferred subjects for such paintings were historical and mythical figures, and flowers, particularly peonies. An early record of the tradition is contained in the writings of Yi Saek (1328-1396), a famous scholar and statesman of the Goryeo period (918-1392). In this record, Goryeo kings and their ministers exchanged paintings depicting creatures with auspicious meanings to celebrate New Year’s Day.

More detailed descriptions of the tradition are found after the mid Joseon period (the 16th century). They clearly reveal that the practice of exchanging New Year’s paintings was popular among the ruling class of the Joseon dynasty, which included the royal family and the leading aristocrats. The practice later spread to the lower classes of society, where such paintings were used as a charm to expel evil spirits. The tradition was passed down until the modern period, but the mass circulation of printed paintings led to its gradual decline. Some believe that the modern practice of exchanging New Year’s greeting cards is a continuation of this tradition.