The Great Renunciation, a painting on hemp cloth

From Korea
Choson dynasty, early 18th century AD

1 of a set of 8 paintings depicting the life of the historical Buddha

Although Korea was a strict Confucian state during the Choson dynasty (1392-1910), by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Buddhism became less oppressed and more popular. Buddhist monks were recognized for their service in organizing successful campaigns against the Japanese invasions of 1592 and 1597. Many Buddhist temples were rebuilt in this period and Buddhist paintings and sculptures made to furnish them.

The future Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, sees the 'four sights': an old man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic, and reaches an understanding about the transience of life. He decided to abandon his comfortable world. Here he is shown here escaping from the palace on his white horse during the night. He is accompanied by his groom Chandaka. In the lower left his wife and other women of the palace are portrayed sleeping while at top right, heavenly deities are shown helping Siddhartha fly silently over the palace wall.

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More information


J. Portal, Korea - art and archaeology (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)


Height: 1500.000 mm
Width: 1220.000 mm

Museum number

Asia OA 1996.10-3.02



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