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 Home >> Art & Craft >> Dancheong (Colors)

Cultural Heritage - ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯

Korean temples and old houses often have colorful roofs. ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯, a characteristic of Korea, has been developed over many years, in which the colors and designs have changed.

What does ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ mean?

Colours such as azure, red, yellow, white and black were use to paint pictures and designs onto roofs, pillars and walls of Korean buildings. ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ is the word describing all works of art, such as formative works of art, craftwork and paintings which are found on buildings made of stone, old tombs, portraits of Buddha and in caves.

Why did artists decorate traditional Korean buildings with ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯?

¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ was used to display the status of a building. For example, ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ showed the distinction between a common building and a Buddhist sanctum, or a palace. It also prevented buildings from decaying so rapidly, and any design or construction faults were concealed by the decoration. ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ was displayed the characteristics of commemorative works of art, and was used to pray for good luck on the basis of the principles of ¡®Eum Yang O Haeng Seol¡¯ (meaning the positive and the negative), as well as the 5 elements - metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.

Colors of ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯

Koreans have been living upon the principles of ¡®Eum Yang O Haeng Seol¡¯ since ancient times. Artists expressed this by using colors according to the rule of the five elements: hwa (fire), Su (water), Mok (wood), Keum (metal) and To(earth).

Varieties of ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯

Ka Chil Dan Cheong
The side gates of a palace or a King¡¯s tomb were painted in ¡®Ka Chil Dan Cheong¡¯ by using one or two colors without drawing any lines.

Keud Ki Dan Cheong
After painting in one or two colors, artists would decorate the border in black and white. Ancient private schools and buildings inside schools which were annexed to Confucian shrines were painted in Keud Ki Dan Cheong.

Moro Dan Cheong
Moru Dan Cheong (also known as Meo Ri Dan Cheong), is the name given to the painted wood which can be found inside of Korean-style buildings. Korean-style pavilions, located inside of palaces and temples were decorated in Moro Dan Cheong.

Keum Dan Cheong
Buddhist sanctums or palaces were painted in Keum Dan Cheong using brilliant colours.

Keum Moro Dan Cheong
Paintings with colorful designs, similar to those of ¡®Keum Dan Cheong¡¯, but with very simple decoration in the middle, similar to Mo Ro Dan Cheong.

Kinds of ¡®Dan Cheong¡¯ design patterns
Dan Cheong design patterns have to be decorated systematically, and must include a variety of decorative elements. For instance, to represent heaven in a Buddhist sanctum, the picture has to be painted on the ceiling showing auspicious signs – such as a rainbow and a cloud decorated with lotus flowers above the pillar. Under the pillar, the painting should display a human being, decorated in simple colors of red and blue, showing dignity and respect for the religion. This is painted in a Dan Cheong design, using the Meo Ri Cho variation only at the front end of the wood.

In the middle of the painting is the main design, and five bands of color are decorated between the design and the ground. ¡®Hui¡¯ means ¡®putting around¡¯, and there are many kinds of Hui, such as Keum Hui and Neul Hui, named according to their features.

Keum Mun
With brilliant colors and a variety of designs, this pattern is called the Bi Dan design. There are a variety of Keum Mun designs, such as Gui Gab Keum and Ssal Mi Keum.

Hwa Mun, Flower Designs
Hwa Mun indicates a flower design, usually that of a lotus flower, although chrysanthemums are also used in this category.

Ju Wui Cho
Works of art decorated with Ju Wui Cho have designs placed above the pillar. Meo Ri Cho Ju Ui and Tak Ui Ju Ui are variations of this design.

Cheong Jang Cho, Ceiling Designs
Cheong Jang Cho designs, which include Ban Ja Cho and Da Ra Ni Cho, are painted on the ceiling.
Bu Ri Cho
At the end of a rafter, buildings are painted in a Bu Ri Cho design. Patterns such as Yean Mok Bu Ri Cho and Bu Yeon Cho are included in this category.

Keud Ki, Drawing
This includes work painted in black and white. Mo Ru Keud Ki and Kui Keud Ki are included in this category.

In addition to the designs mentioned above, geometric patterns are also formed by using straight lines, circles and ovals. Designs such as Tae Keuk Mun and Neng Hyeong Mun are included in this category of design.

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