“JEOLLA DO” the southwestern province of the peninsula is divided into two sub-regions; North Jeolla with the city of JEONJU as capital and South Jeolla with GWANGJU as main city.
The province, which is partially mountainous, is home to warmer weather on the peninsula. This climate helps produce a large amount of agricultural products.
The northern part of the region was a center for producing fruits such as peaches and persimmons, while many pears grew in the southern part. The wood from these fruit trees was frequently used as veneer or to build frames to support front panels on ‘JANG’ but was rarely used on heavy Bandaji.
A famous piece, collected by Wright Edward Reynolds, who later published ‘Korean Furniture, Elegance & Tradition,’ was entirely built from thick persimmon panels and is now on display at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis (Check the photo in the ‘Feature image at the top of this post’).
Persimmon was seldom used to build such thick pieces but was favored as a veneer on ‘JANG,’ as were all fruit trees.
Jeolla Province has always been a major center for furniture production. The region boasts an abundance of woods with rich grains, including zelkova (often referred to as Dragon wood), paulownia, and oak.
Many pieces of furniture available on the market today originate from this area and are classified by their region or city of origin, such as Gochang or Ko Chan, Yeonggwang, Naju, Jeonju, Namwon, and Changhung.
Jeolla bandaji are known for their large and wide dimensions, with an average size of H. 80cm, L. 100cm, D. 50cm. While they may have sparse fittings, the craftsmanship on these fittings is intricate and fine.
The most common types of Jeolla bandaji are known as ‘GOCHANG’ and ‘YEONGGWANG’ Bandaji, both located in the central western part of the province.
The wood panels used to build these pieces are thick, typically around 4cm, and are made from red pine or elm wood. Due to their large size and substantial wood thickness, these pieces are among the heaviest.
These bandaji became very popular during the later period of the Joseon dynasty, towards the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century.
Iron fittings decoration is easy to recognize. The central lock plate is round.
The opening front panel is secured by fasteners in swallowtail shapes, and there is always a square decorative fitting in the middle lower part of the chest. The bat motif is commonly used for furniture handles.
Despite significant production during the early 20th century, today, only a few pieces of furniture with original fittings are available. It is common to use the bodies of GOCHANG bandaji and add new iron fittings, which often do not match the local style.
Only experienced buyers will notice the difference.
These chests are unique in their style. They are larger than other Bandaji, and pine wood was the primary timber used.
The swallowtail pattern is a common feature on the iron metalwork. The fittings were also more elaborate than the GOCHANG style.
Another design concern a higher Bandaji (100cm) with drawers on the top and a downward opening panel which doesn’t extend all the way. Those pieces are rare now days.
The capital of South Jeolla was located at Naju until it was moved to Gwangju also spell Kwangju in 1895. Being a provincial capital city during the Joseon dyansty, helped the development of a furniture production center.
Experts and collectors of Korean furniture will look for bandaji coming from NAJU for their simplicity and the beauty of their wood.
Furniture from this area displays beautiful wood, and generally, the fittings are very sparse, of rectangular shape, and elegant.
Furniture handles had a simple design. Three types of hinges are common on such pieces: a narrow and long rectangular hinge, a swallowtail, and a hinge design with a square on top and a swallowtail at the bottom.
The most characteristic feature is that the nails are embedded in the hinges, so all round nails can be seen above the hinges. Some pieces stand on more elaborate legs.
Another chest with its specific design is the JEONJU bandaji (North Jeolla).
A three-story Bandaji with three small drawers on the front top, a small double door in the middle, and a bottom panel that opens downward but does not extend all the way. In some cases, white brass could be used on metalwork, and the bottom opening panel could extend all the way.
Two-level Bandaji, like those featured in this post, are sometimes difficult to identify. To our knowledge, there were three main types of such pieces produced in Korea: the Jeonju bandaji, the Yeonggwang bandaji, both in Jeolla Do province, and the Cheongju bandaji from the Chungcheong province, north of Jeolla Do province. The illustration provided below offers some tips on how to identify them.
NAMWON Bandaji are large and not very ornate.
The three main fittings holding the opening panel are characterized by the intricate gourd-shaped pattern.
Another design is very similar to the JEONJU bandaji with three similar drawers on the top, but in this case, the bottom panel extends all the way.
Coming from the southern tip of the province, CHANGHUNG Bandaji is quite similar to JEJU DO pieces in their metal decoration. The tip of the top panel extends slightly from the front door panel, and the lower surface is curved.
Zelkova wood with a fine grain was mainly used but on more common pieces pine could also be used.
The front plates and hinges displayed the “clouds” shaped pattern particular to the JEJU DO bandaji. However, the design of this plate is slightly different and is usually flat without engraved symbols.
Sometimes, the top of the central hinge had a pomegranate design. It’s interesting to note the absence of the large, thick, and bold star-shaped nails that are very common on the top opening panel of the JEJU DO bandaji.
The photo hereunder illustrate the main difference between the Changhung and the Jeju Do Bandaji.
YEOSU or YOSU BANDAJI.
Yeosu is a city located on the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula in South Jeolla Do province.
Bandaji from this area has the characteristic of being much smaller with an average size of H. 40cm, W. 72cm, D. 35cm.
They are often made of pine wood with a dark brown finish. Cast iron metalwork is dense and very detailed with numerous engravings of auspicious motifs.
Some furniture however have very few metal hinges but can be identify by their small and low dimension.
Bandaji from Haenam area at the southern tip of Jeolla province are very simple without much decoration.