Feature image: Jang – Two level chest. Zelkova wood, lacquer, brass fittings. H. 134cm, W. 103cm, D. 47cm. Early 19th century. Collection Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota. USA.
The “Jang” was a type of furniture traditionally used for storing clothes in Korean households. However, due to cost considerations, most modest households opted for the “Bandaji“. As a result, the “Jang” was primarily found in the homes of the nobility.
Towards the end of the 19th century, with the advent of industrialization and an increase in the general population’s wealth, its usage expanded to a broader segment of society. It is believed that the majority of the pieces available on the market today date from the 20th century.
Typically, “Jang” furniture is constructed with one, two, or three levels, each featuring small doors at the center of every level. Each level serves as an open compartment, devoid of drawers or internal divisions. Additionally, there are often four small drawers located at the top, and a decorative stand to elevate it above the heated floor, known as “ondol”.
The construction of the front part of the furniture involves the assembly of panels inserted into frames. Elm was a commonly used wood for the frames, while fruit trees with more decorative grain patterns, such as maple, cherry, and tree roots, were employed for the panels.
The sides, back, and top of the furniture were typically crafted from pine or paulownia wood.
Hinges, used for both reinforcement and decoration, were often made from yellow or white brass. These hinges frequently featured numerous auspicious motifs, especially on furniture intended for women’s quarters.
Distinguishing between “Jang” and “Nong” is not always straightforward. Extensive research and furniture identification have led us to the conclusion that “Jang” is typically constructed as a single unit with an extended top, whereas “Nong” consists of two identical stackable components, as illustrated in the drawing below.
“We think of the wardrobe as a place to hang our clothes. But it would be more accurate to speak ok Korea’s traditional wardrobe as a place to pile clothes.
In Korea’s wardrobe the clothes are folded and stacked on top of each other.
Each layer has its own special nature. In the summer, the layer way down at the bottom is winter clothing, but after a few months has passed, look again-now the summer clothing is buried down there. And the layer in the middle will hold clothing for the more temperate months. So the strata revolve according to the revolution of the seasons.
The wardrobe does not come in only one size or type. The feature which best distinguishes one wardrobe from another is the number of levels it has. There is the two-shelf wardrobe, the three-shelf wardrobe, and so on.”
Illustrations: A two-shelf wardrobe, a three-shelf wardrobe.