At present from a historical point of view, we should call this furniture as furniture of the Northern provinces of Korea because at the time of the “Joseon dynasty”, the country was unified. Korea was separated in two as a result of the war in the middle of the 20th century (1953).

Sung Sun I ” Bandaji on exhibit in “Mangyondae” the native home of president Kim Il Sung.
Located a kilometer from the center of Pyongyang. “Mangyongdae” is the place of Kim Il Sung’s birth. President Kim Il Sung was born here on April 15, 1912 referred to in the DPRK as Juche 1.

Until the late 1980s, very few Korean pieces from the northern part of the peninsula were available on the market. After the opening of China, some began to slowly appear at its border with North Korea, in the northern Chinese provinces of Liaoning and, especially, Jilin. Throughout the 1990s, more pieces became available in China.

Bandaji from the Korean northern provinces in a Chinese warehouse.
The eight provinces of Korea.
Hwanghae Do
Pyongan Do
Hamgyong Do

The entire Korean peninsula boasts a wide variety of woods.

In the southern part of the peninsula, hardwoods with decorative grains were readily available. Consequently, carpenters from these regions, such as Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces, developed a preference for unadorned furniture, avoiding excessive metalwork. (A photo of a Naju Bandaji from southern Jeolla Do province is shown below.)

Zelkova wood with limited iron fittings. Jeolla Do province. South Korea.
Collection: Hoham Museum.
Seoul, Korea.

In the north, however, the woods in greater supply were those without decorative grains. Lime wood (Pi Namu), also known as basswood and linden in the west, was a straight-grained softwood popular for bandaji construction. Other woods used included pine, chestnut, and occasionally zelkova.

Fittings were typically made from white brass, although sometimes yellow brass or iron were used.

The white brass alloy includes tin and sometimes nickel, in addition to copper and zinc. The color of the alloy depends on the proportions of the principal ingredients.

Furniture pieces from the northern part of the peninsula were typically larger than their South Korean counterparts.

Pyongyang style (left), Pakchon or Sung Sun I style (middle), Gangwha style (right)


The distinctive feature of the Pyongyang Bandaji is the significant use of metal parts that cover its front section.

These metal parts are typically employed to conceal wood with less attractive grain, such as linden. The metalwork is most commonly made of white brass and often includes numerous auspicious patterns. For additional details, please refer to our post: PYONGYANG BANDAJI-평양 반닫이

BANDAJI. Large Bandaji or Blanket Chest,
Linden wood, Pyongyang area, Pyongan Do province.
H. 106cm, L. 102cm, D. 43cm.
Mid 20th century. Collection: ANTIKASIA
Hinged front, three small interior drawers, set up on legs with decorative metal mounts, handles at the sides. Interior papered
Elm wood, white brass fittings. Pyongyang area.
Pyongan Do province. Late 19th Century.
H. 85cm, W. 92cm, D. 52cm. Collection: ANTIKASIA.
This chest is unusual as elm wood was used instead of linden wood.
BANDAJI. Pyongyang area. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
NONG or stacked chest. Linden wood, white brass fittings with large butterfly pattern lock plates. Pyongyang city. Pyongan Do province. Early 20th century.
H. 138cm, W. 82cm, D. 45cm. Collection: ANTIKASIA
NONG or stacked chest.
Linden wood, white brass fittings.
Pyongyang city. Pyongan Do province.
Mid 20th century.

H. 129cm, W. 77cm, D. 43cm. Collection: ANTIKASIA


Regarding the two previous styles, Pakchon’s Bandaji, also known as “Sung Sun I” Bandaji, is extensively adorned with metal. However, in this case, iron is used instead of brass.

The hinges are thinner compared to those of Gangwha Island and cover a larger portion of the furniture’s front.

Due to the distinctive designs of the steel plates with numerous holes, this type of bandaji is nicknamed “Sung Sun I Bandaji“. “Sung sun” is an onomatopoeic word in Korean that represents the sound the wind makes when blowing rapidly through a hole.

Korean unusual bandaji. “Sung Sun I “style

Elm wood (front), Pine wood body ( top, sides & back). Iron fittings, oil finish.
Pakchon area, Pyongan Do province.
Mid 19th Century.
H. 94cm, W. 106cm, D. 52cm.
Collection: “ANTIKASIA”.
“Sung Sun I” Bandaji with elm wood front,
Pine wood body (top, sides & back).
Iron fittings, oil finish. Pakchon area, Pyongan Do province.
Mid 19th Century.
H. 95cm, W. 110cm, D. 50cm.
Collection: “ANTIKASIA”.
BANDAJI. Pine wood, iron fittings. “Sung Sun I ” style.
Pakchon area, Pyongan Do province. Late 19th century.
Sung Sun I style. Collection of the Weisman Museum of Art, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Pakchon area. 19th century.
H. 80cm, W. 98cm, D. 48,2cm.
Collection of the Horim Museum, Seoul, Korea.
Sung sun I bandaji. H. 81cm, W. 85cm, D. 42cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Sung sun I bandaji. H. 86cm, W. 85cm, D. 44cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Pakchon area, Early 19th-20th Century,
H. 75,7cm, W. 93,4cm, D. 44,2cm. Collection The Jeju Craft Museum, Korea.
Pakchon area, Early 19th-20th Century,
.H. 103,6cm, W. 112cm, D, 51cm. Collection National Museum of Korea.
Elm wood front, Pine back and sides. Iron fittings.
Pakchon area, North Korea.
Late 19th century. H. 103cm, W. 107cm, D. 47cm.
The metalwork is finely wrought and unusually thick. The central metal piece is a South Gate motif.
Collection: “ANTIKASIA
South gate central motif.

The “Sung Sun I” Bandaji from the Pyongan Do region in the northern part of the peninsula are relatively easy to identify, thanks to the abundance of carefully cut metal parts on their front. However, there are a few variations in terms of metalworking. As the illustrations in this post show, some were covered with very thin, finely cut metal plates, while others had thicker hinges. Perhaps a more thorough study would explain the reasons for these variations.

Certain decorative patterns on the hinges are unique to northern pieces of furniture and allow for easier identification. The following patterns are common on Pyongyang Bandaji white brass fittings.

Pyongyang bandaji. Collection: Kyungwoon Museum in Korea. H. 98cm, W. 80cm, D. 44cm.
Flower pattern handle fixed to birds small plates incised with bamboo, pine and a Chinese character. This type of central handle was common on Pyongyang style bandaji.

Very intricate metal work on a “Sung Sun I” Bandaji from Pakchon area in Pyongan Do province.

Bandaji. Pakchon or “Sung Sun I Style. Pyongan Do province. Paulownia wood, iron fittings. H. 53,5cm, W. 78,5cm, D. 41cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum.

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