Changsok” refers to the metal decoration used on Korean furniture. These metal fixtures served both utilitarian and decorative purposes, being crafted from materials like cast iron, copper, tin, nickel, and white brass.

The white brass alloy, which includes tin and sometimes nickel in addition to the conventional copper and zinc found in yellow brass, may also contain lead. The exact color varies based on the proportions of these principal ingredients. Copper is abundant across the Korean peninsula, while tin is primarily mined in the Sokcho city area on the east-central coast (Edward Reynolds Wright & Man Sill Pai, “KOREAN FURNITURE, Elegance & Tradition”).

These metal decorations come in various shapes and designs, tailored to the type and size of the chest. They play a dual role in strengthening joints and compensating for wood shrinkage or expansion, with the additional note that, on old pieces, they were all handmade.

During the early period (18th century to mid-19th century), metal hinge patterns on furniture were sparse, simple, and modest. Metalwork served essential functions in a straightforward form until the early 19th century, with the emphasis shifting to the decorative aspect as it was passed down to later generations.

By the end of the 19th century, more ornate types of metalwork emerged, with many decorative motifs drawing inspiration from Chinese philosophy.

Iron & white brass plates on Korean furniture.

In the early 20th century, various new techniques, including engraving, embossing, and incising, were employed to enhance the decoration of plates.

On Bandaji, with the exception of some pieces from the northern part of Korea, such as Pyongyang and Gaesong, which were adorned with brass plates, most of the metalwork was executed using rough iron. The same iron metalwork was applied to various kitchen chests or coin chests to a lesser extent.

Yellow and white brass metalwork found its place on other types of furniture, such as “Jang” (Morijang) or headside chests, (Ich’ung Jang) or two-level chests, (Samch’ung Jang) or three-level chests. For “Uigori Jang“, also known as a wardrobe, a design specific to the 20th century, yellow or white brass was commonly used. The same can be said for small boxes designed to store documents, mirror boxes, shelves, and document chests.


Changes in the use of materials from the Joseon period to the present day.

An analysis of antique pieces reveals that a significant portion of Korean furniture featured blackened iron hinges. This is especially true for bandaji, book chests, kitchen chests…

As mentioned earlier, clothing chests from the 19th century could, however, be adorned with metal parts in yellow or white brass.

Our research unveiled that, during that era, the more costly yellow brass was employed in furniture crafted for the upper classes. In contrast, white brass was more prevalent, evident in its widespread use on furniture in the northern provinces of the peninsula.

In the 20th century, with the emergence of an export market to the West, the numerous reproductions primarily utilized yellow brass hinges.

The transition from white brass to yellow brass in the metalwork of Korean reproduction furniture likely stems from several contributing factors. Firstly, aesthetics: the rich, warm tone of yellow brass has become more synonymous with quality and tradition, rendering it more desirable in reproduction pieces that often aim to evoke a sense of history or classic style. Secondly, the composition of the alloys: white brass, higher in zinc, is more brittle and challenging to work with than yellow brass. Although it may have been more economical in the past, advances in metalworking technology and the globalization of resources have likely minimized the cost differences. Lastly, health and environmental concerns: white brass often contains lead, which has been phased out of many products due to health risks. In contrast, yellow brass is typically lead-free, making it safer and more environmentally friendly. Therefore, while white brass may have been the economical choice in the past, yellow brass has become the standard for various reasons today.


Lock plates are flat metal mounts on which a lock and lock receptacles are positioned. They serve to shield the surface of furniture from direct contact with locks.

Situated at the front top of the furniture, they were a significant feature on bandaji. In Korean, they are referred to as “Appat’ang”. Due to their prominently visible placement, they also came in a variety of shapes.


Cloud pattern lock plate on bandaji
Cloud pattern lock plate on bandaji
Upper part of a lock plate.
Flower design. Iron
Iron lockplate.
Cloud pattern with engraved “Manja” (卍).  & flower motifs.
Small house at the bottom
Iron lockplate.
Cloud pattern with engraved “Manja” (卍) & cloud motifs.
Iron lockplate.
Cloud pattern with engraved “Manja” (卍) & flower motifs
Cloud pattern iron lock plate
Antique Bandaji with iron metalwork


(Top) Square pattern lock plate.
Pyongyang Bandaji, White brass.
Incised deers with bamboo motifs & Chinese characters.

These two photos illustrates lock plates made of white brass and mainly used on pieces from the northern part of the peninsula, especially Pyongyang Bandaji from Pyongan Do province.

Square pattern lock plate.
Pyongyang Bandaji, White brass.
Incised deers, bamboo, crane & pine motifs.
Typical “fish” lock commonly found on Pyongyang Bandaji.

Pyongan province. White brass metalwork covers usually the entire front of the chests.
Square pattern lock plate are widely used.
Iron lock plate with stylized Chinese character “SHOU”, Longevity on a
” Sung Sun I ” Bandaji from the northern province.
 Engraved iron lock plates on
” Sung Sun I ” Bandaji.
It display some stylized Chinese characters, “Manja” (卍) & trigram motifs.
Iron lock plate on a Gyeonggi Do Bandaji.
Engraved “Manja” (卍) and trigram  motifs.
Square pattern.
White brass lock plate on Morijang
Morijang with square pattern metal work on both the lock plate and the fittings used to fix the doors to the front.


Round yellow brass pattern lock plate
Yellow brass round lock plate
on a red lacquer wedding box.
Round or circle pattern.
White brass on Nong
Round or circle pattern. Yellow brass
Round engraved lock plate on a “Sung Sun I ” bandaji from the northern part of Korea..
Round pattern lock plates were widely used on clothing chests such as Morijang and multi level Jang


Flower pattern. White brass.
Lock plate on a small wooden box.
Lock plate with flower pattern on Jang. White brass.
Yellow brass incised flower motif lock plate on Bandaji
Central white brass door lock plate – Flower pattern on Jang
Central white brass door lock plate – Flower pattern on Jang
Central white brass door lock plate on Jang – Flower pattern.
Multiple patterns on this “Masan” three level chest from Gyeongsang Do province in the southern part of the peninsula.
It was probably used to be part to a woman’s quarter
Flower, clouds, & birds (crane)
. Central lock plates with flower motifs.
Iron fittings holding the opening panel. Stylized flower motif.
Handle plate with stylized flower motif. (Photo right) Large round lock plate with a stylized flower motif.


White brass Butterfly lock plates. Mainly used on clothing chests such as “Morijang”, “Jang” and “Nong”
Large white brass lock plate on a Pyongyang Nong from Pyongan province.  
White brass lock plate on a red lacquer Jang (two level clothing chest). 
“Ich’ung Jang” or two level chest with butterfly metalwork. Lock plates and doors fittings.
Gaesong Bandaji with yellow brass butterfly metalwork


Hinges are metal mounts used to attach doors to the body of furniture, allowing a door to open and close. In Korean, they are referred to as “Kyongch’op”. Depending on the region, they were made of iron, white, or yellow brass. Their designs provide information about the geographic origin of the Bandaji.


Photos top and right. Belt hinges. Long rectangular plates.
White brass with incised auspicious motifs such as
Chinese characters, birds, bamboo, pine trees.
Popular on Bandaji from the northern provinces.

Pyongyang and Gaesong.
Drawing of a belt hinge decorated with animals and pine trees.
Incised birds & flowers on a belt hinge,
Incised auspicious motifs on a white brass belt hinge.
Contemporary Korean piece of furniture with white brass belt hinges covering an important part of its front.
Typical metalwork decoration on this Pyongyang Bandaji from Pyongan Do province.
Large six belt hinges with incised Chinese characters
Belt hinges.
Long rectangular plates. Iron.  Engraved geometrical motifs.
Those were commonly applied on Bandaji from the northern provinces, Sung Sun I style as well as pieces from Gyeonggi Do province & Gangwha island.
Iron belt hinges on a Sung Sun I style bandaji.
Iron belt hinges on
a Gangwha Bandaji

On the “Sung Sun I” Bandaji, the beauty of the metalwork is showcased through its intricate geometric patterns with elaborate openwork. It employs a technique of carving out patterns by chiseling each piece (iron is hardened by heating it in a fire).

Fine engraved iron belt hinges on a
” Sung Sun I ” Bandaji from the northern province.


Clouds iron patterns on Bandaji.
Also called “Cloud head”, they are widely
 used on Jeju do and Jeolla do Bandaj. White brass was used on Jangs and iron on bandaji.
Cloud iron fittings on a Jeju Do bandaji.
Typical Jeju Do Bandaji with its large frontal clouds pattern fittings.
Large clouds pattern ” Bullocho ” fittings on Jeju Do bandaji. Usually 3 pieces.
Different clouds pattern motifs on bandaji from Changhung area in Jeolla Do province and those from Jeju Do island.
Jeju Do Bandaji.


Square iron pattern on Bandaji with
engraved “Manja”  (卍) motif.
Square pattern hinge with engraved “Manja” (卍) motif on a Sung Sun I Bandaji from North Korea.


The Swallowtail pattern was highly popular throughout Korea.

White brass was utilized in the northern part of the peninsula, while iron was widely employed in Jeolla Do and Gangwon Do provinces.

Various white brass swallowtail hinges used on clothing chests such as “Jangs”. Two level or three level chests.
Swallowtail on Naju bandaji.
Iron swallowtail pattern fitting
with flower motif on Gyeongsang Do Bandaji
Iron swallowtail pattern fitting
with “Manja”  (卍) motif on Gyeongsang Do Bandaji
Swallowtail pattern lock plate.
Bandaji from Gangwon Do province.
Swallowtail hinge & central gourd pattern hinge. Bandaji from Gangwon Do province. Check photo on the right.
Typical metalwork on Gangwon Do Bandaji.


Gourd or vase pattern. White brass.
Engraved “Manja” motif (卍) (left). Incised Chinese characters (right).
This motif was used in Kyonggi area (white or yellow brass) as well as
In Gangwon Do province (iron)
Yellow brass gourd or vase pattern on a Gyeonggi Do bandaji.
Yellow brass gourd pattern hinges were special features on Gyeonggi Do bandaji.


This pattern was primarily used on Bandaji from the northern part of the peninsula, which is now known as North Korea.

These plates could be made in brass for Pyongyang Bandaji or iron for Sung Sun I Bandaji.

The South Gate motif, known as “Namdaemun” (남대문) in Korean, is a common decorative element found in traditional Korean furniture and architecture. Namdaemun refers to the Great South Gate, one of the historical gates in Seoul, South Korea. It is an iconic symbol in Korean culture and is often incorporated into various forms of art and design, representing the gate as a symbol of protection.

Iron “Namdaemun” gate pattern on Sung Sun I Bandaji
“Namdaemum” gate meaning south gate pattern.
White brass central Namdaemun gate pattern on Pyongyang Bandaji.
White brass central Namdaemun gate pattern on Pyongyang Bandaji.
Large Sung Sun I Bandaji with its typical iron “Namdaemun” central gate pattern.


Various small white brass butterfly hinges found on Jang especially Morijang.
Yellow brass butterfly hinge.
Butterflies hinges on Jang. White or yellow brass.
This motif was widely used on Morijang
( photo left ) and
Nong ( photo above ).
Butterfly pattern on lock plate and door hinges.
MORIJANG. Lock plate and fittings holding the doors are made of white brass with butterfly pattern.


Double cabbage pattern.
The white brass double cabbage pattern is common on Bandaji from the northern part of the peninsula and is always placed in a central part
of the chest as fittings holding the opening panel.
Central double cabbage fitting on a recent pieces
( Northern style ).


Handles attached to the front panels or side panels on bandaji are used to lift furniture or to open drawers and doors.

In Korean they are called “Tul soe ”. The most common shapes used for handles included flower, bat and butterfly.

Bat white brass handle on Bat plate.
Gyeonggi Do Bandaji.
Small bat yellow brass handle on a drawer.
C curve iron handle on Bat plate.
Pattern widely used on Gangwon Do
C curve iron handle on Butterfly plate
C Curve iron handle on
flower small plates
C Curve iron handle on Bat plate.
Gangwon Do Bandaji
Flower pattern handle fixed to birds small plates.
Incised with bamboo, pine, and Chinese character.
This type of central handle was typical on Pyongyang Bandaji


Also called corner plates metal mount, they are attached on structurally jointed parts to reinforce the joint or just as a decorative purpose.

Arrow & pomegranate patterns engraved with “Manja”
(卍)  motif.
Both photos of Jeju Do Bandaji
Arrow & flower corner plate engraved with “Manja” (卍)  & Taegeuk motifs

Gamja pattern joint plates on
this Gangwon Do Bandaji
“Manja” (卍)  & Trigram motifs engraved on corner plates on this Ganghwa Do Bandaji
Left: Cloud pattern corner plate.

Right: Flower pattern
decorative plate

Metal plates are attached to the corners to protect it from damage.

Iron corner plate with cloud pattern
Square white brass corner plate
On a Pyongyang Nong from Pyongan Do province ( North ).


A metal plate of a different shape is attached to the middle top or bottom of the front chest to give accent to the piece, serving a purely decorative purpose.

Central decorative plates called “Kwangdujong” were widely used on bandaji. Sometimes, they were used to attach handles to facilitate lifting.

“Manja” (卍) motif 
Chinese stylized character
Flower pattern


White brass sea bream also called the “crucian carp” on Bandaji from the northern provinces. Usually located at the bottom of the chest as a decorative purpose..

The Crucian carp plate. This plate was always placed at the bottom center of the chest.
The crucian carp plate
Bat and flower motif. White brass.
Localisation of the Crucian carp at the bottom of a Pyonyang Bandaji from Pyongan Do province.

Iron crayfish pattern fittings (4) on this Bandaji from
Jeolla Do province.
White brass bird pattern (crane) 
White brass bird pattern (crane) on doors of a Jang. Purely decorative plates.


Flower designs. Yellow brass. This pattern is also called “Yeouiju” 여의주 which symbolized the round bowl the dragon was holding in his mouth. This motif symbolized 
a treasure bead that expresses mysticism and strangeness in 
Flower designs. White brass.
Diamond shapes large nails.
A typical feature on Jeju Do
” Rhombic plate “, flower design on Gangwon Do Bandaji


Chinese character “Double Happiness”
Chinese characters: “SHOU” Long life & “FU” – Prosperity
Stylized Chinese Characters.

TAEGEUK” and “MANJA” motifs.

“MANJA” motif
“MANJA” motif.
MANJA & TAEGUK” motifs
“TAEGEUK” motif
“TAEGEUK” motif

The “RUYI” motif.

Ruyi 如意 is a Chinese curved decorative object that serves as either a ceremonial scepter in Chinese Buddhism or a talisman symbolizing power and good fortune in Chinese folklore. The “Ruyi” image frequently appears as a motif in Asian art, especially on Buddhism-related items such as shrines or low desks used by monks. Seldom used in metalwork, this motif was mainly engraved on wood.

Ruyi motif.
Engraved Ruyi motif on a Buddhist desk. Kyongsan Do province. Korea.


Eight trigrams motif
Contemporary Bandaji displaying two “Taegeuk” motifs
on each side of the upper lock plate as well as a multitude
of “Manja” (卍) motifs in openwork on the hinges, corner plates
and central decorative plate.
The eight diagrams also called trigrams symbolize the eight natural phenomena: sky, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and lake. So, the picture represented the ancient Chinese early knowledge of the universe.
The metal work on this bandaji from the collection of the Harn Museum of Art in Florida USA is a perfect example of this type of motifs. This chest is dated Late 19th to early 20th century. Wood which is not mentioned is red pine.
The central lock plate is incised with two “Heaven” motifs on top of two “Manja” motifs. Corners plates are also pieced with the “Heaven” motif. Long central rectangular plates are decorated with “Fire” motifs (top) and again “Manja” motifs at the bottom.
This type of patterns was mainly used in men’s quarter by educated nobles.


  1. Zachary Morrison

    Well done documentation, Yves!

    1. Thank you. Appreciated.

  2. Vince Langford

    Very thorough and very interesting, congratulations on your hard work.

    1. Thank you.

  3. Bonjour Yves, Merci pour cette présentation de meubles Coréen j’ai beaucoup appris sur ces jolis meubles. Nous avons acheté un bandaji en juillet dernier, auquel il manque une poignée,(c curve handle) c’est en cherchant sur internet que j’ai vu votre site complet et très intéressant. Félicitations et bonne journée.

    1. Envoyez moi une photo de cette poignee manquante. On ne sait jamais.

  4. […] a previous publication METALWORK PATTERNS ON KOREAN FURNITURE, we listed the various decorative motifs on the hinges of Korean furniture. Below, we examine their […]

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