THE FURNITURE LOCK.

When you buy antique Korean furniture, it’s rare for it to come with a padlock. In fact, padlocks have either disappeared, or if they were of good quality, they were sold separately to enthusiasts. In the book “Korean Style,” which focuses on the interiors of Korean homes, a fine collection of padlocks is presented From the Lock Museum in Seoul.

Collection: National palace Museum of Korea.

They may look like decorative flourishes to some, but Koreans once depended on sturdy locks to safeguard their most valuable spaces―while taking care to ensure these heavy-duty locks remained aesthetically pleasing.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), many locksmiths began using brass, due to the fact that they had learned how to make suitable alloys from copper and zinc. And while these brass fixings were a massive upgrade on the old iron designs, by the end of the Joseon era, many artisans has started using cupronickel. This super-sturdy alloy of copper, nickel and other metals can even resist the ravages of salty seawater.

Animal-related symbolism was popular. One such design was the tortoise, whose hard shell spoke of impenetrability, as well as longevity. Fish, meanwhile, were often chosen due to the fact that they have no eyelids: Their watchful eyes remained open at all times, ensuring no criminal could evade their gaze. Floral patterns were also used, as many flowers were also associated with long life spans, as well as values such as harmony and wisdom. WRITTEN BY Tim Alper

THE FISH SHAPED LOCK.

Fish-shaped locks were one of the most common to be found in the Korean home. Just like the turtle, the fish symbolized protection. With their eyes always open. The fish-shaped locks would watch over possessions while household members slept. Made from metal molds, these fancifully shaped yellow brass locks were used to secure wardrobe armoires, wedding-trousseau boxes, Bandaji and cosmetic cases for women.

The character for the word fish in Chinese 鱼 “Yú” is a homonym for the word meaning abundance, thus lending it another layer of auspiciousness. Given its fecundity, the fish symbolized fertility and served as a reminder to mothers that they would be blessed with many children.

Fish represent security and fortune. For this reason, locks with fish patterns were often used on furniture in kitchens and inner rooms for women.

Usually made from yellow brass, the fish lock was mainly used on chests from the northern provinces such as PYONGAN DO.

Bandaji from Gyeonggi Do province with original fish shaped lock.

자물쇠 H. 9,5cm, W. 19,2cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 9,5cm, W. 17cm. Collection “ANTIKASIA”
자물쇠 H. 9,2cm, W. 18cm. Collection “ANTIKASIA”
Fish shaped lock on stand. Collection: “ANTIKASIA”
Fish shaped lock & keys. Collection: “ANTIKASIA”.

ㄷ-SHAPED LOCKS.

Traditional Korean locks came in many shapes and forms. © National Palace Museum of Korea
Peony Patterned Lock, Late Chosŏn, lock; nickel, 3 x 5 x 1-3/4 inches, key; iron, 6-1/2 x 1-3/4 x 3/8 inches,
courtesy of The Korea Society and The Lock Museum
자물쇠 H. 7,3cm, W. 12,7cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 9,4cm, W. 14,4cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 6,2cm, W. 9cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 4,5cm, W. 6cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 2,9cm, W. 6,6cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 4cm, W. 9cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Bandaji. Jeolla Do province with original lock.
자물쇠 H. 4,3cm, W. 15,2cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 6,2cm, W. 14,8cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
자물쇠 H. 6cm, W. 15cm, D. 6cm.
자물쇠 H. 6,5cm, W. 14,5cm.
자물쇠 H. 8cm, W. 14cm.
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, yellow brass. H. 2,5cm, W. 5cm.
Used on Boxes.
Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, yellow brass. H. 4cm, W. 10cm.
Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
Iron lock. H. 8cm, W. 10cm. Used on Bandaji. Collection: “ANTIKASIA”
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, iron. H. 5cm, W. 8cm.
Used on Bandaji or coin chests
. Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, iron. H. 5cm, W. 9,5cm.
Used on Bandaji or coin chests
. Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, iron. H. 7,5cm, W. 12cm.
Used on Bandaji or coin chests
. Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
ㄷ-Shaped-lock, iron. H. 5cm, W. 10,5cm.
Used on Bandaji or coin chests
. Collection: “ANTIKASIA“.
A MOTHER-OF-PEARL INLAID LACQUER BOX.
Korea, Joseon dynasty, 18th/19th c. Dimension: 30 × 17.5 × 11 cm.
With lock on ruyi head surrounded, finely engraved medallion.
Lock museum in Seoul
Collection: Daegu Bangja Yugi museum
East Asia, Korea, ca. 17th to 18th century CE. An iron lock known as a digeut lock, named after a Korean character that resembles this lock’s shape. The main body is a U shape, and the sliding bolt has four prongs that fit into slots. A narrow keyhole is formed on the top where one panel and the body join together. This type of lock was perfect for securing rings in place.
Size: 4.4 cm x 1.9 cm x 5.1 cm.
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