TONGYEONG. A CENTER FOR KOREAN CRAFTS.

Tongyeong (통영) in Korean, is a coastal city in South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea.

Chungmu City and Tongyeong County were reunited in 1995, creating Tongyeong City as it is known today. It was formerly known as Chungmu, named after the posthumous title of Admiral Yi Sun-sin.

Thanks to its location at the southern tip of the peninsula, Tongyeong enjoys favorable conditions. The proximity to the ocean ensured a steady supply of mother-of-pearl, while the climate and environment were conducive to the development of high-quality forest species such as Zelkova.

During the late 20th century, The primary production center for mother-of-pearl furniture in Korea was Tongyeong renowned for its long-standing tradition of crafting the highest quality mother-of-pearl lacquerware.

During the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) the city was the headquarters of the Korean navy and therefore an important center with a large population compared to other areas in Gyeongsangnam Do province.

MOTHER-OF-PEARL.

Tongyeong is particularly famous for “najeon,” which refers to the mother-of-pearl inlaying technique, as the city is located in the coastal area. For additional information on mother-of-pearl furniture check our special publication: KOREAN MOTHER-OF-PEARL INLAY LACQUER WARE.

Chest decorated with a map of Tongyeong. Mother-of-pearl on black lacquer. H. 48,5cm, W. 81,8cm, D. 40,5cm.
Collection: Korean maritime Museum.
Nong.
H. 116cm, W. 82cm, D. 40,5cm.
The craft of najeonchilgi refers to lacquerware inlaid with nacre (mother-of-pearl), including such items as furniture and accessories.
The surface of the lacquerware is with decorative patterns made by inlaying very thin pieces of nacre (processed from iridescent shells, such as abalone).
Tongyeong, which harvests many abalones, is famous for najeon chilgi nacre-inlaid lacquerware.
This two-tiered chest of lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl depicts landscape designs and hexagonal flower patterns (龜甲花文).
Here, the inlay technique involves slicing the nacre into thin thread-like strips and stretching them with the tip of a knife before cutting them off and attaching them to the object.
Collection: National maritime museum of Korea, Busan.

FURNITURE.

As far as the Bandaji is concerned, we invite you to consult the publication: GYEONGSANG DO BANDAJI- 경상도 반닫이

We’ll focus here on a presentation of the “Jangs”, clothing chests, and a particular type of Soban.

Furniture from the Tongyeong area is well known for its particularly fine-grained wood, which was used to build them. Elm and zelkova were predominant species. These woods were widely available in this coastal area.

Particular attention was also paid to the use and manufacture of fine metal parts, often in white brass, which were used not only for their utilitarian function but also for decoration. Various designs of hinges covered the fronts of the furniture. Because of their excessive decoration and the decorative patterns such as flowers, these pieces of furniture were most often placed in the women’s quarters.

Metal ornamental decorations used for wooden furniture in Tongyeong area.

1- Rectangular corner piece.

2- Flat rectangular drawer puller.

3- Corner piece.

4- Door fittings. Flower pattern.

5- Corner plate with bat design.

6- Flat rectangular large decorative puller.

7- Corner piece bat design.

8- Decorative plate

9- Central circular lock plate. Moon flower pattern.

10- Flat rectangular large decorative puller.

11- Drawer corner piece.

ABOVE: Bosang flower pattern on various lock plates.

ABOVE: Rectangular drawer pullers.

ABOVE: Crane design, white brass. Photo right: Central white brass door lock plate. Flower pattern on Jang

Above: Photos detail of fine white brass fittings on a Nong from Tongyeong. Flat drawer puller on small butterfly shaped plates. Bat decorative plate.

Tongyeong two level chest. H. 153cm, W. 95cm, D. 43cm.
Collection: Old story Antique Furniture, Korea.

Photos above: Beautiful patterns and inlay techniques on the front surface are displayed, showcasing Zelkova wood. The bright lines are inlaid with pear wood, while the black lines are made of persimmon wood. The top panel is unique, slightly raised. Metal decorative plates include a total of four bats, two on the top and two on the bottom.

Tongyeong Morijang. Tongyeong area. H. 89cm, W. 96cm, D. 41cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Two-level stackable chest – Nong. Pine & elm wood, white brass fittings. H. 143cm, W. 89cm, D. 43cm. Private collection.
Two level chest. Tongyeong area. H. 161cm, W. 90cm, D. 45cm. Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Nong. Pine frame & elm panels. White brass fittings. H. 134,3cm, W. 84,5cm, D. 35,5cm. Private collection.
Nong. H. 135cm, W. 86cm, D. 37,5cm. Collection Bupyeong History Museum, Korea.
NONG.
Zelkova wood, white brass fittings. legs on both pieces have been added to allow to use the boxes separately.
Two level chest. H. 152,4cm, W. 96,5cm, D. 48,2cm.
Private collection.
Tongyeong two level chest, Chungmu area. H. 173cm, W. 90,5cm, D. 46cm. Collection: National Folk Museum.
Three level chest. Elm wood, white brass fittings.
H. 163cm, W. 78cm, D. 37cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Masan Nong. H. 136cm, W. 86cm, D. 44,4cm.
Collection: National Folk Museum, Seoul.
Three level chest. Elm wood with burl wood panels, white brass fittings. H. 154cm, W. 90cm, D. 44cm. Private collection.
Nong. Elm wood, white brass fittings
H. 140cm, W. 89,5cm, D. 41cm. high. 
Private collection.
Nong. Elm wood, white brass fittings.
H.125.1cm, W. 85cm, D. 40cm. Legs missing.
Private collection.
Nong. Elm wood, white brass fittings.
H.134cm, W. 86cm, D. 40cm.
Collection: Old Story Antique Furniture, Korea.
Two level chest. Elm & pine wood, white brass fittings. H 132cm, W. 92cm, D. 35,5cm. Private collection.
Pair of cabinets. Contemporary. Artist Bongryong Kim. H. 106cm, W. 68cm, D. 39cm.
Collection: Tongyeong City Museum.
Gyeongsang Do province.

SOBAN.

Soban made and produced in Tongyeong, Gyeongsangnam-do province. Standard dimensions: H. 25 – 28cm, W. 38 – 47cm, D. 28 – 38cm. Originally, the Tongyeong region is a place with a long history of mother-of-pearl lacquerware, and the amazing skill of mother-of-pearl work extends to small tables, boasting of its excellent craftsmanship. The basic form of the Tongyeong ban is a simple rectangular side and a straight cylindrical four legs without any decoration. While it is rectangular, the shape at the four corners do not form angles but are rolled into two soft curves. The materials used for the top panel include zelkova and ginkgo trees, which have beautiful grain patterns. Linden and pine are also used.

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