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The Choson Dynasty suppressed
Buddhism in favor of Confucianism. Under such circumstances, the construction of
temples declined drastically, while the construction of Confucian shrines and
private and public Confucian academies flourished. A simpler system of
column-head bracketing was generally favored in the highly Confucian society,
though the multicluster bracket style was still used in some buildings. Kungnakchon
of Muwisa temple, Kuksajon and Hasadang of
Songgwangsa temple and Haet'almun gate of Togapsa temple are examples of the
column-head bracket style. The Namdaemun gate of Seoul, the Taeungjon
hall of Pongjongsa temple and the Namdaemun gate of
Kaesong represent the multicluster bracket style of
the early Choson period.
In the aftermath of a series of foreign invasions, a new
architectural style with wing-like brackets emerged during the mid-Choson
period. Simpler and more economical than the column-head style, it was
well-suited to the difficult financial situation the nation was experiencing
caused by repeated wars and conflicts. However, palace buildings and important
temple facilities continued to be built with the more ornate multicluster
brackets, as is evident in the Myongjongjon
hall in Ch'anggyonggung palace, the Kumganggyedan
hall of T'ongdosa temple, the P'alsangjon of Popchusa
and the Kak'wangjon of
temple. Public buildings built in the wing-like bracket style include the chongjon
hall and the Yongnyongjon
hall of Chongmyo, the royal ancestral shrine.
Toward the end of the 17th century, the Sirhak or
"Practical Learning" school of Confucianism came into being. It
greatly influenced the arts, encouraged scientific studies and inspired an
awareness of nationalism throughout the 18th century. As Western thought and
culture surged into the country, architecture, as well as other fields of art,
underwent a period of decline, all of which was characterized by redundancy and
superfluous decoration. Exemplary structures from this latter Choson
period include the Injongjon
hall of Ch'angdokkung palace, the Chunghwajon
hall of Toksugung palace and Tongdaemun, the
East Gate of Seoul.
Choson period town walls are best
exemplified by ones constructed around Seoul which were built in 1396, and
rebuilt in 1422. The walls around Suwon were completed in 1796. The Seoul City
wall included four major gates at each compass point and four smaller ones in
between each of them.
The vast majority of the Choson
palaces were destroyed during the Japanese invasions of 1592-1598. Most of the
wooden palace buildings now extant in Seoul were reconstructed during the middle
and late Choson periods. The multicluster bracket
style was used in most of the major palace structures, the audience halls and
entrance gates, and the wing-like bracket style, in minor structures, such as
houses and pavilions. Few palace buildings were built in the column-head style.
The roofs of the palace gates are hipped while the roofs of
the main structures are hipped and gabled. Decorative ceramic figures in the
shape of dragons and other animal heads are at each end of the ridges and rows
of chapsang, which are clay figures derived from a popular Chinese story,
line the sloping ridges to guard against evil spirits.
The ceilings of the major buildings are finished with
checkered panels or with highly decorated canopies that hide the framework of
the roofs. Brackets and ceilings are colorfully painted, and the areas where the
tie beams and pillars meet are decorated with carved corbels.
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