Tiger and Magpie

 

The image of a tiger and magpie was a popular theme in Korean folkart (Minhwa) during the Joseon Dynasty (1400 - 1800s). There were two types of works during this period: "Jakhodo" and "Kkachi horangi." In Jakhodo the letter “jak” means magpie; “ho” means tiger; and “do” means painting. The magpie implies that good things can happen or a valuable guest may come. The tiger symbolizes expelling bad spirits. Jakhodo paintings are thought to keep away evil spirits and influence, and there is a tradition to hang the art piece in the house in the first month of the lunar calendar. In kkachi horangi paintings, the tiger is intentionally given a ridiculous and stupid appearance (hence its nickname "idiot tiger" 바보호랑이), and represents authority and the aristocratic yangban, while the dignified magpie represents the common man. Hence, kkachi horangi paintings of magpies and tigers were a satire of the hierarchical structure of Joseon's feudal society.

There is also a folktale that may have served as the backdrop for the imagery of the tiger looking up at the magpie from "Minhwa: Tales of Korean Folk Paintings" by Yul Soo Yoon:

 

Once upon a time, a tiger wandered into a big puddle in the forest. Incapable of freeing himself, he anxiously waited for someone to rescue him. He endured three days without a meal before a goodhearted woodcutter happened to pass by.

The tiger begged the man to save his life. When the woodcutter obliged, the ungrateful tiger attempted to eat him. Startled by this turn of events, the woodcutter asked an ox and a pine tree to fairly judge the case. But the pair sided with the tiger, urging him to eat the woodcutter.

In desperation, the woodcutter turned to a magpie for a final opinion. The magpie asked the woodcutter and tiger to reenact the story so that he could make an appropriate judgement. 

The foolish tiger returned to the puddle, and the woodcutter was saved. Because of this tale, a magpie has long been considered a friend to humans.

 

My thanks again to the Ceramic Art Studio and Shop.

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

 

Tiger and Magpie

Wet clay model

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