When the Magpie Sings
Take a look at the magpie in the pine tree. Korean people say that a welcome guest comes when a magpie sings. Jesus Christ seems to be a most welcome guest in this small straw-roofed house where the humble classes once lived. He wears a typical Korean outfit for a male child, including a Bokgun (Korean cloth hat for boys). Mary, as a married woman, does her hair up in a chignon and wears a simple garment of subdued color. Joseph, a married man himself, wears his hair in a topknot, and dons a simple light blue outfit. Traditionally, men and women wear Chogoris (Korean-style jackets); women’s Chogoris are shorter than those of men.
Young and old welcome the presence of Baby Jesus. Youth is represented twice: by a village girl, respectfully bowing before the infant, and dressed in a brightly colored, blue and red Han Bok (Korean costume). As a maiden girl she wears her hair in braids. The young and kneeling villager, with braids and in a colorful costume, throws his arms up in joy. Also kneeling and greeting the future redeemer with a more measured gesture of respect, is the old villager, his hair bound in a topknot. He is clothed in an outfit of subdued colors.
The rural setting of the Korean nativity, made of Dackjongie (Korean paper), is further marked by the smaller structure representing the barn, and the traditional jar stands where the soy sauce jars are placed. Koreans kept in these jars Gochujang (the thick soy paste mixed with red pepper), Duenjang (soybean paste), Ghanjang (soy sauce), and Kimchi (Korean Cabbage pickles).
Sung June Yim is a ceramic artist from the Seoul region in South Korea. Frequently he seeks artistic inspiration in early Korean history and Chinese literature. The central characters of this set are Lady Mi and warrior Jo Ja Ryong from the Chinese classic, “The Three Dynasties.” Lady Mi moves with her child through enemy territory. She is wounded. Jo Ja Ryong, the great warrior, rescues the baby but is forced to leave the mother behind.
Shepherds and magi are characters of the Ko Gu Ryo Dynasty (37 B.C.-668 A.D.). They can be recognized by their dotted vestments. The bowed figures with long sleeves pay respect to the baby, and the three mounted musicians, with their woodwind and percussion instruments welcome him with a serenade.
Originally not intended as nativity, these typically cultural figures are bridge builders between peoples and their history.
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