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Jade Crafts Establish Tradition and Identity of Korean Culture중요무형문화재 제100호 장주원 옥장
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승인 2012.04.10  12:34:50
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Jade Crafts Establish Tradition and Identity of Korean Culture
 
 
By Kim So-jeong, Tribune Reporter
 
 
What kind of jewelry do you think has the most traditional beauty? When I think about jade, it reminds me of old fashioned turquoise colored accessories. From the ancient times, jade has been considered priceless and valuable particularly in the Orient. A common phrase, ‘a flaw in the jade’ is a Korean expression comparable to the English phrase ‘a spot in the sun’. Although Korea is not the country from which jade craft originated, Jang Ju-won – Important Intangible Cultural Properties No.100 holder – has been trying to surpass Chinese jade craft.
 
   

 Jang Ju-won, Important Intangible Cultural Properties No.100 Holder

 
As the history of Chinese jade craft is older than ours, the number of craftsmen and equipment is significantly different in Korea compared to China. Jang Ju-won said, “When I started jade craft work, there were no bibliographic references or equipment. I made my decision to overtake China in 20 years. For the last 10 years, no one recognized me and even many acquaintances dissuaded me from going my way.” However, in 1984, he was invited to hold an exhibition of his jade crafts by The Dong-A Ilbo,as the first craftsman of jade in Korea. He also became a chairperson of the Department of Jewelry and Metal Design at Kyonggi University and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in fine arts. He has been working on a new jade-product called Korea Fantasy for 23 years and it seems that he still continues to follow this goal.
Then, how are jade crafts created with years of labor? The first process is to cut out a rough jade stone. The hardness of jade makes it difficult to work with it. The next process is to saw it with a grain of sand which is called haeoksa in order to cut it into small pieces. Then, the craftsman spins a wheel with his feet. Surprisingly, in a review it was said that Jang Ju-won seems to be working with space-aged equipment. The final process is grinding. Due to the lack of precision equipment Jang himself modified dental equipment for use as jade craft tools.
Jang’s father said to him, “Being a man directing pung-ak – Korean traditional music - on, not just playing it.” Jang Ju-won found a new department in university. He said, “A traditional culture is our image. It includes a philosophy, thought and ideology. In the case of Brazil, there exist samba festivals that have a cultural basis. A stagnant culture is bound to be corrupted like water and it needs not only succession but also development.” And he also emphasized enhancing our national prestige. It is a pity that successors for the important intangible cultural properties asset are scarce. However, I was so impressed with his passion because I consider culture as a just thing to be passed down.  Establishing and developing the identity of a traditional culture would be a certain way to enhance national prestige.
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