Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Ethnography of the Hermit Kingdom: The J.B. Bernadou Korean Collection 1884-1885, by Chang-su Cho Houchins

John Bernadou (1858-1908) was dispatched by the Smithsonian as a cultural attaché or special envoy to the American mission in Korea, and assembled this collection from March 1884 to April 1885. An amateur ethnologist, Bernadou systematically acquired a wide range of Korean cultural artifiacts during a birth of a period of unprecedented open exchange in the Joseon Dynasty. Included in the collection, and illustrated in this book, are not only the paintings and ceramics that typically adorn pages of museum catalogues, but also handicrafts, textiles, utensils, clothing and accessories, books, maps, musical instruments, and furniture, providing a unique glimpse of Korean life and culture at the end of the 19th century, when it was straddling the cloistered traditions of centuries and on the brink of Japanese occupation, which would force it into the industrial world. The numerous photographs and extensive captions include notations and drawings by Bernadou. A terrific book. [Asian Cultural History Program/Smithsonian Institution]

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