By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
I am not quite sure if that picture is still kept intact even today, but the front facade of the main Blue House, Korea's presidential palace, is painted with the image of the Irorobongdo. This is a relic of the Dynastic era, but this is still the picture known to represent the authority and prestige.
For quite some time in our history, a dragon throne is situated in the middle of the Main Hall of the Palace and behind it is a standing scroll with this picture of irorobong. In the current 10,000-won bank notes are painted with this image behind the portrait of King Sejong the Great.
The sun and moon represent the Heaven, and the five Mountain peaks and seas represent the land. And the pine trees plays the role of a 'sky ladder' connecting the land with the heaven. The Yin-Yang and Five Element Theory deals with the universe.
In the midst of the universe is the King, and this picture figuratively shows that the authority of the King was bestowed from the Heaven. We share a same cultural area with China, Japan, and Vietnam, but they do not have this kind of picture. This makes us to conclude that the image is the unique creation of the Koryeo Dynasty.
According to an authoritative theory, Irorobongdo is a picture which renders the content of a poem, called Chonbo in the Book of the Odes. "The Heaven protects you and safeguard you/ Makes sure to hold you stand strong/Like a high mountain and a large land mass/Like a running river/Like a moon gradually full-rounded/Like a sun rising/Will never fall asunder/Like a pine tree thickening/You will ever prosper."
Indeed, this poem covers all the sun and moon, five mountain peaks, a moving waves, a pair of waterfalls, and four pine trees. Of course the content is grandiose, but so is the decorative designs with deep colors that are brilliant and gracious as well, supporting the royal authority.
This picture has kept replacing with a new one through the passage of the times until the end of the dynastic lineage, with its tradition handed down, and presently there are approximately 20 folds of the picture being kept intact. The drawing was worked by the top luminaries at the time, thus making it the best of the best pictures of all times.
The oldest of the pictures still remaining at the present time is being kept at the Samsung Art Museum; it is an 18th Century folding screen. It is almost 4 meters wide and deep, and the picture is spread live and majestically over the screen.
In the mountains the rocks are piled layer upon layer, and the seas are depicted with structured waves and a cloud of spray thrown up. And the pine trees have the reddish branches and green leaves in a clear-cut comparison. And in this folding screen the five mountain peaks are highly standing out, seemingly reminding us of the scene of a king with his retainers lined up on both sides.