The photos
The different qualities of light that we get throughout the day cause the colors, tones and textures of these chests to change each time we look at them. It is no wonder, then, that photographing furniture and rendering it on the Internet is a challenge. The lighting used during photography, the color and brightness control applied during development and printing of the photos, and scanning into a digital file all distort the original colors and tones. Photo editing software has been used on the photographs in these pages to deliver as accurately as possible the chests' tones and textures. Remaining differences in tone and texture, if any, are noted by each piece.

Use logic, and do detective work. These are a few tips, but discovery is mostly logic and common sense.
Is all the inside wood consistent color and age? Check out the flats and pillars, drawers.

  • Is any wood stained black? This is unusual in Chosun pieces, and is often done by restorers to disguise new wood.
  • Fittings: If the yellow brass fitting has a reddish tint, it means antiquing has been applied. If the color is a sharp or hard yellow or yellow-gold, it is probably new; old brass is mellow and soft.
  • Fittings: Are the edges of a fitting very sharp and regular? If so, it is likely that the fitting was cut with a machine, which Chosun chest makers did not have. (Many authentic turn-of-the-century North Korean chests, though, have stamped ornamentation.)
  • Nails in fittings, nail covers, fittings: If some are uneven and do not have a smooth surface and then others are even and smooth, you know the latter are replacements. Chosun craftsmen made their nails by hand. (Occasionally you will find mass-produced nails added later for reinforcement.)
  • Are bamboo nails used in the drawers? This was a Chosun convention.
  • Is there wear on the bottom of the drawers? If there is not, the drawer is probably new (or, is rare instances, simply used very little).
  • Hinges: If there are any extra impressions on the inside wood around where the two-pronged out-bent nails fastened the hinge or fitting to the wood, the hinge or fitting has pobably been replaced.
  • Hinges: Do the male and the female parts match perfectly?
  • Hinges: Is the hinge-protector (where the female part would hit the front panel if the drawer were to drop) at exactly the right height?
  • Edge fasteners: Are they of consistent height and thickness and patina?
  • Finish on black metal: Is it a fresh black? If so, the black is just paint. You should be able to see age, in the form of wear and softness, in the metal.
  • Black around fittings and locks: This dark area is actually smudging from decades of use, and in a piece which is not original the dark color is applied to fake age. Authentic smudging is not a very black and it does not have definite borders.

Sources for more information on Korean chests
Much of the information presented in these pages was found in Edward Wright and Man Sil Pai's superbly written and illustrated book Korean Furniture: Elegance and Tradition (1984. Tokyo: Kodansha International), which is now, unfortunately, out of print. 

A continuous source of bounteous reliable information and guidance is Mr. Chung Dae-young, proprietor of Donginbang (Dapshimni Antiques Market, Samheui 2-dong), university lecturer, and author of several books on Korean antique furniture. (His books are listed below.)
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Bae Man-sil. 1997. The Traditional Style of Korean Wooden Furniture (Han'guk mok'kagu-ui jont'ong yangsik.) (On all aspects - designs, components, manufacture, social setting - of Chosun dynasty furniture, by the co-author of Korean Furniture: Elegance and Tradition.) Seoul: Ehwa Women's University Press.

Chung, Dae-yong 1993. Chests of Korea (Han'guk-ui kue). Seoul: Donginbang.

Chung, Dae-yong. 1998. Jang of Korea (Han'guk-ui jang). Seoul: Donginbang.

Koreana: Korean Cultural Heritage. Vol. 1: Fine Arts. 1994. Seoul: The Korea Foundation.

Korean Furniture: Its function and beauty. Koreana: Korean Art and Culture. Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring 1996. Seoul: The Korea Foundation.

Lee Jae-jun. Comprehensive Exhibit of Chosun Dynasty Furniture (Yijo kagu jonghapjon). (A hard-cover but unpublished illustrated catalog of a wide range of furniture shown at an exhibition, in Korean and English.) 

Lee Ki-baik. 1984. A New History of Korea. Tr: Wagner, E.W., Schultz, E.J. Seoul: Ilchogak.

Lee O-Young. 1994. Korea In Its Creations. Tr: John Holstein. Seoul: Design House.

Park Young-sun. 1998. The Story of Traditional Korean House (Uri yetjip iyagi). (A discussion on Korean furniture and its immediate environment.)  Seoul: Youl Hwa Dang Publisher.

Wright, Edward. and Pai, Man Sil. 1984. Korean Furniture: Elegance and Tradition. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Here are some web sites for general information and links on Korea.

  • This is a very good site for Asian Art:

  • Here are some sites for antique furniture:



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     If you would like more information about these chests, e-mail me at