18th century, Wood with painted decoration
(H)80cm / 76cm
These carved and painted wodden statues depict a boy attendant (dongja; actually an immortal in the guise of a child monk) adopt an offering posture. Two such figures were generally placed as attendants at the altar of the Ten Kings of Hell of Ksitigarbha (Myongbu-jeon) in Buddhist temples. The entire body of dongja was carved from a single piece of wood, the material used most commonly for these scultures, and affixed to a separate square or round pedestal. Green, red, yellow, blue, black, and white pigments were applied to the entire surface. Such images of boy attendants were increasingly produced as the cult of Ksitigarbha, the boddhisttva who rescues souls from hell, became widespread throughout Korea. Despite its creation for a religious setiin, this gentle-faced boy embodies the humorous and unpretentious folk-art tradition of the Joseon dynasty.