Turkey is known as a “brother country”
to Korea. There is much debate about the origins of this expression but
some facts are undeniable: relations date all the way back to the 6th
century with the Goguryeo-Turkey alliance, an immense number of troops
were sent from Turkey to aid in the Korean War, and the third-place
football match in the 2002 World Cup was a display of brotherly
sportsmanship. There has always been an amiable vibe between the two
On August 1, 2012, the Korea-Turkey Free Trade Agreement went
into effect. Besides the enactment of the FTA, 2012 marks the 55th year
of official diplomatic ties between the two countries, with various
cultural and academic exchange programs going on throughout the year.
Emperors in Istanbul exhibition is currently being held at the National
Museum of Korea in Seoul. More than 150 artifacts and works of art were
assembled from Turkey’s major museums to give viewers a comprehensive
look into Turkey’s long and diverse cultural history. Turkey’s culture
is particularly fascinating as it truly combines the cultural aspects of
both East and West. Visitors can experience the exhibition with four
major themes in chronological order: the ancient civilizations of
Anatolia (Asia Minor), the Greek and Roman era, the Eastern Roman
Empire, and the splendor of the Ottoman Empire.
from the Bronze Age, the iron works of the Hittites, and the legend of
King Midas are the main attractions of the first theme. Located in
Northwest Anatolia, Troy is considered one of the oldest settled
civilizations. The Hittites introduced the Iron Age to the region and
were probably best known for their written peace treaty with Egypt; a
replica is on display.
Alexander the Great of Macedonia makes
his appearance in the next theme, bringing in the Hellenistic period.
Greek and Roman style was harmonized into the existing culture. Marble
sculptures of a young Alexander as well as Greco- Roman gods and
goddesses such as Athena and Eros showcase this era’s characteristics
very well; the figures are captured in a more realistic and natural
state than simply being statuary.
Emperors in Istanbul exhibition at the National Museum of Korea
Anatolian peninsula was truly the bridge between East and West. The
capital city of Constantinople was established by Emperor Constantine in
the 4th century where the cultures of Greece and Rome and the Orient
met and flourished. The impact of Christianity can be seen in all
aspects of the culture and art such as Byzantine gold medallions and
wall sculptures depicting the life of Jesus.
Crystal ladle (photo courtesy of the National Museum of Korea)
highlight of the exhibition is most definitely the last, where you can
meet the “Emperors of Istanbul,” ie the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.
Istanbul is a renamed Constantinople, and you can look into the sultans’
lives of luxury through various objects from the 15th to 19th century.
ornaments are dazzling with gems and jewels, and the sword of Sultan
Suleiman -- the most prized artifact of this exhibition -- is
embellished with gold and black diamonds. Napkins and towels are
embroidered in fine threads; clogs meant to be worn in Turkish
bathhouses are also heavily decorated. Delicately adorned coffee cup
holders were meant to cradle tiny cups of very strong Turkish coffee.
Large silver plates are inscribed with verses from the Koran; moveable
tables and plate holders are reminiscent of a nomadic life. The scent of
roses was captured in silver perfume bottles and incense burners.
Sultan Suleiman's sword(photo courtesy of the National Museum of Korea)
heavy Chinese influence can be noted in the porcelain and celadon,
although in later years the Ottomans added red and green pigments to the
traditional China blue for their own unique style. This is also present
in their decorative tiles. Arabesque design and calligraphy were also
Grandeur is notable even in the objects used
for religious purposes: books of the Koran are brilliantly and
delicately painted, Koran chests are decorated with mother-of-pearl and
precious stones, and prayer rugs and carpets are intricately woven.
exhibition is like a crash course in the history of Turkey. Between the
displays of artifacts, there are paintings, photographs, and screenings
of historic sites. There is so much to take in all at once.
Fortunately, the museum provides audio guides and guided tours with
well-informed docents. There is an English tour every Wednesday
afternoon and group tours may be arranged in advance.
The Civilizations of Turkey, Emperors in Istanbul exhibition runs until September 2, 2012 at the National Museum of Korea
Seoul, and then moves on to the Busan Museum in Busan. The Busan
exhibition will run from October 9, 2012 to January 27, 2013.
For more information check out the following sites:
* Exhibition official site - http://www.istanbul2012.co.kr
* National Museum of Korea - http://www.museum.go.kr
* Busan Museum - http://museum.busan.go.kr
By Suzy Chung
Contributor/The Korea Blog