James Delbourgo

The Art of Pyŏk

Flowering Plums and Curio Cabinets: The Culture of Objects in Late Chosŏn Korean Art


University of Washington Press 304pp £54 order from our bookshop

Do you suffer from pyŏk? If so, do you hide your pyŏk or do you flaunt your pyŏk?

The term, connoting a certain obsessive attachment to things, lit up 18th-century Korea. According to Sunglim Kim in Flowering Plums and Curio Cabinets, it may be translated as ‘addiction, compulsion, passion, mania, fondness for, weakness for, love of, fanatical devotion, craving, idiosyncrasy, fetishism, and even hobby’. Today it suggests a ‘bad, ingrained habit of taking excessive pleasure from something’, extreme thrift or creeping thievishness.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,
    • 'Various dislocations ... emerge, iceberg-like, out of a troubled sea of unconscious motivation and confront Eisenb… ,
    • Today is the first today of the – they've got some excellent events coming up over the next two weeks.… ,