James Delbourgo

The Art of Pyŏk

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

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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.

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