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 mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,