Among the work of Korean folk paintings, there are a set of letter paintings of eight Chinese letters which are made into a folding screen. Such paintings are called "letter paintings" in general, but are often called by more specific names such as "Letter Paintings of Filial Piety and Filial Devotion " and "Ethic character paintings," with letters that embody the eight most essential virtues of Confucian teaching.

korea1.gif Filial Piety

korea1.gif Fraternal

korea1.gif Loyalty

korea1.gif Trust

According to an elementary Chinese liberal text, "Although one should record past and mind never present the from past, one must first consider filial piety,fraternal devotion, loyalty, trust, propriety,commitment, frugal honesty, and knowing shame ...if one practices the principles patiently, he will naturally learn these virtues."

korea1.gif Propriety

korea1.gif Commitment

korea1.gif Frugal Honesty

korea1.gif Shame

As early as the reigning period of King Chungjong(1506-1544) , this Chinese text for elementary learners was published in a Korean language version "Sohak-onhae", and later Yi Whang, a famous Confucius scholar, wrote an illustrated version of it.

The efforts of Chosun government to educate people by Confucian principles became even more various in methods. An illustrated book of the Five Virtuous Conducts was one of the most prominent example. Many other illustrated books on the Five Virtues were written and published by the king's order.

Character paintings are basically composed of regular "square-hand" style letters and related ancient tales or symbolic objects inside. Original formats were gradually destroyed as more and more commoners started to own them in their own households. They added new and popular elements into the character paintings and made them look more like folk arts.

Character paintings once served as decorative patterns for the royal palace. Buddhist and Taoist ornamental patterns and art patterns of common people were joined to form a new painting art and made a significant contribution to the history of Korean art.