Korean Bamboo Blinds
Korean handwoven bamboo blinds
More has been written about Chinese and Japanese bamboo blinds than about Korean bamboo blinds. This is somewhat unfair because making bamboo blinds is a very old tradition in Korea and just as with China and Japan bamboo blinds form an important part of the history and culture of the country.
Korean poets and prose writers have for a long time found inspiration talking about the trembling and unreal images that appear when looking through a bamboo blind. Bamboo blinds provide transient images on a summer day that compliment the transitory nature of the seasons.
Bamboo blinds are traditionally made in Korea by hand weaving thin pieces of bamboo together. They are called hanok in Korea and are frequently used in summer for windows and doors. Bamboo blinds provide a perfect balance between privacy, light and airiness. Bamboo blinds allow cool breezes and a soft light in a room while at the same time maintaining the privacy of the people inside.
The great advantage of hand woven Korean bamboo blinds is that they allow people inside to look out but stop people outside looking in. Traditionally Korean homes that used bamboo blinds for the doors and windows were called hanok homes. They allowed women to retain the privacy of their home life while giving them a one way window on the world.
This set up was central to Confucian ethics that were prevalent in the Joseon Dynasty. These ethics forbid women to show their faces to male strangers. Noble women had to spend much of their lives hiding behind bamboo blinds and veils.
Confucian ideas about society were keen to separate men and women especially in the area of politics. The term suryeom cheongjeong means ‘listening to politics behind the blinds’ became a key notion when a child was too young to rule and the Queen mother held a regency to govern in her child’s place until he reached his majority. This situation became known as governing ‘behind a blind’. In total there were 4 Queens from the Joseon Dynasty that effectively governed from behind blinds.
Korean bamboo blinds are woven from very fine pieces of bamboo and are often decorated with patterns and tassels. They are made by master craftsmen from families that have been making bamboo blinds for many generations. Korean bamboo shades are woven from pieces of bamboo less than 1mm thick by Master Artists. These thin pieces of bamboo are called “bamboo silk” and require extraordinary skill to produce.
Although the hanok house has largely disappeared and been replaced by high rise housing, Korean people still highly value bamboo blinds as ornamental pieces for their houses that connect them with an important part of their culture and history.
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