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Lotus

19th century
Artist/maker unknown, Korean
Buddhists have long considered the lotus a symbol of purity because its beautiful and fragrant blossoms grow from a muddy pond. The flower’s popularity and iconographic emphasis increased greatly with the expansion of Buddhism during the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), and under Confucian rule in the Joseon dynasty that followed the lotus came to represent the upright and faithful scholar. This new meaning was based on Chinese wordplay—lotus (lian) and uprightness (lian) are homonyms. Joseon scholars who wished to cultivate virtue commonly installed lotus ponds in their gardens or placed lotus screen paintings like this one in their studies....

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