Lesson 2


by Heyrling Oropeza and Stephanie S Lee

Photo Study One: Ship Changsaeng Do (Ten Longevity Symbols)

According to ancient popular beliefs, mountains are sacred. The cosmic force can be seen in the rocks, water, grasses and trees as well as in the clouds above. To wander in the mountains is an act of meditation and adoration. The figures of people or animals that can be seen are very small: the natural order will continue regardless of human intervention. The Taoists believe that it is important to follow the Tao, the path of rightful living, to live in harmony with the natural order of the world.

Focusing intently on the surrounding natural world, one can gain a closer understanding of reality. To follow the Tao, it is necessary to embrace the fact that all life is in a constant state of change, and that one would know instinctively the best path to follow.

Now look at all the symbols:the sun, moon, mountains, trees and water. These are common symbols in the world and are a few of the most popular symbols used to wish someone a long life in Korean folk art. How might these symbols express longevity?

Other longevity symbols include: deer, clouds, cranes, rocks, tortoises, bamboo, fungus, and pine.

Now picture living in a small Korean village surrounded by beautiful mountains. The New Year holiday is approaching and a traveling painter, known as a "passing guest," visits your household. He offers to paint cards of good wishes for you so that you will be able to distribute them to your friends on the holiday. You inform him that you want to wish them a long life, and you choose the symbols that you want on your cards.


  1. List the longevity symbols that you see in the picture.
  2. Discuss how the symbols might express the idea of longevity.
  3. Sketch out a card the painter might make for the holiday
  4. Write a summary of your conclusions for class discussion.

Image above: Ship Jangsaeng Do |

Anonymous, late 18th or early 19th century Eight-panel screen, Ink and color on paper, 112 x 381 cm (overall) |

Private Collection © 2017 by Dahal Media, Seoul, Korea