In pictorial ideographs (munjado), Chinese characters are integrated with images that relate to the characters' meaning. Sets featuring the Confucian virtues demonstrate the importance of Confucian ideas and practices. Often displayed in a child's room, the images are instructive and intended to inspire proper Confucian values.
The paintings on display were once parts of a screen of eight panels. They represent (right to left) characters for filial piety, loyalty, righteousness, and sensibility.
For example, the far-right painting depicts the character hyo, or filial piety. In and around it are four objects related to four stories of filial piety: a. A zither (stringed musical instrument) represents the story of the mythical Chinese king Shun. As a young man, Shun always obeyed his blind father and abusive stepfamily. Because of his good behavior, Shun was chosen as heir to the king and given a five-string zither as a present. b. The fish on top of the character symbolizes a filial son who, by lying on a frozen river, caught fresh carp to give to his unkind stepmother, earning her respect. c. The bamboo shoot represents another son, who cried in a winter bamboo grove because he could not find a bamboo shoot to feed his ailing mother. His tears caused bamboo shoots to sprout up. d. A fan resembling a lotus flower suggests a legendary figure who fanned his father's bed in the summer and warmed the bed with his own body in the winter.
Although the stories in munjado screens are based on Chinese classics, the aesthetics and design elements are purely Korean, particularly the way a single image symbolizes a complex story.
Acquisition made possible by Korean Art and Culture Committee