There's a concept in Korean culture attributed as a unique Korean cultural trait which has resulted from Korea's frequent exposure to invasions by overwhelming foreign powers. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds. It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice. The specific Chinese character depicted here is that particular version of Han. Although a phonetic Korean alphabet, now known as hangul, had been created by a team of scholars commissioned in the 1440s by King Sejong the Great, it did not come into widespread use until the late 19th and early 20th century. So it was necessary to be fluent in reading and writing Chinese letters in order to be literate in Korean, as the vast majority of Korean literature and most other Korean documents were written that way. The painting is based on the traditional Minhwa style of Korean folk painting, an art form used to decorate the households and environs of the masses. In contrast to monochromatic paintings done by Confucius scholars and titled court painters. The folk paintings had the more functional purpose of celebrating good fortune, health and longevity. In Korean culture one of the symbolic virtues of the rooster is its tenacious characteristic of fighting til the death.
Minhwa and Modernism, Kang Collection, New York, March 9th - March 18th, 2017