The Korean festival of Chuseok (literally, “autumn evening”) is celebrated in the eighth month of the lunar calendar when the moon is at its fullest. Associated with the harvest, the festival is a time for families to gather and give thanks to their ancestors. The origins of Chuseok can be traced back to the ancient Silla kingdom some two thousand years ago. Together with Lunar New Year, it is one of the most important holidays in Korea and is marked by many traditions.

On the morning of Chuseok, families honor their ancestors with memorial services called charye and visit the graves of loved ones. During these ceremonies, families offer food and wine made with fresh fruits and newly harvested crops. The most characteristic dish of the day is songpyeon, a rice cake shaped like a half-moon and stuffed with fillings, such as sweetened sesame seeds, mung beans, or red bean paste. In the evening, everyone makes wishes on the full moon at its brightest.

Also known as the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the holiday is widely celebrated throughout East and Southeast Asia. Celebrants in each country observe the holiday with their own unique traditions.

Term To Know:


Charye is the name of a traditional rite that honors ancestors. Performed on major holidays, including Lunar New Year and Chuseok, the ceremony includes food and wine offerings and other acts of respect, such as formally bowing to ancestral tablets.

Performers wearing colorful, traditional garments process through a museum gallery.

Celebrate Chuseok at NMAA

October 7, 2023

Learn about both past and current traditions of one of the biggest holidays in South Korea. Take pictures in traditional Korean clothing known as hanbok and view a charye table display. Enjoy special performances, food talks, programming from local community groups, and more!

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  • Shallow pale green dish with decorations of grains, flowers, and vines.

    Virtual Tour: Korean Ceramic Art

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art houses excellent collections of Korean art, especially ceramics. Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919), founder of the museum’s Freer Gallery of Art, acquired nearly five hundred Korean art objects. When the museum opened its doors in 1923, Freer’s assembly of Korean art was considered unparalleled in quality and historical scope, and the original collection has been expanded over the years.

    This docent-led online tour will feature works from the museum’s collections of Korean art. The tour will provide participants with the opportunity to take a close look at and gain an appreciation of the beauty of these artworks, including Korean celadon—one of the world’s best-known types of ceramics—while also learning about the history of Korean art and listening to interesting stories about how these works were acquired.

    Request a Virtual Tour

For Educators

Search millions of resources across the Smithsonian to create and share personalized collections in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. Learn about Korean art at NMAA by exploring these collections designed by educators.

Term To Know


Seongmyo refers to the act of visiting and tending the graves of family members on major holidays. The practice also includes offerings of food and wine to the dead and acknowledging the importance of ancestors with physical acts like bowing.

Learn more about Korean Art and Culture

Immerse yourself in Korean art and culture through videos, audio recordings, written sources, and more.

Video Poster

Video | “Look & Listen: Korean Art and Music of Family Devotion” | View on YouTube

Online Catalogue | Goryeo Buddhist Painting: A Closer Look

International collaboration and modern research techniques reveal characteristic details in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Korean Buddhist paintings that distinguish them from similar works painted elsewhere in Asia.

Painting of a richly clothed figure, a circular halo behind their head.

Online Catalogue | Korean Ceramics in the Freer Gallery of Art

NMAA’s Freer Gallery of Art collections include almost three hundred Korean ceramics spanning the Three Kingdoms (57 BCE–676 CE), Unified Silla (676–935), Goryeo (918–1392), and Joseon (1392–1910) periods. This online catalogue presents all of those works and provides information about their dating, place of production, and provenance.

A pale green bowl with a small base and a broad rim, golden/tan at the edges.

Korean Art Exhibitions

Experience the Korean art exhibitions that are currently on view, or browse our exhibition archive.

  • A high-contrast, black-and-white, surreal image of various people scattered around a shipping container in the woods in a smoky scene with jarring, sometimes inverted, tones.

    Park Chan-kyong: Gathering

    October 7, 2023–October 13, 2024

    Seoul-based artist Park Chan-kyong has gained international recognition for his use of photography and film to examine the complex history of modern Korea. Park Chan-kyong: Gathering will be the first solo presentation of his work in a major United States museum. The exhibition features a range of works that highlight his masterful use of the photographic medium to explore the enduring traces of tradition, history, and disaster in contemporary society.

    View Exhibition
  • Closeup of a green-glazed ceramic ewer with deep red copper pigment outlining the petals of the lotus bud at the top. At the neck of the vessel, the figure of a kneeling child is visible.

    Rediscovering Korea’s Past


    Today we admire the translucent gray-green celadon glaze on Korean ceramics of the Goryeo period (918–1392) as one of the great achievements of world potters. It is startling to realize that once this ware was all but forgotten. A millennium ago in Korea, tastes changed. Other styles of ceramics replaced celadon in temples, palaces, and homes of the elite.

    View Exhibition

Korean Art in the Collections

Highlights of the museum’s Korean art collection include Joseon period (1392–1910) teabowls, Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) celadons, and Buddhist paintings.

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