Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Great Jang Geum

This lovely drawing, by Singapore artist Shirley Png, is from a video capture of the drama, Dae Jang Geum. It is a portrait of the hero of the story, Jang Geum. Although it is of a fictional character, it has universal appeal such that anyone, whether they have seen the drama or not, can understand and admire the portrait.

The portrait captures Jang Geum at a moment of drama, in which her character and virtues shine through. There are tears beneath her eyes. Clearly, she has suffered some recent emotional pain or sadness. But she does not break down completely, in spite of her tears. She does not throw herself on the ground, or a bed, and give way to a flood of tears, or beat her breast in fruitless anguish and frustration. Instead, she holds her head up, facing the painful emotion, but not giving in to it. Something has hurt her, but her face shows a serenity that comes from the knowledge that life is a wonderful gift to anyone willing to make the most of it, as she is. Pain, physical or emotional, is only a temporary setback, to be overcome in the course of living and pursuing one’s happiness and one’s goals. She is stronger than the pain inflicted upon her.

Courage, determination, benevolence---all these and more are virtues of Jang Geum on display in this portrait. It hangs on my wall, an endless source of beauty and inspiration.

It happens that one of my favorite songs, Hold Your Head Up, by Argent, is an almost perfect description of this beautiful work of art:

And if it's bad
Don't let it get you down, you can take it.
And if it hurts
Don't let them see you cry, you can make it.

Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head high.

And if they stare
Just let them burn their eyes on you moving.
And if they shout
Don't let it change a thing that you're doing.

Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head up, woman,
Hold your head high