This screen features peach trees laden with fruit in the land of eternal life. Cranes, crashing waves, mist-shrouded mountains, waterfall and lush flowers complete the fantastical landscape. The peach is synonymous with immortality as the tree is said to bear fruit once in 3000 years. The imagery is in the tradition of imagery of The Ten Signs of Long Life, auspicious symbols found in the Land of Immortals associated with the Daoist immortality cult that developed in China during the Han dynasty. Because of their magical potency, the emblems of long life were immensely popular in all strata of Korean society during the Joseon dynasty and they appear in most of the decorative arts of that period.
The red heart-shaped plants that run along the rocks represent the fungus of immortality, a sort of magic mushroom said to bestow eternal life on those who eat it. Pairs of cranes are perched throughout the composition or fly toward the large red sun, another classic longevity symbol and, here, a decorative anchor to the elaborate groupings of scenery and animals below. Paintings of the Ten Signs of Long Life theme do not necessarily depict all ten symbols and can be satisfied, as here, by peaches, cranes, fungus, mythical tortoises, deer and the sun.
For earlier prototypes, see the screen entitled Cranes and Peaches of Immortality, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Hopes and Aspirations: Decorative Painting of Korea, exh. cat. (Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998), cat. no. 9; Hongnam Kim, ed., Korean Arts of the Eighteenth Century: Splendor and Simplicity (New York: Asia Society, 1994), 116-17; and Charles Lachman, The Ten Symbols of Longevity (Eugene, OR: The Jordan Schnitzer Museum, University of Oregon, 2006).