Korean Pottery

Goryeo Celadon; The Jade Green Celadon of Goryeo dynasty (918–1392).

From the 9th century to the 13th century, the jade green celadon of Goryeo was the  representative for pottery on the Korean peninsula. This precious treasure, so coveted for its beauty, was adored and guarded jealously by the ruling and aristocratic classes of the Goryeo dynasty.

To create this jade green celadon, natural kaolin clay was collected, shaped by potters into numerous forms, and baked in a kiln at 700 -800 degrees Celsius. The potters then glazed the surface of the pieces with a liquid derived of wood ash. It contained precisely 3% iron, no more, no less. The pieces were then returned to the kiln to bake in 1250 -1300 degrees Celsius. Following this second baking, the kaolin clay was changed into a shining porcelain, with an enchanting jade green surface.

Gangjin in the Jeolla province was the center for jade green celadon production throughout the Goryeo dynasty and is still created in many of the kiln sites there.

The shape, color, design, and embellishment of Goryeo celadon is unique to all other potteries present in Asia at its time. Due to its unique color and superior quality, jade green celadon enjoyed a golden age in the 11th and 12th centuries as Buddhism and the aristocracy developed. In the 14th century however, this jade green celadon was replaced by the grayish-blue-powdered style with the emergence of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910).

White Porcelain of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910):

In the early years of the Joseon dynasty, the presence of this grayish-blue-powdered celadon - Buncheong celadon - was limited to the Korean peninsula, but after the 15th century, with the influence of the Ming dynasty of China, white porcelain became dominant style of the Joseon age.

Adopted as imperial ware by the Joseon in the 15th century, the government maintained a group of kilns called Bunwon in Gwangju, near the capital city, Seoul. This forge came to supply porcelain for the court and the royal family, and continued to do so until the 19th century. The white porcelain produced at the Bunwon is of varying quality. Some were intended for the court, and many were made for different bureaus of the central government, but also for wealthy civilians. Since the 15th century, Gwangju has been a Mecca for the production of this unique porcelain. By the 16th century, ownership of white porcelain was no longer exclusive to the court or even the privileged ruling class in the capital, and regional kilns all over the Korean peninsula began actively creating white porcelain works. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, dishes, bowls, bottles, and jars materialized by the thousand. They were used as tableware for special occasions, ceremonies, and even implemented as burial vessels.

In the eighteenth century, large, round, pearlescent vessels called size moon jars gained abrupt and massive popularity. Light in color, with smooth, seamless lines, moon jars are Korea’s adoration for the color white, made manifest. Serving as the national color for the people of the Joseon and many Koreans since the 15th century, the color white is symbolic of purity and integrity.

The masters of porcelain work in the Joseon era loved to express light gray and ivory white on the surface of their pieces. If such artists felt the temptation of splendor and colorful beauty, they refrained from expressing such desires in their pieces.  Joseon porcelain is straightforward, honest, and minimalist. There is a quiet grace to be found in its smooth surfaces, bare of ornamentation. It has a simple beauty, elegance, and composure that encourages relaxation, stillness, and quiet contemplation.

Neo-Confucianism, which places an emphasis on the uprightness and integrity of the ruling class, was the governing philosophy of the Joseon era. This new white porcelain symbolized an upright, clean, honest life, especially for scholars and the ruling class, but also for simple people leading quiet, honest, and noble lives.

The most representative works of white porcelain include a moon jar at the British Museum and three moon jars preserved in the Korean National Treasury, 262, 309, and 310 in South Korea. The 17th and 18th century served as a golden age for arts and literature in the Joseon dynasty, and it was in this period that the form of moon jars was conceived of. Their enduring beauty and quiet strength provide the best example of aesthetic thought and moderation among Korean artistic works today.

강남갤러리

경기도 성남시 분당구 정자동 154-1번지, 타임브릿지 220호

(Zip code: 13558) #220 Timebridge,  154-1 Jungja Dong, Bundang Gu, Seongnam Si, Gyeonggi Do, South Korea

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