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Korean Pottery

From 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, the mankind started to make earthenware and use them. In Korea, they have used earthenware from 7~8,000years ago-the New Stone Age. As time went by, glazes were sometimes employed. The firing temperature varied between 500 and 1,100 degrees. Earthenware was used in Korea until the early Koryo dynasty (10-11th centuries). Earthenware and bronze developed in parallel through the prehistoric age, and then the periods known in Korea as Silla and Kaya (from 57 BC until the 10th century), and Koryo (10-14th centuries). The earthenware pottery of Silla and Kaya is particularly noted for its formal qualities. The earthenware was used for utilitarian vessels, which were sometimes modelled into the shape of people, houses, and animals. Among the various pieces surviving from this period, we can find vessels expressing vividly the characteristic spirit of the Korean people, a spirit that has remained alive through the centuries until the present day. The facial expressions are comically exaggerated, we find amusing caricatures, as well as bold sexual features suggesting use in fertility rites, a variety of concise artistic details indicating a rich imagination. Through such works the image of our ancestors of centuries past has been transmitted to us today. In 9th century Silla(Korea’s earliestdynasty), they have had great opportunity to trade with China and accepted manufacturing technology of Celadon.

In China, jade signifies the true gentleman, wealth and honor. Therefore jade was popular for use in objects enclosed in tombs. The ruling classes were eager to possess jade, but it was too little for their needs, and very expensive. Therefore artisans tried to create jade from clay, and the result was the pottery known in the West as Celadon. In Korea, Chinese celadon pottery has been found in tombs dating from the 4-6th centuries, suggesting that the royal family of the period imported celadon from China as a substitute for jade. In 9th century China, the practice of Zen Buddhism spread among the powerful families, who considered that drinking tea helped clear the mind while sitting in meditation. Celadon was used to make the tea cups, and this seems to be the first time that it was employed for vessels in ordinary use. The cup used for drinking tea was highly valued, some were worth more than gold. Zen Buddhism entered Korea toward the end of the Unified Silla Dynasty, in the 8th century. Monks returning from China brought Chinese tea-cups to Korea. When the Koryo Dynasty came, Koreans began to manufacture their own celadon vessels, beginning in the later 10th century.

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Research was undertaken in order to make even better celadon, using the best clays.

Originally, celadon was dark in color, varying between brown and dark green, the works were plain, restrained, unadorned. In the early 12th century, decorated celadon wares began to appear.

At that time, the Buddhist visions of Paradise were immensely popular and the pottery of later Koryo times expressed the people’s longing for a symbolic world of Eternity, through such symbols as clouds and cranes, or the lotus flower so central to the world of Zen Buddhism, as well as willows, and ducks playing in water. In a similar spirit, wild chrysanthemums express calmness and solitude. When these symbols took form on the surface of delicate green jars and bowls, the result was some of the most beautiful pottery in the world. The disappeared from the end of Koryo dynasty. In the course of from celadon to white ware, there was the stoneware pottery known as PunChong.? Painting makes ?Punch’ong? in a white slip over a grayish-green glaze. It is unique to Korea. In the 14th century Buddhism, with its otherworldly focus on the life to come, gave way to the practical this-worldly teachings of Confucianism. The old celadon wares lost favor, since there was a strong desire for novelty in a new religious atmosphere.

As society changed, pottery also changed and grew plainer, better adapted for use in practical life; at the same time, the patterns grew freer. Techniques of expression were simplified and pottery was produced in large quantities. The forms of pottery became more popular and the result was punch’ong ware.

With its often humorous and entertaining images and its free, unrestrained forms, Punch’ong ware some of the most original expressions of the Korean sense of beauty.
The potters who produced these wonderful works transmitted their skills from father to son, spending a whole lifetime in poverty, unknown, they produced pottery without any desire for personal gain, content to be part of nature, one with nature. The spirit in which they lived can be clearly seen in the combination of beauty and simplicity that marks their work.

The gentry of the period, searching for beauty with an acute aesthetic sense, recognized the true beauty of this form of Korean pottery. In a similar spirit, the Japanese valued a good tea-cup more even than honor or wealth, acknowledging the mysterious power of pottery.
The rough bowls produced by the potters of the Choson dynasty (14th-20th centuries) were greatly treasured by the Japanese.

When Japan invaded Korea in the 1590s, Japanese called for the Pottery war and took many Korean potters to Japan. As a result of Korea and Japan war, PunChong ware almost completely disappeared from Korea, because it lacked potters and kilns were also destroyed. The Chosen in 17th century, the white-clad Korea, produced the whiteware, which has its own purity, chastity and modesty. White pottery began to replace silverware in the households of the new royal family, as they followed Confucian precepts and tried to discover reality simply and soberly.

The White Ware produced in Korea in the Choson Era has its own qualities, differing much from the works produced in China and Japan at the time. White ware is marked by the refined elegance and simplicity characteristic of the Korean gentry. It uses symbolic designs such as dragons, peonies, arabesque patterns, pine or plum trees, flying cranes. Finally, it leaves much of the surface blank; the designs are painted in a concise, clear manner. The aesthetics of this White Ware suggest a oneness with nature. It is the hallmark of Korea’s Choson Dynasty, and reminds us of the way in which the Korean people of the period valued thrift, integrity, and simplicity.
The Korean pottery, by base of good natural disposition, has clear characteristics and the shape is healthy and live. The Korean potters lived in deep recesses of mountains and content to be part of nature, one with nature. They find the beauty in simple colors and liberal molding. They accomplished characteristic pottery arts in this beauty.

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