Korean Pottery: Syle Shaped by Tradition, War

A look at the history of Korean pottery.

The history of pottery dates back nearly 10,000 years. Korean pottery is only a couple thousand years newer.

One of the oldest types is Celadon (Cheong-jah), a pale green-blue colored porcelain fired at a high temperature. Korean celadon, Goryeo celadon, has distinctive inlaid designs engraved on its body by special techniques. Chinese porcelains with jade color had a heavy influence on Goryeo celadon in the 10th and 11th centuries, but by the 12th century, Korea developed its own style.

The Joseon Dynasty had white porcelain (Baek-jah). As Korean culture evolved, the preference in pottery was for pure, white and pragmatic pieces.

In 15th century, Buncheong ware was created.  This looked somewhat closer to the combined works of Goryeo Cheong-jah from the Goryeo Dynasty and Baek-jah from Joseon Dynasty. The body of the stoneware carries a bluish-green tone (made with kaolin clay) and coated with terra alba (white clay). The designs are painted or engraved with iron pigment on the surfaces.  

After the 16th century, when a number of cultural heritages and national treasures were lost during battles with Japan, the practicality and simplicity of Baek-jah (white porcelains) came to the forefront.  Buncheong stoneware disappeared.    

In modern days, collections of fine china from all over the world are available in different ways. Priceless pieces are modified and manufactured to casual style for everyday use or copied elaborately for decorative use. It’s very common to see Buncheong ware revived in this form for everyday use.  Korean people enjoy using their dinnerware or decoration with a little touch of the historic styles of Goryo Cheong-jah, Joseon Baek-jah and Buncheong ware.    


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