Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Little Bit About Korean Teaware History

Cup and Teapot by GiJin Song

Teaware is an integral part of the tea experience. I love learning about teaware and teaware history. When I went on my Korea tea adventure this fall, we learned a little bit about Korean pottery and had the pleasure of meeting some incredible potters.

Korean pottery has a long, very interesting history which has influenced Korean's modern teaware artisans.

A Little Bit About Korean Pottery History
Philosophy, spirituality, and geography shaped Korean teaware history. When you think about Korean teaware, you may imagine something made with a celadon glaze with its distinctive jade-green color. Celadon (Cheong-Ja) is an important part of Korean pottery, and is one of the earliest glazes used. Celadon was originally inspired by Chinese Yue-ware in the early 900s and artisans worked to create a new, specifically Korean style. From Korean Arts:
    The Koryo Dynasty, which lasted from 918 to 1392 AD had a strong Buddhist influence which shaped many of it's cultural achievements.  Buddhist temples flourished during the Koryo period, and with them grew a need for fine vessels to be used during the many ritual ceremonies. In the middle of the 10th century Korean artists, some who had been schooled in China, began creating celadon by using inlay and copper glazing techniques which were developed first in China but only fully developed and perfected by Korean artisans. 
Celadon Ewer, photo from The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Delicate celadon creations were originally used by Buddhist monks, royalty, and wealthy aristocrats. By the 15th century artists started creating 'brown porcelain' (Bun-Cheong) which was rougher than celadon and made for daily use for everyone, not just the monks and higher classes. White porcelain (Baek-Ja), was developed in the 16th century, also for the masses and not just the upper class. Confucianism was the popular philosophy of this time and artists used austere, simple lines and forms to reflect this.

Japanese pottery was influenced by Korea
History has also played a role in shaping Korean pottery. In 1592 during the Japanese invasion of Korea, entire villages of Korean potters were forced out of the country and relocated to Japan. The Korean artisan pottery industry took a huge hit at this point, as all of the masters were sent to Japan.

Pitcher, Cup, and Teapot by Chi Heon Lee

The Korean masters worked in Japan and influenced the Japanese styles of pottery. In fact, Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyū used Korean style pottery as he perfected his style for the Japanese tea ceremony. Not only did the Korean styles influence Japanese pottery, but the kilns were used as well. From
The noborigama (chambered climbing kiln) was introduced from Korea to Japan -- via Karatsu -- in the 17th century and forever changed the ceramic landscape. It allowed various glazed wares such as madara-garatsu (speckled straw-ash glaze), chosen-garatsu (Korean-style, two-tone glazing), e-garatsu (painted) or kuro-garatsu (black) to be created on these shores.
If you'd like to learn more about the Korean influence on Japanese pottery, you can search for info on Hagi ware, Satsuma ware, and Arita ware.

Teapots and tea boat by Chi Heon Lee

Back to Nature
As I've mentioned in previous posts, nature plays a huge role in Korean culture and is reflected through pottery. Form, shape, and color are all borrowed from nature. Before the 17th century, Korean potters looked for perfection in their creations. But then the style became to cherish the imperfect, as it is found in nature. 

Potters I met on our trip used traditional ideas and forms, with a modern twist. If you look at the first photo above, you can see how ceramic artisan GiJin Song uses organic elements in his work. And right above you can see the delicate, gentle lines with traditional forms and interesting glazes found in Chi Heon Lee's work.

Do you own any Korean teaware? Before my trip I didn't know anything at all about how diverse Korean teaware styles can be. This post only scratched the surface on the history and artistry. I can't wait to learn even more about it, and keep my collection growing.

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