Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - Korean

Korea occupies a position to the north of China which, in effect, puts it midway between China and Japan, and in the past it has done much to influence art in Japan by transmitting Chinese influences. The pottery and porcelain of Korea is original both in form and decoration, and some Korean products rank with the finest Far Eastern Wares.

The earliest pottery of which there is record belongs to the Silla dynasty [57 B.C.-A.D. 936]. The body is grey and of variable hardness, unglazed, and decorated with incised patterns, or impressed with the mesh of coarse textiles [the so-called 'mat markings']. These wares are, in some respects, similar to those of the Northern Wei in China. Also belonging to the Silla period are some jars and bowls with an olive-green or brown glaze resembling Chinese proto-porcelain, but wares of this kind are not easy to allocate between China and Korea.

The Koryu dynasty [918-1392] produced wares which were analogous to those of China, and especially to the Yüeh and Northern celadons. The base of Korean celadons is glazed all over, with small 'stilt' marks within the footring which indicate the position of kiln supports. Although contemporary with the Sung dynasty, the Koryu pottery turned more often to T'ang wares for inspiration. A characteristic Koryu technique, which hardly occurs elsewhere in the Orient, is termed mishima in Japan. The mishima decoration was inlaid into the raw clay surface in black and white clay in conjunction with a celadon glaze. The name is derived from a small island midway between Korea and Japan at which wares of this kind were transhipped. The same period is also noted for celadons with deeply carved and pierced ornament.

Ting-type porcelain is among the finer wares of the period. Circular boxes and covers are often of exceedingly fine quality. Ying Ch'ing also occurs in fairly typical Korean forms, so it is evident that it was made locally. Painting in brownish black, first practised towards the end of the period, probably owes much to the products of Tzü Chou. Decoration of this kind - usually floral scrolls, aquatic birds and flying birds amid cloud scrolls--occurs on jars and vases, and is noted for the exceptional quality of the drawing.

During the Yi dynasty [1392-1910] the mishima decoration was continued in the early years, and from the sixteenth century a type of porcelain, often opaque, with a greyish glaze, was clumsily wrought, but superbly decorated with swift, sure brushwork with birds, floral and foliate, and abstract motifs, painted in blackish-blue, or sometimes copper red.

Korean forms generally differ considerably from those of China; spouted vessels based on the gourd, and cups and stands, are examples. The popular Mei Ping form was shared with China. Lobed forms, and floral scrolls carved and incised under the glaze, are fairly typical. Much surviving Korean ware is in the form of bowls of one kind or another, and especially sought are the small circular boxes of Ting or Ying Ch'ing types with moulded or incised decoration . [p. 427]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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