Ceramic objects illustrate the technological developments, influence of religion, and changing societal aesthetics in successive periods of Korean history.
During the Unified Silla period (676–935), Buddhism became an established religion in Korea. Burial urns were used to store ashes from Buddhist cremations. The elaborate, stamped geometric patterns; delicate looped handles; and singular knobbed cover reflect advancements of ceramic technique and form.
Buried in tombs, storage jars contained offerings of grains to serve the deceased in the afterlife. The vertical pattern was imprinted on the surface of the jar while the clay was still damp. Incised horizontal lines created defined registers, enlivening the surface texture. This combination is known as mat pattern.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Goryeo celadon resembled animals and plants found in nature. The cover of this tripod incense burner takes the form of a goose. The open beak animates the animal, and it also serves as an opening for incense.
Video Courtesy of the Honolulu Museum of Art and Icheon City Hall, Korea.
These refined wares exhibit the sanggam technique developed during the 11th and 12th centuries.
The technique requires precise shallow incisions on the semi-dried pottery. Color slip in white and black is then inlaid to create a pictorial pattern.
The celadon "kundika" (ewer) appropriates the shape of the bronze ritual vessel. The surface of this kundika is decorated with an incised peony and arabesque pattern, another decorative technique found on celadons.
During the Goryeo dynasty, these ewers were also used in daily rituals by nobles and aristocrats.
This exhibition is part of the Portal to Korea project at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, generously supported by the National Museum of Korea.