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Evolution of Bunchenong

The origin and evolution of buncheong as explained herein are based on the categorization of Professor Gang Gyeong-suk.

Early period

The early period of buncheong can be divided into the embryonic and the appearance period. During the late Goryeo period in the late fourteenth century, there were clear signs that celadon was losing favor. When it began to decline quickly, many potters who had produced celadon at kilns in Gangjin, Jeollanam-do Province and Buan in Jeollabuk-do Province scattered throughout the country and built small kilns to produced low-quality celadon. This movement eventually brought about the creation of buncheong.

Mid period

During this period, the characteristic features of bucheong became evident, and a wide range of decoration techniques were developed. This mid period can be further divided into the development phase and mature phase. The reign of King Sejong the Great was a time of renaissance on the Korean peninsula, and buncheong developed rapidly. By 1450, buncheong with inlaid decoration based on Goryeo celadon had evolved and assumed a unique style of Joseon. The tradition of Goryeo celadon with inlaid decoration and the new Joseon aesthetics were combined to create buncheong. The myeon sanggam (planar inlay) decoration technique was unique to buncheong and was developed in this period, proof of the outstanding inlaid decoration technique of the newly founded dynasty of Joseon.

Late period

The end of the fifteenth century through the early sixteenth century was a period of decline for buncheong. The decoration technique called gwiyal, or brushed white slip (in which white slip is applied with a coarse brush), disappeared gradually, and dumbeong, or the dipping method (in which the vessel is dipped into the white slip), appeared. The increasing disuse of gwiyal in favor of dumbeong was the result of efforts to make buncheong look like white porcelain. This was the coup de grace for buncheong as the entire surface was simply covered in white slip. By this time porcelain was produced at kilns throughout the country, and buncheong was no longer demanded. What is noteworthy is that buncheong with underglaze iron-brown design had been very popular. These vessels, with lively and painterly designs, were mainly produced by the kilns on Mt. Gyeryongsan, so they bear striking regional features. It is not too much to say that these designs created with strong brushstrokes opened a new chapter for buncheong.

End period

Since the mid sixteenth century, production of buncheong nearly stopped. Only the gwiyal technique continued to exert influence on some porcelain vessels, as seen from porcelain vessels brushed with white slip. Some buncheong dipped into the white slip was still produced as well. It is assumed that buncheong had been produced until the late sixteenth century by local kilns, judging from an epitaph table with an inscription dating to 1587 made of buncheong produced by the dipping method. White porcelain came into wide use, and buncheong was made to resemble white porcelain, as seen in the increasing number of buncheong vessels dipped in white slip. After the Japanese invasion of 1592, production of buncheong came to a complete stop.