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Goryeo Celadon

Origin of Goryeo Celadon

Celadon bowl
Celadon bowl
In 1991, shards of ritual vessels inscribed with the year 992 were found at the site of a Goryeo kiln. Also discovered were shards with inscriptions referring to the year 993. Among the collection of Ehwa Womans University is a bluish-green jar with an inscription that includes the year 993. These pieces are believed to be the first Goryeo celadon, though some scholars think that they are only an advanced form of ash-glazed stoneware from the Unified Silla, rather than real celadon.

Goryeo celadon is generally believed to have developed under the influence of the Yaozhou kilns in southeastern China. Goryeo ceramics originated in the ninth century, the final years of the United Silla Kingdom. There were many kilns that produced celadon similar to that made in Yaoshou on Korea’s west coast. After some time, production of celadon began in other regions, including Gyeongseo-dong, Incheon, Naedae-ri, Hyeongok-myeon, Wolseong-gun, Gyeongju, and the Busan area. These low-quality celadon pieces were usually dark green or dark brown because of impurities in glaze and had rigid silhouettes. Dark greenish celadon was excavated from Jinsan-ri, Sani-myeon, Haenam-gun, and the seabed near Wando Island, Jeollanam-do Province.

Dark greenish celadon jar, Dark greenish celadon jar
1) Dark greenish celadon jar, Goryeo 11th, H. 29.5 M(D). 11.6 B(D). 13.3
2) Dark greenish celadon jar, Goryeo 11th, H. 19.5 M(D). 14.0 B(D). 8.8
Although the production method of celadon was introduced from China, Goryeo celadon became more refined and took on a unique beauty. With the passage of time from its birth in the ninth century to its development as primitive celadon in the tenth century, Korean potters developed celadon with uniquely Korean characteristics. From the mid-11th century, most of the early kilns, which had been scattered along the southern and eastern coasts, stopped production. Continued development occurred around two major areas: Kangjin in Jeollanam-do and Buan in Jeollabuk-do. While there were a few kilns in other regions, these two areas were largely responsible for the rapid development of Goryo celadon.
In the early 12th century, Goryeo potters achieved considerable artistic and technical expertise and established their own unique style, quite distinct from that of Sung China. The apex of Goryeo ceramics, both technically and aesthetically, occurred in the first half of the 12th century.
It was then that Goryeo's jade-colored celadon was perfected. Developments in glazes further improved on the semi-transparent jade color. Goryeo potters were soon able to carve highly elaborate designs in intaglio or in relief, a technique quite different from Chinese celadon because of its non-transparent glaze. Such technical developments made Goryeo celadon even more mysterious and beautiful. The jade-colored glaze on inlaid sanggam celadon was even more refined and gave prominent play to the inlaid designs. For one thing, the glaze generated fewer bubbles. It also had a brighter sheen and sleeker lines, further enhancing the beauty and elegance of each piece.