Koryo Celadon

Find out all about the beautiful Korean pottery known as Koryo Celadon.

It is a tiny piece of pottery, just 23 centimeters tall. Yet, it is valued at about $3,000,000. This gift to former United States President Harry Truman is an example of the Korean art of Koryo Celadon, a unique craft from the Orient.

The name Koryo Celadon comes from the fact that this art was first practiced during the period of Korean history known as the Koryo period - that being the period from 918 to 1392 C.E.. "ňúCeladon' means blue colored porcelain in Korean. It is, in fact, the deep blue - green color that sets Koryo Celadon apart as being special.

The amazing color combination that gives the pottery it's jade blue appearance is the result of the careful combination of different colored clay. Another unique aspect of Koryo Celadon is that it is fired twice. The item is fired firstly at around 750 degrees Celsius. Then the surface of the pottery is coated with a glaze that contains calcium carbonate as well as about two percent of iron. Next it is put into the kiln for the second time. This time the temperature is increased to about 1,300 degrees Celsius. In this firing, the air supply to the kiln is limited, which results in the presence of carbon monoxide.

Koryo Celadon is uniquely Korean in that it exhibits the artistic lines and shapes that all traditional Korean art does. Artwork on the pottery typically reflects themes in nature.

The colors that are achieved in Koryo Celadon artwork are the result of the inlaying of black and white pigments. One example is the technique known as sanggam. In this process the pattern is carefully cut into the surface of the pottery. The grooves are then filled with clay that is either white or red. The item is then put in the kiln. Firing the item will turn the red clay black, while the white clay remains a pure white.

At the end of the Koryo period of Korean history (13th Century C.E), Koryo Celedon pottery went into decline. This was as a result of the Mongol invasion. This unique form of pottery was in danger of becoming a lost art. The incredibly high prices that ancient examples of the art have fetched, however, have led to a modern revival. But, while some artists have managed to create specimens that are very close to existing ancient pieces, the completely natural processes that were used back then made those pieces purer and more impressive.

Koreans are very serious about their art. There is a Celadon Research Center as well as the Korean Cultural Preservation Bureau. A recent discovery of a sunken ship containing 463 pieces of ancient Koryo Celadon greatly excited researchers and practitioners of this ancient art form.

Examples of Koryo Celadon can be seen at some of the most famous museums in the world. The British Museum and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art both house examples of this unique art form. If you are lucky enough to get to Korea itself, you can visit the city of Kangjin, the home of Koryo Celadon. Annual Ceramic Festivals are also held where one can see Celadon being made. Visitors can even have a go at the potter's wheel themselves.

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