The Koreans have used potteries from 7000 to 8000 years ago. Since ancient times they used to make pottery by firing clay at a heat of 1300 degree Celsius. They produced unique, original and beautiful pottery. They traded extensively with China and adopted manufacturing skills of Celadon.
Korean pottery is healthy and alive due to its good natural disposition. The Korean potters believed in nature and sought to be a part of it. So they lived in deep recesses of mountains to give a natural touch to their wares and used simple colors with liberal techniques for molding the clay prior to making the pottery.
Korean pottery can be studied in terms of three empires. These three empires which present the foundation of Korean ceramic history also reflect the culture of pottery during this era. These three kingdoms are – Silla, Goguryeo and Joseon. The Korean potters produced coarse household goods as well as highly sophisticated statues of imperial figures, guardians, horses, escorts of the dead in mausoleum of kings, as well as nobility.
1. Korean pottery in the Silla era (668 to 935) – the pottery was plain in color, design and silhouette at the time of the unified Silla era. Celadon was the main produce. Gradually in the 14th century Bakeja porcelain wares developed which had vibrant varnish. These were made up of highly refined clay. Bakeja wares were fixed with feldspar and were very cautiously fired in very huge and fresh kilns. Bakeja wares flourished tremendously until the Joseon dynasty came to power.
2. Korean pottery in the Goguryeo era (918 to 1392) – during this epoch some of the best small scale works of ceramics were accomplished in Korea. In this age the potters made foliate designs, key fret, geometric shapes, elliptical panels, stylized fishes and insects, and they started using incised designs from this era. The glazes used, were different shades of Celadon. For stoneware and storage goods they used black and brown glazes.
3. Korean pottery in Joseon dynasty (1392 to 1910) – it can be called the golden era of Korean pottery. The Korean ceramics developed to a great extent and pottery was produced in a large commercial scale for export. The quality of the pottery also improved considerably. They followed the Chinese Ming Dynasty in evolving their improved range of pottery and they are similar in certain aspects to the Chinese wares. Storage pottery, celadon, white porcelain were alike and only with minimal variations either in glazes, designs or weight. Ming influence was also felt in the blue and white matter by using cobalt blue glazes.
After the fall of the Ming dynasty many Chinese potters migrated to Korea and brought colorful and vibrant pottery of special forms which was discarded by the Korean potters who preferred to make simple and less bedecked wares.
Korea exported most of its potteries to Japan and principally from the Busan area. The climbing kilns were exported to a considerable extent.
There were two ways of export- through deal and intended immigration of potters or by the means of invasion and pottery theft.