Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mungyeong Tea Bowl Festival

The beautiful city of Mungyeong is located at the northern tip of Gyeongsangbuk-do and known for its gorgeous scenery, historic sites, and the charming annual Tea Bowl Festival. Composed of several smaller townships, Mungyeong was and remains a major area for ceramics manufacture and is home to several master potters. The city is also known for the beautifully preserved fortress walls and gates of the Mungyeong Saejae, a famed mountain pass between the main rise of Joryeong Mountain and Sinseon Peak. The pass is the last remaining section of the great Yeongnam Road that connected Seoul to Busan during the Joseon dynasty, and holds an important place in history and folklore as the main route for scholars from Gyeongsang Province heading to and from the capital for the national exams. Three of the original gates still remain, and are part of the backbone of a major hiking trail.

To get an understanding of what is historically offered in Mungyeong, we began our explorations at the Confucian Literature Hall and the Ceramics Museum to learn about key aspects of Mungyeong’s cultural heritage. Some of us even ventured to enjoy the special local food, yakdol gogi, a grilled pork dish developed in the region and famed for its slightly chewy texture. Onward we ventured to the festival site, hosted in a folk village designed and used for filming historical dramas. The entire village was set up as a collection of viewing rooms for different potters and artists, booths for traditional clothes, toys and foods also lined the folk village streets creating an "other world" feeling and lending some authenticity to the creation of an old culture. The many ceramic exhibitions which featured both local and international artists, the cultural performances, samples of local products, and chances to learn more about Korean pottery and ceramic traditions were the inter-twining themes of the festival.

Pottery wall display wall in the 문경도자기박물관 

Mungyeong ceramics in harmony with the surroundings

Mungyeong is a unique region with inherited surroundings for creating ceramic works. It is located in the Baekdu-dagan, the "spine" of the Korean peninsula, and possesses regional characteristics for the ceramics industry: abundant high-quality clay, pure water from valleys, and a huge supply of firewood from thickly-wooded forests. Haneuljae is the oldest mountain pass in Korea and serves for securing a market through a canal connecting the nearby Namhan and Nakdong Rivers.

History of Mungyeong ceramics (from celadon to white porcelain kilns)

The history of Mungyeong ceramics originates from the celadon porcelain era, in that celadon kilns were discovered at Gansong-ri and Noeun-ri in Mungyeong. The celadons excavated in thee kilns were glazed with dark green enamel and fired on fireproof clay supports, which is coincidental with characteristics shown in the plain celadon of the 12th century. Also, a celadon kiln, dated in the 14th and 15th centuries, and a Buncheong ware kiln dated to the 16th century, were found respectively at Wanjang-ri and Sangdal-ri. White porcelain kilns found throughout Mungyeong, starting with the early Joseon period kiln of Wanjang-ri, were identified as 16th and 20th century constructions. Over 80 kilns have been discovered so far in the area. This number includes 4 Goryeo celadon kilns, 1 Buncheong ware kiln and 76 white porcelain kilns, and it is estimated that around 200 kilns remain undiscovered.

Pottery types can be divided into high-quality vessels for government officials and plainware for commoners. Mungyeong has been renowned for the latter. Its ceramics feature simple and natural aesthetics preferring a value of practicality to luxuriance and artificiality. Bowls, soup plates, dishes, sauce bowls, bottles, ritual vessels, among others, are the more familiar artifacts within this area.

Mungyeong ceramics inherit the ancient tradition of Korean ceramics. Its long ceramic history throughout 900 years covering Goryeo celadon, Buncheong ware and white porcelain of the Joseon period to contemporary pottery is unique in Korea, and its spirit has transpired into sagijang (important intangible cultural property) and myeongjang (ceramic master), an honorable title for those who have persisted in the traditional productive techniques for generations.

Ceramic properties of celadon

Celadon is to be coated with ferric feldspar dirt glaze on a white clay object containing elements of iron and then to be fired at 1300°C. This type of celadon ware became well-established at the beginning of the Goryeo period (10th century) through dynasty efforts to preserve the earthenware tradition of the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla periods as well as the influences of China-wares. Celadon showed its unique beauty with the appearance of pale-jade green, with the purest of celadons appearing in the early 12th century, and which flourished along with inlay work which was favored by royal families. 
source (excellent information) & source

Ceramic properties - Buncheong ware

Buncheong ware is made by different methods of coating white dirt on the gray or grayish black base dirt. Originating from Goryeo celadon, most of the forms resembled those of celadon; however, Buncheong ware has developed its own sense of aesthetics integrating bold flowing lines on the shapes full of resilience and liveliness. It flourished in the 14th to 16th centuries, but disappeared after the Japanese invasion of 1592.

Ceramic properties - white porcelain

White porcelain is to be made by coating crystal paint on the pure white base dirt and firing it at 1300°C. Although some pieces existed in the early Goryeo period, white porcelains were produced consistently during the Joseon period so that they are called representative of Joseon pottery used among all classes from the government officials to the general public. White porcelain is categorized as follows: the pure white porcelain, Cheonghwa white porcelain, Cheolhoe white porcelain, and Jinsa white porcelain, according to the pattern decorating techniques and painting methods. 


Tea bowl vs. plain bowl

The tea bowl is a vessel for mixing powdered tea and is also referred to as a dawan. The original Korean tea bowls were a kind of Buncheong ware, a type of living ware used by the common people. However, the style was transmitted to Japan during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and, the Goryeo-dawan style beloved by the Japanese, became integrated with the Japanese tea culture.

The beauty and aesthetics of many forms of pottery and ceramics at the festival were spectacular in not only their construction but in their presentation. Here, the pottery had merely the simple backdrop of the "traditional" village.
Grace and flow of lines and muted colors are appealing to the eye and transmit themselves well
to the meditative qualities needed in the traditional tea ceremonies.

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