A Quarter Century of Scientific Study on Korean Traditional Ceramics Culture: From Mounds of Waste Shards to Masterpieces of Bisaek Celadon

  • Received : 2012.11.12
  • Accepted : 2012.12.12
  • Published : 2012.01.31


The first twenty-five years of scientific study within Korea on Korean traditional ceramics has been characterized as a bridging effort to understand the rich field of artistic ceramic masterpieces on one hand with analytic results gained from mounds of broken shards and kiln wastes on the other. First shard pieces were collected directly from the waste mounds, but most of the analyzed shards were provided by art historians and museum staffs directly involved in systematic excavations. The scientific study is viewed as one of many complimentary ways in learning about the multi-faceted ceramics culture, ultimately connecting human spirits and endeavors from the past to the present to the future. About 1350 pieces of analyzed shards have been so far collected and organized according to the production location and time period. From the experimental results of the analysis, the compositional and microstructural characteristics of bodies and glazes have been deduced for many kiln sites of Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. Except for a few local kilns, porcelain stone was used as body material in both dynasties. The principle of mixing a clay component with a flux material was used in Korean glazes as was in China. The clay component different from body clay was often used early on. In Gangjin a porcelain material appropriate for whiteware body was mixed for celadon glaze, and in Joseon Gwangju kilns glaze stone was chief clay material. The use of wood ash persisted in Korea even in making buncheong glazes, but in Joseon whitewares burnt lime and eventually crushed lime were used as flux material.


Korean traditional ceramics;Scientific study of Korean traditional ceramics;Chemical composition of Korean traditional ceramics;Goryeo celadon;Joseon whiteware;buncheong


  1. Gompertz, G.St.G.M. 1964, Korean Celeadon. Thomas Yoseloff, p.13.
  2. Koh Choo, C.K., 1992, A preliminary scientific study of traditional Korean celadons and their modern developments. Materials Research Society Symposium Proceeding, 267, p.633-638.
  3. Koh Choo, K.S., Choo, W.K., Ahn, S.D., Lee, Y.E., Kim, G.H. and Lee, Y.S., 2010, A study of chemical composition of Korean traditional ceramics (I): celadon and Goryeo whiteware. Journal of Conservation Science, 26 (3), 213-228.
  4. Koh Choo, K.S., Choo, W.K., Ahn, S.D., Lee, Y.E., Kim, G.H. and Lee, Y.S., 2011a, A study of chemical composition of Korean traditional ceramics (II): Choson whiteware. Journal of Conservation Science, 27 (1), 61-74.
  5. Wood, N., 1994, Korean material culture. In: Barnes, G. L. and McKillop, B. (eds.), Papers of the British Association for Korean Studies. Vol. 5, British Association for Korean Studies, p.39-63.
  6. Wood, N., 1999, Chinese Glazes. A&C Black, London and University of Pennsylvania, p.49.
  7. Koh Choo, K.S., Choo, W.K., Ahn, S.D., Lee, Y.E., Kim, G.H. and Lee, Y.S., 2011b, A study of chemical composition of Korean traditional ceramics (III): Comparison of punchong with Koryo ware and Choson whiteware. Journal of Conservation Science, 27 (1), 75-90.
  8. Koh, K.S., 1992, A scientific and technological study of Korean traditional ceramics. The Korean Journal of the History of Science Society, 14 (1), 23-61.
  9. Koh, K.S. and Do, J.Y., 1992, Scientific study of Korean traditional culture: An investigation of Sinyeongni celadon and Chungheungni buncheong sherds from Gongju County, Chungcheongnamdo Province. Science Journal of Chung-Ang University, 35, 49-81.
  10. Vandiver, P.B., Cort, L.A. and Handwerker, C.A., 1989, Variations in the practice of ceramic technology in different cultures: A comparison of Korean and Chinese celadon glazes. In: Notis, M. D., (ed), Ceramics and Civilization, Vol. IV, Cross-craft and Cross-cultural Interactions in Ceramics. The American Ceramic Society, p.347-388.