The Sculpture and Crafts section displays many of the world’s finest specimens of
Buddhist sculpture, metal arts, and ceramics, demonstrating the astonishing tradition
and expertise of Korean artisans.
Along with Buncheong ware, white porcelain is the representative pottery of the Joseon Dynasty. But while Buncheong ware was only produced for about 150 years (between the 15th and 16th century), white porcelain was manufactured throughout the Joseon Dynasty and was widely used by people in their daily lives. Exuding pure, moderate beauty, white porcelain was the most appropriate ware for expressing the Confucian ideals of the Joseon scholars and nobility, and thus can be said to fully reflect the culture of the Joseon Dynasty.
The basic type of Joseon porcelain is plain ware with a pure white surface, but some white wares were partially decorated with simple incised, carved, perforated, or inlaid designs or painted in cobalt blue, iron brown, or copper red.
The history of Joseon white porcelain can be classified into four periods, depending on the installation and operation practices of bunwon, a group of government-operated kilns that produced white porcelain wares for the royal family and central government.
Before bunwon was established, the royal family and central government had to bring in the highest quality white porcelains from kilns around the country. The early period began in 1467-1468, when royal wares were first produced at bunwon in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do province, and lasted to the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592-1598. The middle period stretched until 1752, when bunwon was settled and flourished in present-day Bunwon-ri, Gwangju, while the late period lasted from 1752 to 1884, when the bunwon was privatized. Thereafter, Joseon porcelain quickly declined amid the surging imports of Japanese ceramic wares.
The White Porcelain gallery is organized to highlight the major changes in white porcelain styles and techniques, and to showcase the essence of white porcelain by selecting masterpieces from different time periods.