Exposition : “The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea”, Musée national de Corée

Copyright Musée national de Corée/National Museum of Korea (NMK)

Exposition : “The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea”

Musée national de Corée, Séoul

Jusqu’au 16 décembre 2012


The National Museum of Korea (Director General: Dr. Kim Youngna) hosts its 2012 Special Exhibition The Best under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea from October 16th to December 16th. It is the second of exhibitions dedicated to Goryeo celadon wares in 20 years since the Special Exhibition in 1989, Masterpieces of Goryeo Celadons.


This special exhibition is based on the research achievements on the peninsula’s long ceramic tradition which have undergone a remarkable development since the 1990s. The purpose of the exhibition lies in outlining the development of Goryeo celadon wares such as its birth, and origin and application of inlay techniques. Furthermore, it is put together to take a closer look into the role, production, and circulation of the celadon, and its relationship with other metal crafts and lacquer wares during Goryeo Dynasty.


The exhibition presents 350 intact celadon wares. They have been carefully selected from the collection in Korea and other countries in regards to the importance and quality. In terms of the scale, the exhibition is the largest of a kind in history. It includes 29 nation’s designated cultural heritage(18 National Treasures and 11 Treasures) and two Japan’s designated important cultural assets, making the exhibition an unprecedented case of bringing together top quality celadon wares.


The title of the exhibition comes from the book « Soo-Joong-Guem » written by the Song Dynasty writer « Taepyung Noin », who listed the « luminous jade-green color of Goryeo celadon » as one of  the « best under the heaven ». This works as a proof that Goryeo celadon during the period was internationally acclaimed as it out-ranked the ones of Song Dynasty in China. Suh Geung(1091~1153) also recorded in his book « Sun Hwa Bong Sa Goryeo Dogyung » that « Goryeo people refer to the bluish color of the celadon by luminous and mysterious » after his visit to Goryeo as an envoy of Song. This also demonstrates the high quality and renowned beauty of Goryeo celadon wares of the time.


The exhibition was not organized in a conventional style which places objects in simple chronological order, but in four parts that could show Goryeo celadon wares in an effective and comprehensive manner: history, uses, inlaid technique, and highlights. This was in consideration of the visitors so that they can selectively view one part at a time and appreciate each from different angles. Also, the exhibition was designed in careful consideration to the unique characteristics of the celadon and presented them in a three-dimensional look instead of a simple line-up.


  The first part, « Beginning of Goryeo Celadon and Its Development », introduces the history of Goryeo celadon: its birth, beginning, peak, and decline of its production. By periodically arranging the objects, it is designed to help the visitors to easily follow with an overall history of Goryeo celadon of 500 years. Goryeo celadon was born through the import of China’s ceramic culture. Its production began with brick kilns which later changed into clay. The production reached its highest with its innovative invention of inlaid technique and luminous jade-green color, and later declined with the sinking incidents of Inyang and Ganjimyung celadons on the way to Gongsung.


  The second part « Celadon: A Window to Goryeo », explores through the dynasty’s dining culture, leisure activities, religions (Buddhism and Taoism), and burials. It also focuses for the first time on the different uses of celadon as women’s accessories. As the high-quality celadon wares made in Gangjin, southern Jeolla Province, and Booan, northern Jeolla Province, were mainly consumed by the royal palace and noble class, they could teach us about the daily lives of the upper class of the day, such as highly decorative cosmetic oil bottles and cases for the ladies. Ordinary items are also included to provide different perspectives, such as stationery, chairs, wine pots and glasses. Some of the highlights in this part are the Celadon wine pot in the shape of a human figure, National Treasure No. 167, from National Museum of Korea and Seated Celadon arhan with dot design in underglaze iron, National Treasure No. 173, private collection.


The third part, « The Essense of Goryeo Crafts: Sanggam » focuses on the inlaid technique which has been invented in Goryeo. As the dynasty’s unique technique for ceramics, it has maximized the beauty of the design by contrasting white and black colors of two different clays. It represents the extraordinary craftsmanship of Goryeo celadon in addition to its beautiful bluish color. In the beginning, the design constituted a small part of the production but starting from the mid-12th century, beautiful patterns were decorated all over the surfaces. Such fine sense of art and exquisite work provide visitors with an opportunity to discover the distinctive sensibility and craftsmanship of Goryeo people.


The fourth part, « Defining the Best Under Heaven« , presents a selection of 22 Goryeo celadon wares which are regarded as the best quality worldwide throughout generations. They are the superb examples of the ultimate beauty that Goryeo accomplished and true masterpieces that Koreans take great pride in. Placed in a separate room, the color of the celadon is set up to luminate visibly through natural sunlight. The National Treasures No. 60, Celadon Incense Burner with Lion-shaped Lid, and No. 61, Celadon wine pot in the shape of a dragon, though influenced by China, show distinctive art of Goryeo in perfect proportion in overall shape and in the harmony of colors. The National Treasure No. 95 Celadon Openwork Incense Burner is a result of Goryeo’s hard work of consistently adopting from advanced civilizations and at the same time developing its own originality. Other noteworthy pieces are Japan’s important cultural assets which are exhibited in Korea for the first time: Celadon Nine Dragon-shaped Kundika, Museum Yamato Bunkakan, and Celadon Water-Dropper in the Shape of a Girl, Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka. This exhibition provides a rare chance for the visitors to meet the exquisite works of Goryeo celadons in large number brought to one place.

Source : Musée national de Corée


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