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Reviving the Mysterious Beauty of Celadon

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Reviving the Mysterious Beauty of Celadon

“Everyone is invited to the Gangjin Celadon Festival! The event will be held from July 30 to August 7, 2011 in Gangjin, the area in Jeollanam-do that is home to Goryeo celadon porcelain.”


While China boasts Nissing porcelain which has a 1300-year-old history and Japan cherishes its colorfully-patterned Aritayaki(ありたやき) porcelain, Korea also has its own porcelain to be proud of. One of Korea’s representative handicrafts, Korean celadon has a mysteriously bluish color, can take various shapes, and is decorated with uniquely engraved, embossed, and inlaid patterns. With all these elements harmoniously combined, the porcelain evokes subtleness and sophistication.

Inlaid celadon, in particular, is an outstanding craftwork. The complex process that is required demonstrates Koreans artistic talents: inlaying drawings on the surface, evening the surface of the carved-out pattern drawings with white or black soil, doing a biscuit firing, glazing, and firing again. Even the Chinese, whose porcelain culture is considered the best, praised Korean celadon for its “beauty unparalleled in the world.”

Gangjin-gun, Center of Goryeo Celadon Culture
For over six hundred years, between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries, Gangjin-gun in Jeollanam-do was a Goryeo celadon-producing cluster. About two hundred celadon kilns out of four hundred remaining nationwide are located in this time-honored county. Of the existing Korean celadon works that were designated as national or local treasures, a whopping 90 percent were produced here.


Gangjin-gun became the cradle of Goryeo celadon due to several geographical factors. Since the county is located in the vicinity of Wando, where trade with overseas countries was brisk at the end of Silla (one of the three kingdoms in Korea, BC 57 ~ AD 935), it could introduce advanced celadon-making techniques earlier than any other region in Korea. In addition, the county has ample amounts of the raw materials, such as Kaolin and quartzite, needed to make pottery. On top of this, the many forest covered mountains in this area give easy access to firewood for heating the kilns. The seas are practically inland and that made shipping easy, which was yet another factor contributing to Gangjin’s seeing the golden age of Goryeo celadon.

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Earned the Title of the Best Festival Representing Korea
In a bid to spread the beauty of Gangjin’s Goryeo celadon treasures, the county is holding the Gangjin Celadon Festival under the theme of “Earth, Fire, and Human.” The festival will go for nine days from July 30 to August 7, 2011 and will take place across Gangjin-gun, where Goryeo celadon porcelain kilns are located.

The Gangjin Celadon Festival is marking its 39th anniversary this year. For nine consecutive years starting from 2002, the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MCST) has named it the best local festival in Korea. Last December, the event passed rigorous on-site assessments and expert evaluations and, among 1,000-odd festivals, attained the title of the “Festival Representing Korea.” Between 2006 and last year, the organizers also toured exhibitions from the festival in Japan, the United States, Europe, and South America. This year, renowned foreign potters (a total of ten including five from the United States, two from Canada, and one from Germany) were invited to come to the festival. With an international pottery workshop and inviting exhibits, Gangjin Celadon Festival is evolving into a world-class cultural event.

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A Variety of Events
This year, the visitors will have a chance to participate in a variety of events including exhibitions, performances, and 36 hands-on events such as making pottery by hand, making shapes with a spinning wheel, and celadon coiling. Among these, the experience of making-shapes is especially popular with both domestic and foreign tourists: participants can make their own pottery using an electrically spinning wheel. The other 16 events will add to the festive atmosphere and meet tourists’ expectations. There’s “Goryeo Celadon Returning to Gangjin in a Millennium,” a special exhibition in which festival-goers can appreciate around 50 artifacts produced in Gangjin.

Plus, attendees can see shows by the Gangjin Celadon Promotion Pavilion in which the celadon-making process and picturesque scenery of Gangjin-gun are viewed in 3-D. And they can board a pottery ship. What’s more, the festival-goers can buy Gangjin celadon at a 20 percent discount.


Why not enjoy a getaway to Gangjin, the home of Goryeo celadon with a millennium of mystery - Here, visitors can see and feel the history of the porcelain and enjoy unique experiences to boot.

Other Attractions and Things to Eat
Gangjin is full of must-see cultural heritage sites: the house of Jung Yak-yong (pen name: Dasan) who compiled the Practical Thought during the Joseon dynasty; the birthplace of Kim Yun-sik (pen name: Yeongrang, 1903-1950) who was a representative lyrical poet and nationalistic movement activist; Geukrak Bojeon (National Treasure No. 13), a wooden Buddhist temple of the early Joseon dynasty; Baekryeonsa, a venerable Buddhist temple with a lush grove of camellia trees; and Hamel Gallery, which keeps the vestiges of Hendrik Hamel (1630-1692).


Visitors can eat fresh seafood caught in clean waters of the nearby sea and Gangjin’s special set meal, which is considered quintessential southern cuisine.

Gangjingun Native Festival Promotion Committee
Tel: 82-2-61-430-3191
Fax: 82-2-61-430-3199
Website: www.gangjinfes.or.kr


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Goryeo Celadon as a National Treasure
The most widely-known Goryeo celadon item is “Cheongja-sanggam-unhangmun-maebyeong” (a celadon vase with inlaid crane and cloud designs, National Treasure No. 68). It never fails to be in the books and videos that introduce traditional Korean cultural heritage. Sixty-nine cranes are depicted flying, strolling, and gliding in the clouds on the surface of this 42.1cm high, bluish green vase.


Currently, there are twenty Goryeo celadon pieces that are designated as National Treasures. The shapes range from a bottle, pot, bowl, and jar, to an incense burner and seated Buddha statue. A Chinese ancient sage exalted Goryeo celadon in his book “Su-jung-geum” saying that “Goryeo celadon green is unparalleled in the world (天下第一 高麗翡色).”

Park Sung Eun  parkse@agrinet.co.kr

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