White Porcelain with Chestnut Design (栗文)


Chestnuts were commonly used to symbolize the desire 

for male offspring. The chestnut designs that frequently appear on Joseon ceramics were shaped by trade 

and the cultural exchange between Korea and Japan. 

The most common of these chestnut designs involved groupings of three chestnuts (三栗).

Japanese White Porcelain Export
with Chestnut Designs

Porcelain with chestnut designs were not popular in Japan but were frequently produced for export to Joseon. Starting in the late eighteenth century, ceramics of this type were exclusively produced in Japan, but Joseon potters soon incorporated chestnut designs into their own ceramics and by the nineteenth century local production outpaced the Japanese imports. The Japanese style of depicting chestnuts on white porcelain features chestnut branches stretching out across the ceramic surface with the chestnut itself represented on top. Export ceramics such as White porcelain dish with chestnut tree design in blue underglaze also incorporated the characters for longevity (壽) and good fortune (福) that were popular among Korean consumers.

Joseon White Porcelain
with Chestnut Designs

White Porcelain Dish with Chestnut Design 

in Blue Underglaze (白磁靑畫栗文接匙)

Joseon dynasty, National Museum of Korea

(Bongwan 10653) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

The surface of the plate is decorated with flower patterns (花文) within a double circle border. Chestnut tree branches extend around the flower patterns and additional branches and groupings of three chestnuts are represented on either side. As previously stated, the chestnut motif appears to have originated in Hizen porcelain but was not favored by Japanese consumers. In fact, the design was almost exclusively used to decorate ceramic bowls, boxes, brush holders and other products exported to Korea during the late Joseon period.

Let's Think About It

Have you seen other symbols on Joseon white porcelain 

in addition to chestnuts? 

White porcelain dish with Buddha’s hand fruit and chestnut design in blue underglaze in the collection of the National Museum of Korea includes an intriguing motif related to a type of citrus known as Buddha’s hand fruit (佛手柑文). 

Not only does the shape of the fruit evoke 

a Buddhist hand, the character for “Buddha” is also homophone for “good fortune” in Chinese. 

As such, the Buddha’s hand fruit is an especially powerful symbol for good fortune and one of the most frequently represented motifs in Joseon art. 

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