Hizen Ceramics (肥前磁器) Used at 

the Royal Court of Joseon


Hizen porcelain have been excavated from tombs belonging to members of the Joseon Royal family including the tombs of Princess Hwahyeop (和協翁主, 1733~1752) and Princess Hwayu (和柔翁主, 1740~1777), as well as Inmyeongwon (仁明園) and Uiryeongwon (懿寧園), the tombs of Royal Concubine Wonbin Hong (元嬪洪氏, 1766~1779) and Crown Prince Uiso (懿昭世孫, 1750~1752) respectively. Laboratory analysis of the internal components suggest that most of the containers were used to carry cosmetics. This example was produced with the finest white porcelain (彩色白磁) and features a polychrome enamel over-glaze as well as a highly-polished foot. A close inspection of the surface reveals traces of a gilded impression of a Japanese wisteria that would have appeared in splendid gold when it was first produced. The sophisticated techniques and high-quality materials used in this example reflects the type of high-end imported ceramics that were favored by members of the Joseon Royal family.

 



Burial Wares Found in the
Tomb of Crown Prince Uiso
(懿昭世孫 懿寧園 副葬品)

White Porcelain Box with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文盒)

Edo period, 18th century,

H. 3.6cm, D. 5.1cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6537), ⓒNational Museum of Korea

White Porcelain Cup with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文盞)

Edo period, 18th century, H. 4.2cm, (mouth) D. 5.1cm, (lid) D. 5.8cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6538) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

Uiryeongwon (懿寧園) is the burial place of Crown Prince Uiso (懿昭世孫, 1750~1752), the eldest son of Crown Prince Sado (思悼世子, 1735~1762) and Princess Hyegyeong (惠慶宮, 1735–1815). A white porcelain cup and box excavated From the Uiryeongwon were most likely produced in Hizen. Remnants of white powder and beeswax indicate that the box was used to house cosmetics. Since Prince Uiso died at the age of three, it seems likely that the box either belonged to Princess Hyegyeong or that it was included in the tomb to reflect confucian values of cleanliness and refinement. Close examination of the ceramics indicates the patterns were originally highlighted in overglazed gold (金彩), making them even more resplendent than they appear in the present day.

Burial Wares Found in the
Tomb of Princess Hwayu
(和柔翁主 墓 副葬品)

White Porcelain Cup with Blue Underglaze (白磁靑畫盞)

Edo period, 18th century, 

H. 3.7cm, (mouth) D. 5.9cm, National Palace Museum of Korea (Gungjung 376) ⓒNational Palace Museum of Korea

White Porcelain Box with Blue Underglaze (白磁靑畫盒)

Edo period, 18th century,

H. 3.3cm, D. 5.6cm, National Palace Museum of Korea (Gungjung 377) ⓒNational Palace Museum of Korea

Princess Hwayu, the tenth daughter of King Yeongjo, married the official Hwang Injeom (黃仁點, 1732-1802) who served under King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo. After her death in 1802, Princess Hwayu was buried alongside her husband. Among the objects recovered from their tomb are a cup and box that bear the characteristic design of a Japanese wisteria, typical of ceramics produced in Hizen. The white porcelain cup has a wide mouth and narrow foot and features a blue underglaze. The box was excavated with the lid intact and surface designs visually connect the two components. Judging by their condition, it is likely that both items were used by the Princess and her husband as part of their everyday household activities.

Burial Wares Found in the
Tomb of Royal Concubine Wonbin
(元嬪洪氏 仁明園 副葬品)

White Porcelain Box with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文盒)

Edo period, 18th century, H. 3.9cm, D. 5.5cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6555) ⓒNational Museum of Korea 

White Porcelain Jar with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文壺)

Edo period, 18th century, H. 3.8cm, (mouth) D. 2.5cm, (bottom) D. 2.9cm, (lid) H. 1.2cm, (lid) D. 2.3cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6552) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

White Porcelain Jar with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文壺)

Edo period, 18th century, H. 5cm, (mouth) D. 2.8cm, (bottom) D. 2.8cm, (lid) H. 1.2cm, (lid) D. 2.1cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6551) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

White Porcelain Jar with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文壺)

Edo period, 18th century,

H. 3.6cm, (mouth) D. 2.7cm, (body) D. 5.5cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6553) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

White Porcelain Box with Japanese Wisteria Design Painted in Overglaze Polychrome Enamel (白磁彩色藤文盒)

Edo period, 18th century,

H. 3.3cm, D. 5.1cm, National Museum of Korea (Deoksu 6554) ⓒNational Museum of Korea

In total, five pieces of white Hizen porcelain with polychrome overglaze were excavated from Wonbin's tomb. All five are inscribed with a Japanese wisteria pattern (藤文). Between these patterns on the sides of the lid and main body (體), the ceramicist has inscribed the characters for longevity (壽) and good fortune (福). While such inscriptions rarely appear in Japanese domestic ceramics, they were extremely popular in Joseon. Therefore, it is highly likely that these ceramics were specially manufactured for export to the Joseon royal court. In addition to these specialty ceramic items, Wonbin’s tomb was replete with highly sophisticated silver artifacts that may also have been intended for use by Joseon royalty. This veritable treasure of luxury goods reflects Wonbin’s high status within the Joseon court as the younger sister of Hong Gukyeong (洪國榮, 1748-1781), one of King Jeongjo’s most trusted advisors.

 


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If you are interested in other items excavated 

along with the Hizen porcelain

 

 What is the Rattan Tree (藤, Japanese wisteria tree) pattern like?

The Japanese wisteria (藤)  is a type of vine known for its beautiful purple flowers that hang down like bunches of grapes. In Japan, the cascading flowers were often associated with the negative sensation falling downward and were seldom planted inside the home. However, the multitude of flowers were also understood to be an auspicious symbol for a bountiful rice harvest. The flower’s distinctive purple color was frequently incorporated into family insignia, most notably by the Fujiwara Clan (藤原氏), a noble family from the Heian period (平安時代). As the Fujiwara family rose to prominence in the late Heian period, the Japanese wisteria became increasingly popular among Japanese aristocrats as a symbol of dignity and prosperity

Let’s Think About It


Which of these three objects was excavated from Inmyeong-won (仁明園), the tomb of the Royal Concubine Wonbin?

All three boxes were produced in Hizen (肥前).

However, the box from Wonbin’s tomb reflects the style and symbols favored by the Joseon royal court.

👇 The answer will come out in 3 seconds!

✔ Answer: 1  

The first box was excavated from Inmyeong-won. The body and lid of the white porcelain box feature the auspicious characters for longevity (壽) and good fortune (福).

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