Sculpture and Crafts, National Museum of Korea

The Sculpture and Crafts section displays many of the world’s finest examples of Buddhist sculpture, metal arts, and ceramics, demonstrating the traditions and astonishing expertise of Korean artisans.

White Porcelain Gallery
Along with Buncheong ware, white porcelain is the representative pottery of the Joseon Dynasty. While Buncheong ware was only produced for about 150 years (in the 15th and 16th centuries), white porcelain was manufactured throughout the Joseon Dynasty and was widely used by people in their daily lives. Exuding a 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 pieces were partially decorated with simple incised, carved, perforated, or inlaid designs, or painted with 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 the bunwon, a group of government-operated kilns that produced white porcelain ware for the royal family and central government.

Before the bunwon were established, the royal family and central government had to bring in the highest quality white porcelain from kilns around the country. The early period of the production began in 1467-1468, when royal ware was first produced at the bunwon in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do Province, and lasted until 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 surging imports of Japanese ceramic ware.

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.

Buncheong Ware Gallery
Buncheong ware originated as low quality inlaid celadon produced in the late Goryeo Dynasty, but in the early Joseon Dynasty, it evolved into an entirely new type of pottery with unique aesthetic features.

Buncheong ware, which is made by coating the surface of celadon with white mud, comes in at least seven major varieties, depending on the method used to create patterns on the surface: inlaying, stamping, incising, reverse inlaying or sgraffito, painting, brushing (guiyal), and dipping (deombeong). Each technique achieves a different decorative effect and a unique beauty. While Goryeo celadon is characterized by a sophisticated aesthetic and the noble beauty of soft curves, Buncheong ware is marked by free and vibrant expression, straightforward shapes, and a vivacious aesthetic.

The Buncheong Ware Gallery is arranged by period, pattern, and technique, allowing visitors to easily grasp the particular characteristics of the many types of this uniquely Korean pottery style.

Celadon Gallery
Ceramics is a unique type of art that involves the harmonious interaction of people, earth, and fire. The invention of porcelain marks a significant turning point in the history of ceramics. To make porcelain, extremely fragile materials are sculpted, coated with glaze, and baked at temperatures as high as 1300°C. It is a remarkably delicate artistic practice that requires unparalleled mastery of technology and technique.

Korean porcelain was first produced in the late 9th or early 10th century. Around that time, people began producing celadon and white porcelain, developing earthenware technology under the influence of China’s Yue ware. By the turn of the 11th century, celadon production technology had become much more sophisticated, and it reached its pinnacle in the 12th century. The greatest achievements were the creation of jade-colored celadon, wherein the glaze is tinted with a light jade color, and the development of inlay technique, which opened a new chapter in ceramic art.

While engaged in a protracted war with the Yuan Dynasty, the delicate shape and hue of jade-colored celadon gradually vanished, resulting in a noticeable decline in the quality of celadon. Then, in the late 14th century, frequent Japanese invasions forced master artisans to move inland and disperse in all directions in order to survive and preserve their traditions. This movement led to an increase in porcelain production and demand, as more lower class people were exposed to porcelain and began to incorporate it into their lives. The tradition of inlaid celadon was succeeded by Buncheong ware.

Metal Crafts Gallery
Bronze implements began to be used on the Korean Peninsula around the 10th century BCE. With the introduction of iron culture from China around the 3rd century BCE, iron weapons and farming tools were locally manufactured. The advancement of smelting and smithing technologies allowed for a variety of metals and alloys to be refined and employed, including gold, silver, copper, iron, and tin. The unique properties of each metal were exploited to fabricate a diverse array of tools and artifacts, including weaponry, armor, harnesses, bells, crowns, and other everyday items and status symbols. As Buddhism flourished during the Three Kingdoms period, Buddhist handicrafts fully blossomed. While Buddhist artifacts were often elaborate and exquisite, everyday articles tended to be more solid and practical, displaying an adept combination of production expertise and refined aestheticism.

The Metal Crafts Gallery showcases the magnificent beauty and superior production technology of Korean metal craft and sculpture. The exhibition is divided into two sections—Buddhist crafts and practical handicrafts—both of which are arranged to show how metal crafts have changed over time.

Buddhist Sculpture Gallery
The Buddhist Sculpture Gallery is designed to allow visitors to fully appreciate the characteristics of Korea’s Buddhist sculptures, and their beauty. Visitors can learn how Korean Buddhist sculpture evolved over time, from the Three Kingdoms period to the Joseon Dynasty period, and explore the distinct features of different Buddhist statues.

At the entrance, visitors will encounter a large stone Buddha statue and iron Buddha statue produced in the period of Unified Silla and the Goryeo Dynasty. They will then proceed to a special section featuring Bangasayusang (a gilt-bronze, Pensive Bodhisattva), which is designated National Treasure No. 83/No.78.

Finally, they will view small gilt-bronze Buddha statues of different periods and styles to understand the diverse elements of Korean Buddhist sculptures.

National Museum of Korea
The National Museum of Korea is the flagship museum of Korean history and art in South Korea and is the cultural organization that represents Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has been committed to various studies and research activities in the fields of archaeology, history, and art, continuously developing a variety of exhibitions and education programs.

The National Museum of Korea help visitors to understand and appreciate Korean history and culture through diverse experiences, events, and exhibitions. National Museum of Korea’s permanent collection offers a fascinating journey through thousands of years of history, from simple hand axes of the Paleolithic Age, to a splendid gold crown from the Three Kingdoms Period, exquisite celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty, masterful paintings from the Joseon Dynasty, and photographs from modern times. By immersing themselves in such captivating artifacts and artworks, visitors will understand the deep national pride that Koreans feel for their unique culture.

National Museum of Korea strives to provide visitors with the most entertaining and informative cultural experiences, introducing various cultures through an array of exhibitions and informative programs. The museum’s vast collection is presented in rotating displays in our six permanent exhibition halls. National Museum of Korea also regularly feature major special exhibitions on important themes, and provide exciting educational programs for children. In addition, we have recently upgraded our facilities and rest areas, to make your visit even more pleasant. The museum’s enchanting garden is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll during any season of the year.

The National Museum of Korea is working hard to make your museumexperience more pleasant and enjoyable, by planning a number of exciting upcomingexhibitions, providing docents to give tours in six different languages, and entertaining and educating kids in our Children’s Museum. We have many educational programs specifically designed to suit different groups so that information about our numerous relics and works of art is more accessible to everyone. You can also attend fabulousworld-class performances and concerts at our Yong Theater, or simply enjoy theafternoon in the tree-filled park which is adjacent to the museum.