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Korean Tea Bowls for Japan

July 1, 2012 – August 20, 2013

Museum: Freer Gallery of Art

Location: Gallery 6A

Tea bowls made in Korea—known in Japan as koraijawan—were the implements of choice in the avant-garde tea ceremony known as wabicha. Translated as “poverty tea” or “rustic tea,” wabicha arose in the 16th century, in part as a reaction to the ostentatious displays of brown- or celadon-glazed Chinese bowls seen in earlier presentations. Wabicha participants instead were drawn to the subdued glazes and relaxed forms of Korean bowls. Initially they were imported tablewares, but they were soon made to order for Japanese taste. From 1639 to 1717, a kiln operated within the Japanese enclave in Busan, with a second source of order-made tea wares identified recently at Beopgi-ri in Korea. Though Korean kilns could no longer compete with Japanese potteries in the difficult economic climate of the early 18th century, Korean styles continued to be mainstays of Japanese kilns.