About this Website

Potters and their families were among the many Chosŏn Dynasty Koreans taken to Japan by the armies of Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the devastating Imjin War (1592-1598). There are few written records about these potters. In addition, their work has often been overshadowed by the importance of Chinese influences in the development of Japanese pottery. Yet these Korean artisans founded ceramic traditions that continue to the present day.

Who were they? What were their lives like? What types of pottery did they produce, and what was their legacy?

Combining the study of heirloom pieces and sherds, together with documentary evidence, “Stories of Clay” traces the experiences of different groups of Korean potters in Tokugawa-period Japan after the Imjin War. Concentrating on the first half of the seventeenth century and examining elite and everyday items, this virtual exhibition and digital history project will challenge the impression that tea wares were the most important output of the Korean potters in Japan. It will contribute to the ongoing art historical reassessment of Korean influence on Japanese ceramics. The potters and their complex relationships with their Japanese patron-captors also shed light on the regional aftermath of the Imjin War, which was the largest conflict of the sixteenth-century world.

Curated by Rebekah Clements and Seung Yeon Sang as part of the European Research Council Horizon2020 project “Aftermath of the East Asian War of 1592-1598” (grant agreement No 758347), 2018-2024.

Interactive map

Ceramic traditions founded by Korean potters in Japan

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Click on a pin to see a representative piece of pottery of each industry

Arita ware
Karatsu ware
Hirado ware
Hasami ware
Satsuma ware
Takatori ware
Agano ware
Hagi ware
Kagoshima
Pusan
Nagasaki

Contents

“Stories of Clay” represents the curators’ original research, considered together with current scholarship, in a digital format that is designed to be accessible to experts and non-specialists alike.

Inspired by the format of a museum exhibition, each of the five “rooms” explores one aspect of the Japanese post-Imjin pottery experience: origins of the potters, their lives in Japan, the technology they brought, adaptation to local conditions, and their stylistic influence.

Pop-up glossary boxes help with specialist terminology, and endnotes 1 offer an insight into important research on each subject. Don’t forget to check out our Resources page too, which contains a series of talks by leading experts and downloadable worksheets for educators.