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).