Room 4

Adaptation

In this room we use surviving pieces of tea ware, excavated sherds, and textual sources in order to show the diverse range of items produced by Korean potters as they responded to different demands in their new market.

"Teabowl Wars"?

The historical and archaeological evidence shows there was more to the potters output than tea ware, despite the Imjin conflict being known as the “Teabowl Wars”.

The Imjin conflict is sometimes known as “The Teabowl Wars”, reflecting the view that Korean potters were brought to Japan to make tea bowls highly admired by elites. 43 Once in Japan, Korean potters did indeed produce elite wares for the tea ceremony (Fig.45), but a large part of their output was in fact everyday items such as dishes, storage jars, and mortars (Fig.47).

Fig.45. Tea bowl, Karatsu ware. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.
Fig.45. Tea bowl, Karatsu ware. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).
Fig.46. Underside of Fig.45. Tea bowl, Karatsu ware. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.
Fig.46. Underside of Fig.45. Tea bowl, Karatsu ware. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).

Everyday items were not collected and preserved in the way that high status pieces were, and are mostly known from archaeological findings. Thus our knowledge of this aspect of ceramic industries founded by Korean potters in Japan has often been overshadowed by tea pieces.

Fig.47. Earthenware storage vessels, bowls, jugs, and kettles. Satsuma ware, 19th century.
Fig.47. Earthenware storage vessels, bowls, jugs, and kettles. Satsuma ware, 19th century. Kagoshima Prefectural Archaeological Center, Excavation report 106, 2006. https://sitereports.nabunken.go.jp/ja/22744.

Today, Karatsu ware is best known as elite tea ware. However, before the beginning of the seventeenth century, Karatsu kilns produced large quantities of daily vessels mainly for local consumption and very few made their way outside of Kyushu. 44 Under the patronage of Terasawa Hirotaka, which began in the 1590s, Karatsu kilns expanded significantly, and a variety of food vessels and tea wares were manufactured. 45 Most Karatsu vessels for daily use, such as dishes (Fig.48), bowls, jars, and bottles are undecorated and made in a straightforward manner.

Fig.48 Sherd of a Dish, Stoneware with glaze (Yamabeta kiln, Arita), 17th-18th century.
Fig.48 Sherd of a Dish, Stoneware with glaze (Yamabeta kiln, Arita), 17th-18th century.British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1959-0423-13-c.

A similar pattern of ceramic production can be found in the Takatori kilns. Despite Takatori ware’s fame as celebrated tea ware (Fig.49), the earliest Takatori kiln at Mount Takatori manufactured mostly everyday tableware for a broad market. It was not until the 1630s that Takatori ware was manufactured with a new emphasis on tea utensils under the direction of the Kuroda family. 46

Fig.49. Tea caddy, Stoneware with incision and iron brown glaze (Takatori), 17th century.
Fig.49. Tea caddy, Stoneware with incision and iron brown glaze (Takatori), 17th century.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975.

Beginning in the early eighteenth century, a new official Takatori kiln was created at Higashiyama to expand ceramic production and a variety of ceramics including table wares (Fig.50) were manufactured and distributed in large numbers. 69 However, Takatori pieces in museum and private collections today consist largely of elite tea wares because those were the pieces that were treated most carefully in the past.

Fig.50. Dish, Takatori ware, Uchigaso kiln. Japan, Edo period
Fig.50. Dish, Takatori ware, Uchigaso kiln. Japan, Edo periodPhotography © Andrew Maske

The Domestic Market

The case of Satsuma ware illustrates how everyday ceramic items produced by Korean potters became ubiquitous in the Japanese domestic market.

Although elite wares were produced by some of the kilns founded by Korean potters in Satsuma, such as that produced in Tateno, the majority of Satsuma pottery consisted of items for everyday use.  Fig. 51 is an example of elite ware produced in Tateno in Satsuma. It is a type of pottery known as Sunkoroku, an elaborately decorated style that imitated Thai ceramics.

Fig.51. Sunkoroku (Sawankhalok) vase, Tateno Kiln, Satsuma ware, second half of 18th century.
Fig.51. Sunkoroku (Sawankhalok) vase, Tateno Kiln, Satsuma ware, second half of 18th century.Reimeikan-Kagoshima History Museum

When it came to the production of every day items, the Naeshirogawa kilns in Satsuma were particularly prolific. They produced everyday domestic items such as storage vessels and mortars in large quantities, as well as roof tiles (Fig.52).

Fig.52. Storage jars, mortars, and roof tiles produced in Naeshirogawa. 17th century.
Fig.52. Storage jars, mortars, and roof tiles produced in Naeshirogawa. 17th century.Kagoshima Prefectural Archaeological Center, Excavation report 106, 2006. https://sitereports.nabunken.go.jp/ja/22744.

In the latter half of the Tokugawa period, teapots (Fig.53) were also fired in large numbers and sold not only within the domain but to other parts of Japan, providing a source of income for Satsuma. 48 Sherds from Naeshirogawa teapots have been excavated at sites across mainland Japan and in Okinawa (formerly Ryukyu). The squat, black kettles exported by Satsuma and produced mainly in Naeshirogawa were so ubiquitous throughout Japan that this particular type of teapot came to be known as a ‘Satsuma teapot’ (Satsuma dobin) no matter where it had been produced. 49

Fig.53. Black Satsuma teapot (Satsuma dobin). Late 19th Century.
Fig.53. Black Satsuma teapot (Satsuma dobin). Late 19th Century.Reimeikan-Kagoshima History Museum.

The fame of the Satsuma teapot is vividly illustrated in a woodblock print book from 1802 (Fig.54). A Treasury of Loyal Pottery Pieces, is a parody of the hugely popular story of the 47 rōnin, A Treasury of Loyal Retainers, who famously avenged the death of their master. 50 In this later parody, the part of the master’s enemy, Kira, is played by a “Satsuma teapot” . Fig.54 shows the iconic scene where Kira/the teapot is attacked in the shogunal castle, thus setting the events of the vendetta in motion.

Fig.54. Chūshin setomono gura, 1802, by Jippensha Ikku.
Fig.54. Chūshin setomono gura, 1802, by Jippensha Ikku.National Diet Library of Japan

New Fashions in Tea

New trends in elite tea ware, inspired by tea master, Furuta Oribe, influenced ceramic production in Japan, including wares produced by the Korean potters.

In 1597, a Korean scholar-official, Kang Hang, (Fig.1) was abducted and held in Japan as a prisoner of the Imjin War. While in captivity, Kang recorded a wide range of materials on Japan’s culture and society and his writings were later compiled under the title, The Record of a Shepherd(Fig.55). 51

Fig.1. Modern statue of captured Korean scholar-official, Kang Hang at Naesan Memorial Hall.
Fig.1. Modern statue of captured Korean scholar-official, Kang Hang at Naesan Memorial Hall. © Lee Tonsam.
Fig.55. Kang Hang, Map of Japan included in Kanyangnok.
Fig.55. Kang Hang, Map of Japan included in Kanyangnok.National Museum of Korea.

Among the topics covered by Kang, was the aesthetic of the Japanese tea master, Furuta Oribe, who came to influence the development of new tastes in the tea ceremony. 52   Oribe had begun his career as a warrior and served all three of the great unifiers, who brought increasingly large parts of the Japanese archipelago under their control in the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Oribe was gradually introduced to tea ceremony and became one of Sen no Rikyū’s primary disciples. Shortly after Rikyū’s death in 1591, Oribe was chosen by Hideyoshi to succeed Rikyū and emerged as a style maker. Oribe is credited with formulating the so-called “daimyo tea”. New developments in the practice of tea drinking under the influence of Oribe brought an aesthetic innovation, shifting the location from dim, secluded huts to well-lit, open tearooms. 53

Fig.56. Tea scoop and case, Furuta Oribe, 16th–17th century.
Fig.56. Tea scoop and case, Furuta Oribe, 16th–17th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/)

Kang described how anything chosen by Oribe was considered worth collecting among tea connoisseurs. It is likely that Kang was compelled to record new information on Japanese tea culture because he found it distinctively “Japanese.” He was quite critical of the “way” of tea in Japan, which he considered to be preoccupied with material objects. This attitude is reflected in the way that Kang wrote about Oribe and his tea taste. It is not hard to imagine that Korean potters brought to Japan after the War encountered similar challenges adapting to new tastes in Japan.

Following Rikyū, Oribe continued to employ native utensils rather than pedigreed ones made in China (Fig.57). Yet, the warped and bold tea utensils used by Oribe show a break from the style of Rikyū. One of the well-known tea journals, Diary of Kamiya Sōtan, covering the period from 1586 to 1613, describes Oribe’s use of clog-shaped tea bowls in 1599: “For thin tea the tea bowls were delightfully waggish: Seto ware with warps.” 54

Fig.57. Tenmoku tea bowl, Jian ware. China, Southern Song (1127-1279), 13th century. Important Cultural Property.
Fig.57. Tenmoku tea bowl, Jian ware. China, Southern Song (1127-1279), 13th century. Important Cultural Property.Kyushu National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/)

Oribe’s innovative aesthetic affected the production of tea vessels especially in Mino, one of the major ceramic centers in Japan not founded by Korean potters. The wilfully distorted and asymmetrical tea bowls with abstract designs (Fig.58) of the Mino kilns became fashionable during Oribe’s time. 54

Fig.58. Clog-shaped tea bowl with design of plum blossoms and geometric patterns. Mino ware, Black Oribe type; glazed stoneware. Japan, Momoyama period, early 17th c.
Fig.58. Clog-shaped tea bowl with design of plum blossoms and geometric patterns. Mino ware, Black Oribe type; glazed stoneware. Japan, Momoyama period, early 17th c.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry Collection, Bequest of Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry, 2000.

The impact of Oribe’s innovative style was also felt among the Korean potters working on Karatsu tea ware. In Fig.59, the warped, elongated shape of the Karatsu tea bowl takes its inspiration directly from Oribe ware. A “clog-shaped” tea bowl is first wheel-thrown and later intentionally deformed. The preference for this type of imperfect, willfully distorted tea bowl is a hallmark of Oribe’s tea style.

Fig.59. Tea Bowl, Karatsu, late 16th–early 17th century.
Fig.59. Tea Bowl, Karatsu, late 16th–early 17th century. Museum of Fine Arts Boston. To view image click here

At the beginning of the Imjin War in 1592, Oribe stayed at Hizen Nagoya Castle – the headquarters from which Hideyoshi launched the invasions – near Karatsu for a year and a half. 56 It is probable that Oribe visited the Karatsu kilns and interacted with Karatsu potters during this time. Moreover, Oribe is said to have introduced Karatsu tea bowls into the tea ceremony and highly admired them. 57

Takatori ware also felt the influence of Oribe’s style. The second Takatori kiln at Uchigaso was focused on specialized production of tea ceramics, and was known for stylistic innovation. 58 New tea wares developed at the Uchigaso kiln include the distorted “Oribe-style” tea bowls (Fig.60).

Fig.60. Tea Bowl, Takatori (Uchigaso), 17th century.
Fig.60. Tea Bowl, Takatori (Uchigaso), 17th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).
Fig.61. Alternative view of Fig.60.
Fig.61. Alternative view of Fig.60.Tokyo National Museum. Colbase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).
Fig.62. Base of Fig.60.
Fig.62. Base of Fig.60.Tokyo National Museum. Colbase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).

Through these examples of Karatsu and Takatori ware we can see that, once in Japan, Korean potters adopted new trends popular in the Japanese tea ceremony and responded to different demands in the Japanese market. Diverse types of ceramics produced in Kyushu and in the Hagi kilns of Yamaguchi were influenced more by current tea taste and local Japanese market demands than by the potters’ original ceramic tradition. 23

Presentation and Export Ware

From the mid-seventeenth century, many of the pottery traditions founded by Korean artisans in Japan featured in presentations made to the shoguns, as well as in the export market for porcelain.

During the Tokugawa period, the norms of the warrior hierarchy meant that daimyo lords were obliged to present gifts to the shogun. 60 The act of gift giving had considerable social significance especially for the Nabeshima family from Saga domain. Although the Nabeshima, who fought against the Tokugawa at the Battle of Sekigahara, escaped punishment in the wake of the battle, they needed to establish and maintain a stable relationship with the Tokugawa regime. As part of this process, the Nabeshima paid special attention to presentation gifts and tried to impress the shogun through gifts of Chinese porcelain (Fig.63) imported from Chinese merchants in Nagasaki. 61

Fig.63. Bowl, Jingdezhen. China, Ming dynasty, 16th century.
Fig.63. Bowl, Jingdezhen. China, Ming dynasty, 16th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).

After 1644 it was increasingly difficult to secure Chinese porcelain of high quality to be given as presentation goods, due to instabilities in China caused by the downfall of the Ming dynasty and the establishment of the Qing regime. Nabeshima Katsushige (1580-1657) therefore turned his eye to local wares in his domain and encouraged the development of porcelain kilns in Arita. 62 According to Nabeshima records, the Nabeshima kilns produced two thousand ceramic pieces as presentation items for the shogun every year. 63 Nabeshima porcelain was highly valued by the Tokugawa, and it was the only tableware (Fig.64) used for the shogun. 64

Fig.64. Bowl with Design of Auspicious Rope Patterns. Porcelain, Nabeshima ware. Japan, Edo Period, 1660s-1690s.
Fig.64. Bowl with Design of Auspicious Rope Patterns. Porcelain, Nabeshima ware. Japan, Edo Period, 1660s-1690s.British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1959-0418-18.

The Matsuura daimyo of Hirado Domain also presented high-quality porcelain (Fig.65) to the shogun from kilns that had been established by Korean potters brought to Hirado during the Imjin War and sponsored by the Matsuura. There were about 300 daimyos during the Tokugawa period but only the Nabeshima of Saga domain and the Matsuura of Hirado domain presented porcelain to the shogunate. 65 Both of these ceramic traditions had their origin in the Korean potters of the Imjin War.

Round porcelain dish with a cobalt blue design of rafts, bamboo hats, and the Tokugawa family crest of three hollyhock leaves, against a white background.
Fig.65. Dish with Rafts, Bamboo Hats, and Tokugawa Family Crest. Porcelain with underglaze blue, Hirado ware Japan, Edo period, ca. 1680-1720. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1893.

As with the Japanese domestic market, in the international market the shift from Chinese porcelain to Japanese Hizen porcelain occurred when the political turmoil in China halted exports. In 1647, Japanese-made Hizen porcelain was first exported on a Chinese ship to Cambodia. A large number of lesser quality Japanese porcelain wares (Fig.66) has been excavated in Indonesia, a trading hub in Southeast Asia. 66

Fig.66. Bowl, Imari (collected in Indonesia). Japan, Edo period, 17th century.
Fig.66. Bowl, Imari (collected in Indonesia). Japan, Edo period, 17th century.Tokyo National Museum. ColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/).

In 1659, Dutch ships started exporting Japanese porcelain wares to Europe. The earliest exports were modeled on Chinese prototypes, but the Japanese established their own style. 67 A delicate and restrained style of Kakiemon porcelain wares (Fig.67) became much sought after and was well copied in Europe, such as in the case of Meissen ware in Germany (Fig.68).

Fig.67. Dish with the Chinese Story of Sima Guang. Hizen ware, Kakiemon type. Japan (for European market), Edo period, 1700-1720.
Fig.67. Dish with the Chinese Story of Sima Guang. Hizen ware, Kakiemon type. Japan (for European market), Edo period, 1700-1720.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Hans Syz Collection, Gift of Stephan B. Syz and John D. Syz, 1995.
Fig.68. Dish with the Chinese Story of Sima Guang. Meissen Porcelain Factory. Germany, 1729-1731.
Fig.68. Dish with the Chinese Story of Sima Guang. Meissen Porcelain Factory. Germany, 1729-1731.Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In the next room we will examine the stylistic influences of the Korean traditions in Japan.

....