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7 March 2011

Next Meeting Sunday, 27 March

Boy Viewing Mount Fuji
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The next meeting of the Washington Oriental Ceramic Group will take place on Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 5:30 pm. Walt and Dorte Simmons have invited the group to view the next rotation of their Japanese paintings at their home, 1600 Karen Street, Potomac, MD 20854. This will be a potluck. When you RSVP, either by responding to this email, or or 703 503 3195 please let us know what dish or drink you will bring. Directions to 1600 Karen Street are at the end of this announcement. The image of Mt. Fuji shown here was painted in 1839 by Hokusai. It is in the Freer|Sackler collection.

Annual WOCG dues

Annual WOCG dues for 2011 of $10.00 are now due. If you pay by check please make the payee “cash” or David Rehfuss, NOT WOCG as my bank will not accept checks with that payee. Send your payment to David at 4321 Selkirk Drive, or pay at the next meeting.

Summary of the 16 January meeting

This popular event was a “show and tell” session where members brought ceramics seeking information on them from Louise Cort and David Rehfuss, the expert panelists. The wares discussed were indeed varied -- family heirlooms, grave wares and, most commonly, pieces acquired while living or visiting in Asia. We saw recent copies of Sawankhalok/Si Satchanalai, a rare 19th-20th century Vietnamese interpretation of Chinese “Kitchen Qing” crockery, a lovely lead glazed ewer from dating from Yuan dynasty unearthed in the Philippines, among others. A member who lived in Guangzhou produced several extraordinary pots including an early Yueh jar (6th c.) and an exquisite Longquan celadon saucer from the Song dynasty (12th c.).

Lecture report No. 1

In early February Ms. SANG Seung Yeon, a Smithsonian Institution pre-doctoral Fellow, now at the Freer researching Korean tea ceramics made for Japan, spoke at the Sackler on “The Cultural Essence and National Ceramics: ‘Hybrid’ Ceramics from Japan House Kilns during the 17th and 18th Centuries”. The Freer is fortunate to have a good number of these fascinating ceramics, like the tea bowl pictured below, made in Busan in the 18th century.

Pusan ware tea bowl
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Seung Yeon explained that starting in the 15th century Japan had a permanent official presence at Busan on the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula known as “Japan House” or Waegwan. While Japan House was officially a diplomatic establishment, it largely pursued trade, exporting ceramics and ginseng, among other things to Japan. The kilns in and near Waegwan produced export wares, mostly for use in for the Japanese tea ceremony. Japanese tea masters loved Buncheong (1), the austere, irregular ware long made in Korea. However, in the 16th century Korean potters stopped making Buncheong as they could not compete with the newly popular Korean white porcelains. Japanese tea masters still sought the older-style wares. They sent orders to the Japan House with careful drawings of bowls to be produced at Waegwan.

The turmoil at the end of the Ming dynasty (1387-1644 CE) resulted in the end of Chinese trade with Japan, including ceramics. This stimulated the rise of Japanese ceramic production, and the decline of Waegwam production.

(1) Buncheong/Punch’ong is a traditional Korean stoneware , with often with a bluish-green tone. Pots were coated with a white slip, and decorative designs painted using iron pigment. The style emerged in the early Joseon dynasty (1372-1897 CE), largely replacing celadon in common use.

Lecture Report No. 2: Professor John Maske discussed the use and ownership of tea utensils, “ Tracing Tea Bowls: Elite Ceramics in Edo Period Japan” as the John Pope Memorial Lecture on Ceramics, at the Freer Gallery on 9 January 2011. His latest book Potters and Patrons in Edo Japan: Takatori Ware and the Kuroda Domain will come out later this year.

Dr. Maske traced the evolution of Japanese ceramics starting with the Momoyama period (1568-1615 CE) a period of violent warfare. What emerged that destruction was a 250 year period of stability, the rise of the tea ceremony, and the decline of Samurai warrior class. Previously Japan potters lacked the technical wherewithal to make fine high-fired wares. Chinese and Korea imports met the requirements of tea drinkers. However, huge amounts of foreign ceramics were destroyed by the wars, which, with peace, opened the door for domestic production by Japanese and immigrant Korean potters.

Japanese ceramics became acceptable, even desirable, for the tea ceremony early in the 17th century. Highly influential in setting styles for tea drinking were the first three shoguns of the Tokugawa dynasty and two famous early tea masters. The now unemployed Samurai spent lots of cash on tea ceramics. In the Edo period (1615-1867) new Japanese ceramics emerged: 1) Arita porcelain; 2) in the 1650s Ko-kutani-style enameled Arita wares . (Ko-kutani large dishes were used in large banquets, rather than the tea ceremony); and, 3) Ninsei’s elaborately enameled stonewares made in Kyoto.

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