Gyeonggi is place to have a porcelain ballThe vicinity of Gwangju in Gyeonggi province has long been famous for its abundance of Joseon-era porcelain kilns. A site of particular historical significance is the village of Boonweon, which possesses within its borders the history of Joseon-era white porcelain. Here, the ancient art of porcelain-making continues to thrive. The latest effort to bring this past to life for visitors is the renovation of Boonweon’s old White Porcelain Hall, which had been buried for hundreds of years.
The restoration was accomplished through the efforts of the Gyeonggi provincial government and the local tourism office. Together, they sought to create a center for information on both ancient and modern aspects of porcelain. The cost of both exterior and interior renovations cost 17 million won ($14,750), according to the project manager.
Although the original kiln where famous potters from all over the country gathered no longer exists, the site now contains a newly developed Porcelain Hall.
This former center for baekja, or white porcelain, development during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910) had been concealed by a school built by the Japanese occupiers as part of a wholesale effort to erase remaining displays of Korean culture.
Since construction of the hall began last March, tourism officials had been concerned about preserving any historic artifacts that were discovered. A team of experts associated with the group Ahreumjigi helped local authorities. Further, workers raised the terrain around the building to protect any remaining porcelain chips or other historical items.
The architect Lee Jong-ho, who runs Meta Studio, turned the abandoned school into a museum by employing steel plates shaped like porcelain chips featuring drawings of cranes, reminding visitors of the Joseon-era crafts.
The two-story, 100-pyeong (3,500 square foot) building houses an exhibition hall on the first floor and a research space on the second floor where visitors can study baekja in greater detail.
From the entrance, visitors begin by passing through a section offering a broad overview of white porcelain: the kiln’s history, the history of Joseon-era baekja, restoration of Joseon baekja and the kiln, the porcelain-making process at the kiln, as well as the discoveries from excavation at the Boonweon kiln.
The exhibition hall contains a number of educational programs, beginning with an area where visitors can make their own pottery. Also on display is an exhibit of porcelain chips that were excavated from the ruins, a reproduction of the kiln’s ground layer showing the condition of the buried pottery, and a miniature model of the kiln as it might have looked when it was operating.
To reach the museum from Seoul, take an intercity bus to Gwangju (Gyeonggi province). At the Gwangju bus station, take a local bus to Namjong; they leave at 8:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. The museum is located behind Bunwon Elementary School. Admission is free. It is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. Call (031) 766-8465 for details.
by Jeong Jae-suk