Tall-neck Vase with Lotus Design

  • Korea
  • Korea, Koryo dynasty
  • 12c
  • Celadon with carved and incised decoration
  • H-34 D-15
Catalogue Entry

As the glaze became highly transparent and the clay more carefully chosen, Koryo celadon began to impart a true jade-like color by the end of the 11th century. This type of celadon is called "jade-colored celadon." In the 12th century, various decorative techniques were developed, such as incised design, carved design, impressed design, openworked design, inlaid design, and so on, and artists created splendid celadon ware favored by kings and nobles of that time.

A man by the name of Xu Jing visited the capital of the Koryo dynasty Kaesong while accompanying a Chinese delegation in 1123, and compiled a forty volume record detailing his experience in the city, which he presented to Emperor Hui-zong of the Northern Song as a tribute. These records are called "Gaoli-tujing" (The Illustrated Report on Gaoli, Gaoli being Chinese name of Koryo). According to this work, the people of the Koryo dynasty apparently valued celadon more than vessels covered in gold or silver, and the people referred to celadon by a special term hishoku (jade/kingfisher colored). Also recorded is a kind of exquisite celadon described as being extremely intricate, with highly-detailed, elaborately incised patterns. The name hishoku is presumed to have originated because the Koryo celadon's green color is similar to the color of green jade, or perhaps because the color resembles the green color of the wings of the kingfisher. Another possibility is that the term may have originated from a type of blue glaze also called hishoku but written in different characters used on celadon ware from a specific part of China.

This tall-neck vase is designed with large lotus flowers all around the body. Lotus petals surround the bottom, and nuyi pattern (lapet or cloud collar pattern) adorns the part that serves as the transition from the neck to the rest of the vessel. Cloud motifs appear around the neck. Five spurs are found on the bottom. The round, plump shape of the vessel with a long thin neck, graced with the beautiful jade color applied on all surfaces, represents its most treasured feature. It truly qualifies as a masterpiece, the value of which is yet to be fully appreciated.