Flat Bowl with Fish and Floral Design

  • Korea
  • Korea, Goryeo dynasty
  • 12c
  • Celadon with carved and incised decoration
  • H-5.2 D-19
Catalogue Entry

In the first half of the 12th century, at the beginning of the golden age of Koryo celadon, inlaid celadon was invented. Inlaid celadon is a decorative technique unique to the Koryo dynasty and its invention was an epoch-making event in the history of Asian ceramics. Inlay is a technique of creating designs by setting a different material in a base. The inlay technique of Koryo artisans was noted for a very high level of technical accomplishment. Inlay, a technique originally used for gold works and lacquer ware, came to be applied to ceramics. Although using the inlay technique itself for ceramics had had a long history since the Tang period of China, inlay celadon, which constituted the main staple of ceramic production from the middle of the 12th century to the end of the 14th, owes very much to Koryo's own technical know-how. The highly advanced technology of Koryo inlay celadons suggests their delicate sense of beauty.

The exterior of the present bowl is decorated with baoxiang-hua design (peony scrolls) created by means of the so-called reversed inlay, in which the negative space on the round exterior of the bowl was carved out and then filled with black slip. The leaves of the arabesque pattern and the petals of the peony are elaborately incised. The lower part of the inside walls of the bowl are decorated with lotus motifs and the bottom of the bowl bears a pair of fish facing each other. Around the fish on the bottom, concentric wave motifs are carved in, encircling the fish. The base of the exterior also has a pair of fish drawn on it. Six spurs are visible on the bottom. The lustrous and beautiful jade-colored glaze and the incised design covering large areas, including an area that does not ordinarily show, represent a striking contrast against the reversed inlay of the bowl's exterior. This combination of elements makes this bowl worthy to be placed among the truly fine pieces of Koryo celadon.