Along with Buncheong ware, white porcelain is the representative pottery of the Joseon Dynasty. While Buncheong ware was only produced for about 150 years (in the 15th and 16th centuries), white porcelain was manufactured throughout the Joseon Dynasty and was widely used by people in their daily lives. Exuding a pure, moderate beauty, white porcelain was the most appropriate ware for expressing the Confucian ideals of the Joseon scholars and nobility, and thus can be said to fully reflect the culture of the Joseon Dynasty. The basic type of Joseon porcelain is plain ware with a pure white surface, but some pieces were partially decorated with simple incised, carved, perforated, or inlaid designs, or painted with cobalt blue, iron brown, or copper red.
The history of Joseon white porcelain can be classified into four periods, depending on the installation and operation practices of the bunwon, a group of government-operated kilns that produced white porcelain ware for the royal family and central government.
Before the bunwon were established, the royal family and central government had to bring in the highest quality white porcelain from kilns around the country. The early period of the production began in 1467-1468, when royal ware was first produced at the bunwon in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do Province, and lasted until the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592-1598. The middle period stretched until 1752, when bunwon was settled and flourished in present-day Bunwon-ri, Gwangju, while the late period lasted from 1752 to 1884, when the bunwon was privatized. Thereafter, Joseon porcelain quickly declined amid surging imports of Japanese ceramic ware.
The White Porcelain Gallery is organized to highlight the major changes in white porcelain styles and techniques, and to showcase the essence of white porcelain by selecting masterpieces from different time periods.