Cheongsong’s Unique White Porcelain
Ask any Korean why you should head to Cheongsong, Korea and they’ll probably tell you about Mt. Juwang National Park, delicious apples, or a prison. There are a few things that Cheongsong is famous for and one lesser known one is the white porcelain, or baekja, that was developed there in the mid 16th century. Unlike other porcelains in Korea that are made from clay, the Cheongsong baekja is uniquely made using stone from the surrounding mountains that has been ground down to an extremely fine consistency.This technique makes the porcelain lighter and whiter than in other regions and also gives it the unique characteristic of having lots of microscopic holes when finished. These holes are not a quirk to be looked down upon though, they are quite handy in that they allow water to evaporate easily.
The craft of making the porcelain was lost for almost 40 years, but with one remaining master has rather recently seen a revival in production. This porcelain was once popular among the common people as it was more practical and affordable than other porcelain wares of the time, but with the introduction of plastics, porcelain saw a steep decline in use in the 1950s; therefore production slowed and the kilns that were once common sights in the area were dismantled. By 1997 Cheongsong county officials and the only living master of the craft Mr. Ko Man Kyeong, 고만경, started the revival of the unique baekja with Beomsugol.
Cheongsong county maintains and enforces strict rules over the stone used in the baekja and doesn’t allow any of the raw materials that are mined from the mountains in the county to be taken out. But head south to Beomsugol, on the location of an old stone mine, and you can get a chance to learn, make and paint your own baekja under the only living master and Intangible Cultural Property Holder, Mr. Ko. He is an expressive 84 year old that is the only person to have held on to the traditions of the Cheongsong baekja and is currently teaching the techniques to three students who will hopefully pass them on so they are not lost again. There are now 48 kilns in 36 different pottery making centers in Cheongsong county according to their travel guide and they should definitely be taken advantage of when visiting this slow city.
Cheongsong Baekja Center
Address: Sinjeom-ri 86, Budong-myeon, Cheongsong-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do