Diameter: 20.100 cm
Bequeathed by Mrs B.Z. Seligman
Asia OA 1973.7-26.394
Celadon tea bowl
Koryo dynasty, 12th century AD
For a superior taste
This celadon bowl was probably used as a tea bowl. Tea drinking became a popular activity during the late Unified Silla dynasty (AD 668-935) and early Koryo dynasty (918-1392), due to the influence of Son (Zen) Buddhism. This spread from Buddhist monks to the population in general. Son Buddhism placed a strong emphasis on meditation through tea drinking, and according to the Chinese connoisseur Lu Yu, in his Chajing ('Classic of Tea') of AD 760, tea tasted better from green-glazed tea bowls than from white porcelain.
Celadon tea bowls were often decorated with Buddhist symbols, such as lotus flowers. However the designs were not always religious: here the fish and waves incised inside the bowl are secular symbols for prosperity and fertility.
The gold lacquer repair was done in Japan where Koryo-period celadons have long been highly valued and collected.
J. Portal, Korea - art and archaeology (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)