In this category, the two major types of ceramics produced during the Joseon period (1392–1910) buncheong wares and white porcelain are well represented. While buncheong wares were only produced during the first two hundred years of the Joseon period, white porcelain began to be produced already in the Goryeo period (918–1392) and prevailed throughout the Joseon period.
The term “buncheong” is the abbreviation of bunjang hoecheong sagi (“powdered grey-green wares”), a term that was coined by Korean art historian, professor Go Yu-seop (1904–1944) in the 1930s. It refers to a distinct type of ceramics consisting of a grey stoneware body decorated with varied designs involving the characteristic use of white slip and covered with a greenish-tinged glaze. The wide range of decorative techniques in buncheong wares includes white slip inlay, stamped-patterns filled in with white slip, incision and sgraffito, iron-brown painting on a layer of white slip, white slip designs brushed onto the surface, and dipping in white slip. Buncheong wares developed from the ceramics tradition of the preceding Goryeo dynasty, and while maintaining some of its characteristics, buncheong wares are generally earthy and coarse in appearance, generous and practical in shape and bold and expressive in their designs. Buncheong ceramics were mainly used as daily household utensils by all social classes including the aristocracy at court. Their natural and unassuming appearance earned them great popularity as tea wares in Japan and buncheong ceramics have been influencing ceramics production in and beyond Japan until this day.
With the consolidation of the dynasty and Confucianism as the state ideology, white porcelain which was regarded the symbol of the Confucian virtues of frugality and austerity, became the predominant type of ceramics. White porcelain was adopted as official ware under the reign of King Sejong (r. 1418–1450), and the official kilns, called Bunwon, for the development and production of white porcelain were set up in the 1460s in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province. Consequently, local kilns abandoned the production of buncheong wares in favour of the more popular white wares which led to the decline of buncheong wares. Another important development in the ceramics production of the Joseon period was the use of cobalt blue for decorating white porcelain, which is assumed to have begun around the mid-15th century. Following the devastating Japanese invasion in the late 16th century, the ceramics production in Korea underwent a transformation. New shapes emerged, and underglaze iron-brown decoration was predominant, while simple designs in cobalt blue also gained popularity and ceramics overall manifested typically Korean characteristics. In the late Joseon period, after the official kilns had been set up at Bunwon-ri, Gwangju Province, in 1751, the production of blue and white porcelain flourished. Ceramics of this period are often lavishly adorned, using decoration techniques such as underglaze iron-brown and copper-red painting, and show an influence of folk art in their designs.