Period: Three Kingdoms period, Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.–A.D. 676)

Date: 5th–6th century

Culture: Korea

Medium: Stoneware with traces of ash glaze

Dimensions: H. 14 3/4 in (37.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.34.23


This large footed stand is an example of the gray stoneware vessels found in tombs from the fifth to sixth centuries and is the product of important technological advances in Korean ceramic production. With the exception of Chinese stoneware, the Korean stoneware (kyōngjil t'ogi) of the Three Kingdoms period is the earliest known high-fired ware in the world, requiring kiln temperatures in excess of 1000°C. These wares were produced in a wood-fired climbing kiln, a tunnel-shaped structure typically built up the side of a hill. This closed-kiln design, in contrast to the earlier open or semi-open kiln, produces intense and steady heat and allows control of the oxygen flow into the firing chamber. The characteristic gray color of Three Kingdoms stoneware is the result of the reduction of oxygen in the chamber. Unlike the soft, low-fired earthenware (wajil t'ogi) of earlier periods, stoneware is hard, dense, and impervious to liquids.

High-fired glazes represent another important development in ceramic technology in this period. At first accidentally produced by wood ash circulating in the kiln during firing, as seen on this stand, eventually these early ash glazes were produced deliberately.

This stand was made to support a round-bottomed bowl or jar used as a container for food or liquid. The base displays alternating rectangular perforations, a decorative scheme generally associated with Silla in contrast to the Kaya preference for triangular cutouts. A pattern of wavy lines is incised on the exterior of the deep bowl as well as the base. The stand's large size, erect shape, and well-ordered decoration are evidence of the potter's technical skill.

Although they may have been used in domestic settings, stands with pedestal bases and footed vessels are usually found in tombs and were presumably used in ceremonial presentations of food to the deceased. These new types of ritual vessels are in part the result of changes in mortuary practices. They may also reflect the influence of Chinese material culture transmitted through the Han military commandery of Lelang, in northern Korea, which remained a Chinese colonial bastion on the peninsula for over 400 years (108 B.C.–313 A.D.).

The vessel forms and the technological advancements in the production of stoneware during the Three Kingdoms period were transmitted to Japan most likely through trade and the immigration of Korean craftsmen. The Kaya Federation, which was in close contact with the Japanese islands to the south and southeast by sea, was especially influential in this process.