National Intangible Cultural Property
No.96 Onggi Jang
The word “Pu-re” is a very pure Korean language that stands for bluish state and “dok” refers to a type of big bowl that has convex shape. In the past, “Pu-re dok” was made using a large quantity of salt, one of most valued items strictly controlled by government, and was used only in temples designated by the royal or royal families. “Pu-re dok” is normally baked in a traditional kiln heated at over 1,300 degrees along with sun-dried sea salt, charcoal, and the air that occasionally blowing into the chamber.
There is no absolute answer to the time when “Onggi” was first introduced to the society of ancient Korea peninsula. However, it is a common understanding that gradual development made in skills and techniques of making pottery throughout the ancient ‘Three Kingdoms’ period (refers to ‘Samguk’ dominated by Baekje, Goguryeo and Silla. 57 BC - 668 AD) has helped the potteries to be stronger and lighter. Because of this, potteries became a functional vessel (Onggi) that is enough to store and preserve the foods and grains to support daily life. Later, throughout the “Goryeo” (918–1392 AD) and “Joseon”(1392-1910 AD) dynasties, other kinds of potteries such as celadon, bronze ware, and white porcelain were introduced upon, however “Onggi” was still used as an important vessels for the daily life of human society of Korea.
“Onggi-Jang”: the word “Jang” in Korean represents the traditional craftsman of particular field thus “Onggi-Jang” stands for traditional craftsman who makes pot and jar in Korea.
“Onggi” was a general term stands for both earthen vessels and a crock pottery before (they are equally based on the mud, but earthen vessel is usually not treated by ashes after bake while crock pottery is. it eventually makes the difference in strength and color). However use of earthen vessel, since modern time has derived, has sharply decreased due to its poorer quality than of crock pottery, then now “Onggi” only stands for Crock pottery.
There are sufficient range of proven records that “Onggi” has been widely used by people in ancient ages as dishes and pots. According to ancient history book [Samguk-sagi], in Silla (57 BC– 935 AC), there was an institution named “Wagi-jeun” who is responsible for supplying “Onggi”. Joseon (AD 1392-1910) dynasty also had had 100 “Onggi-Jangs” who are fully dedicated for producing Onggi across the country including Han-yang (Capital city of Joseon).
It is shared understanding that every different country has their own form of vessels to store or preserve foods for the living and most of those are vary depending on their own culture and society that built up for long period of time. The same is true of “Onggi”. It has very unique features that cannot be found in other countries' vessels. For this reason, Ministry of Culture, Sports and tourism dedicated “Onggi” as one of national symbols of South Korea in 2006.