he was pursuing the dream of recreating Goryeo celadon, Cho came across
a researcher from
a porcelain company based in Gwangju. He shared his knowledge of high-quality earth and stones with
the company, and he was invited to participate as a visiting researcher in the laboratory. Here he was
able to put forth his ideas of experimentation with all imaginable combinations of different components.
He became more familiar with the different properties of minerals used in ceramics through his
thorough studies and repeated tests. The knowledge he gained from this experience became the
basis for Cho’s later work in recreating Goryeo celadon.
In 1963, he discovered a small portion of celadon glaze at a kiln site of from the Goryeo Dynasty.
A thorough study of earth and broken celadon pieces from a number of kilns resulted in the finding
of a unique mineral not found anywhere else. It was revealed that the mysterious substance that
gave Goryeo celadon its heavenly color was not a mystery after all; the key to the quest was a cockle
shell commonly seen at the seaside. Cho found a mixture of clay and crushed cockleshell in the corner
of one kiln site.
Cho put his new finding into practice by making the glaze with powdered shell. He fired one ceramic piece
after another, varying the kiln temperature and thickness of the glaze. One morning, Cho held up one of his
finished works from the kiln against the morning sunlight when he saw a piece of heaven, the color
that he was looking for throughout his life as a potter. He held it up high and ran
out shouting elatedly, “It’s a celadon, true celadon!” as the joyous emotion filled
In 1966, Cho’s regeneration of Goryeo celadon and its superb color was
approved and praised by a renowned art historian from the National Museum
of Korea, Choe Sun-woo, who encouraged Cho to continue with his pursuit of
perfection. These words of support and encouragement became the driving
force for Cho’s continued effort to realize his dream.
After his celadon glaze was celebrated by the public, he built his own kiln
and named it “Mudeungyo,” or, “The Kiln of Mudeung Mountain.”
Cho continued his pursuit of recreating Goryeo celadon while he became a
renowned potter in international circles by participating in the Osaka International
Exhibition and Dallas World Expo. His celadon works have been sold in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. since 1973.
Cho was not satisfied by mere momentary fame, however, and continued to strive to realize the form of perfection in
Goryeo celadon. The discovery of a 12th-century celadon kiln site in 1973 by a research team from the National
Museum of Korea gave Cho the real answer. The broken celadon ceramic pieces from the Gangjin site were evidence
that this was where the best of Goryeo celadon was once made. In 1977, Cho lead the Celadon Recreation Committee to
build a new kiln in Gangjin based on the knowledge and experience gained from the excavation of hundreds of kiln sites.
On December 27, 1977, the fire of the Goryeo Celadon kiln in Gangjin was lit once again after 600 years of
abandonment. The nation’s eyes were turned to this small town, and the people’s hearts beat as one in excitement
with those of the potters. The door of the kiln surrounded by hundreds of eager spectators was opened on
February 3, 1978, and the celadon pieces revealed themselves in divine light one after another. The color of the
sky, the mysterious heavenly color from the legend, was recreated on earth. One would have been good enough,
but 32 out of the 200 works fired inside the kiln came out as perfect resurrections of Goryeo celadon.
Potters of today came in contact with their ancestors from almost a millennium ago through the successful rebirth
of Goryeo celadon. The history of celadon ware in Korea was restored by Cho Ki-jung, who devoted his life to
finding the secret behind the color of peace and serenity for the human soul. Cho Ki-jung not only successfully
recreated the world’s most beautiful ceramic ware but also opened a new page in the history of ceramics by
continuing the spirit of true craftsmanship that was lost for nearly one thousand years.
View the master's works