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A Little Bit About Celadon

Updated on September 26, 2014

Celadon Bottle from the Koryeo (Koryo) Dynasty in Korea

Bottle Celadon with Inlaid Chrysanthemum and Butterfly Design Koryo Dynasty, 12th Century - Korea The Ho-Rim Museum
Bottle Celadon with Inlaid Chrysanthemum and Butterfly Design Koryo Dynasty, 12th Century - Korea The Ho-Rim Museum | Source

What IS celadon?

In English, the word can refer to three different things:

1. A type of pottery (ware).

2. A glaze for pottery.

3. A color.

1. Celadon is an ancient form of pottery from Longquan, China.

Celadon started in the Longquan region of the Zhejiang province of China. Archaelogist Wang Zhongshu found shards with the ceramic glaze from the Eastern Han Dynast (25 - 220 AD).

Celadon pottery (ware) may have developed form Yue Ware. But, Yue Ware was mostly sort of a tan color, whereas celadon is a lovely light greyish blue-green.

2. Celadon is a glaze for pottery.

The glaze is not the same as the "true" celadon pottery from China, according to Nigel Wood, who wrote Chinese Glazes: Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation.

True celadon ware has to follow a certain firing process, so pottery that is glazed with a celadon color cannot necessarily be called "celadon" --- Yet, it can be that color anyway. (I think? It gets complicated.)

3. Celadon is a color.

So, it gets really confusing because the glaze (#2) can be colored the color of celadon.

Anything can be the color of celadon.

Han Dynasty: Yue Ware on the Silk Road

Yue Ware was siliceous (i.e., containing, resembling or consisting of silica) stoneware fired in dragon kilns (see video, below), glazed with wood ash and clay. The State of Yue was near Hangzhou and Shanxi in Northern Zhejian province, where there is a network of waterways, and hills of limestone and granite.

The Han Dynasty was from 206 B.C., until 220 A.D. The earliest Celadon ware is from the Han Dynasty.

It seems that Yue Ware started during the Han Dynasty, and Yue Ware was the forerunner of celadon ware. Now the finest celadons are from Korea, especially the Koryon (Koryeon) Dynasty.

The Silk Road was formally established during the Han Dynasty, 130 BC, when Han formally opened trade with the west. The Silk Road predates the Han, but the Persian Royal Road dates to 500 B.C.

The Silk Road linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce. It was used regularly from 206 B.C., until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with the West and closed the routes.

Nigel Wood, Chinese Glazes: their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation. (See link, below.)

Spring and Autumn period of the Han Dynasty, 770 - 476 B.C.

Yue Ware started in the south as utilitarian pieces, but eventually became accepted as artistry of a higher level.

Yue ware was sent as tribute ware to the imperial court in North China in the 9th Century A.D.

In China’s most sacred shrine, Famen Temple, Shznxi province, there were fourteen pieces of Yue Ware, along with a single finger bone of the Buddha (Gautama Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, Sakyamuni).

The pagoda of the Famen Temple was sealed in 874 A.D., and reopened in 1987, when the pagoda collapsed. One of the examples of 9th Century Yu Ware could be mistaken for Longquan celadon of the 12th Century.

It appears, therefore, that celadon ware developed from Yue Ware.

Where did the name "Celadon" come from?

There are several theories about how Celadon got the name.

One theory is that it means "green stone" in Sanskrit.

Sila = Green.

Dhara = Stone.

This is a nice, simple, straightforward theory.

Artistic representation of Saladin.
Artistic representation of Saladin.

Timeline that Tracks English uses of the name Saladin.

Second Theory

The name Celadon might be related to the name Saladin (Salah - ad - Din), the first Abuyyid sultan, who sent forty pieces of celadon ceramic to Nur - ad Din Zaji, the Sultan of Syria, in 1171 A.D.

Here is a set of flashcards with Muslim history. This page has a "card" referring to the Abuyyids.

A Third Theory of Etymology

Another popular theory is that the color is named for the shepherd named Celadon in a French pastoral novel, L'Astrée, by Honoré d'Urfé.

L'Astrée was the single most influential work of 17th century French literature. It was called the "novel of novels" --- not only because of its influence, but also because of its length: Six parts, forty stories, sixty books, 5,399 pages.

What was its name in the places it came from?

Perhaps it's not fair to say where the name "celadon" came from, when the thing itself --- ware, glaze, or color --- is from eastern civilization.

What was its name in China, Japan, Korea, Egypt, and the other countries it passed through before it arrived in Europe?

The Wikipedia page about celadon has a panel on the right-hand side that gives the name in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, along with the phonetics in Roman letters, and transcription.

Chinese Name for Celadon Ware (Pottery)

Mandarin - Hanyu Pinyin

This information is from the Wikipedia page entitled, "Celadon." I hope that I have not displayed anything incorrectly. The link to the page appears to the left.

Korean Name for Celadon Ware

Revised Romanization

Same comments as for the Chinese table. These names are applicable to the ware.

Japanese Name for Celadon Ware

This is from the Brooklyn Museum.
This is from the Brooklyn Museum.

Celadon Glaze on a Test Tile of Grey Clay

This was from another student in my Ceramics 101 class. This student was smart enough to glaze with white, then celadon. The grey clay can be dark enough to show through the celadon otherwise --- as in the ugly piece, below.
This was from another student in my Ceramics 101 class. This student was smart enough to glaze with white, then celadon. The grey clay can be dark enough to show through the celadon otherwise --- as in the ugly piece, below. | Source

Korean celadon

From an article entitled, "The History of Korean Celadon" on the website Korean-Arts

In the middle of the 10th century Korean artists, some who had been schooled in China, began creating celadon by using inlay and copper glazing techniques which were developed first in China but only fully developed and perfected by Korean artisans. The Korean use of these techniques were unique in the history of pottery. The level of fine quality and beauty they were able to achieve in their work surpassed that of other countries and came to be revered by even the Chinese for [its] elegant, yet simple beauty. The Koryo Royal Court also used some of the finest examples of celadon pottery in their palaces both as vessels for daily use and as objects of fine art.

Firing in a Dragon Kiln, Just Like the Old Days. (Unfortunately, there is no actual celadon ware being made.)

Marilyn wears a lovely skirt of celadon color.

I think this is one of the more beautiful pictures of her.
I think this is one of the more beautiful pictures of her. | Source

Chinese Longquan Celadon


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What was I thinking? ~~ Hideously ugly piece of pottery, with nice glazes.

Weird freeform piece of pottery, glazed on one half with celadon glaze.
Weird freeform piece of pottery, glazed on one half with celadon glaze. | Source
Another view of the weird freeform piece.
Another view of the weird freeform piece.
A third view, same piece. Half is glazed with celadon. Half with "G&S Blue."
A third view, same piece. Half is glazed with celadon. Half with "G&S Blue."

This is from the What Was I Thinking Department?

In my pottery class, the first project was to test the glazes by making small tiles or pots, and glazing each differently.

It seemed that all the glazes were very dark. I was looking for some lighter glazes. The only two I found are on the object to the right --->>,

Those two lighter glazes are celadon and G&S blue.

When I tried them, I didn't want to use another glaze.

After that, the next project was to make a pinch pot; then a freeform object.

The instructor liked how this thing was shaped. She said it would be good for raku. She was probably right, because raku is very dark. At least that would have hidden some of the ugliness of this piece of pottery.

I didn't go to the raku firing. I don't want any dark pots, cups, mugs or bowls. They're depressing, and you can't tell if they're clean inside.

So, I just glazed this free form piece with my two favorite glazes.


Beautiful colors.

Hideous object.


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