Monday, February 1, 2010

Park Jong Il: Handling Water

  The way a tea ware artist decides to handle water is an important part of their production.  Park jong Il uses several systems.

   This water tray is usually used for tea cups ch'at-chan and the serving of infused tea.  It is a simple servant, unglazed except for the fly ash that might settle on it during the firing.  It is composed of two parts the 'bowl' that they call da-hae or 'tea sea' often referred to in English  as an 'ocean' and the da-sun or 'tea boat'.  Traditionally with unglazed teapots one not only washes the cups on the da-sun but also pours hot water over the unglazed teapot during the brewing process and the excess water collects in the da-hae.  The teapot ch'akwan or ch'at-chonja is unglazed except for the fly ash as well.

   Park's da-hae system is simple and direct.  The teapot and tea cups are accompanied with a tea cooling bowl mulshikim sabal, a stand for the lid of the tea pot and a tea scoop or chasi.  Most often tea scoops are made from bamboo.  We seldom find a tea ware artist that makes his own tea scoops.  I first mistook his ceramic tea scoop for a tong rest.  Tongs are used to pick up teacups for washing and heating.

  A  third water system is a 'water tray' also known as a gee myun da-hae here seen with a teapot and cups, a tea caddy, hot water ewer, cooling pitcher and small brazier.
Each piece is natural, humble and a true servant to tea.

   I have not seen any other potter use a tall water tower that is a version of a da-hae like Jong Il's.  It is called a kkokkiri da-sun or trunk/nose da-sun.   Usually placed in a bowl it is is used both for washing a number of bowls and a number of cups stacked inside each other.  The hot water on the cups heats them, a common practice.

 Park Jong Il's work is particularly prized by Seon Zen monks and tea masters who look for the natural.
   Many Korean artists believe that tea ware should be simple because in essence the purpose of tea ware is to serve.  They should have personality but not be too proud or boisterous.  They should invoke a quiet sensitive state of mind.  The tea ware should not overpower the tea.  The work should be natural because all the contrivances we can come up with to “enhance” tea ware pale in comparison to what happens naturally in a simple wood or even gas firing.  It is easy to create flamboyant, whimsical or outlandish work we call tea ware.  Far more difficult is creating tea wares that truly serve.
   More importantly, Park Jong Il's work is directly connected to his life.  In part that is why I selected Park Jong Il to introduce first.  The life and work of a good Korean potter are one.  Hamada Shoji once said, “I think there are hardly any pots in the world through which a people’s life breathes more directly as Korean ones, especially Yi dynasty wares.” From Hamada Potter by Bernard Leach.  I believe that Park Jong Il embodies that same spirit.
   We have some good comments on this post.  I recommend that you read them.
  Go To Next Park Jong Il Post



  1. Cho Hak,

    That water tower is quite interesting, never seen anything like that before. Stacking the cups and pouring boiling water over the stack is the common practice of cleaning (or warming) the teacups, but with that tower it adds a completely different element to the experience- sound.

    This tower seems like it is far enough from the base of the Tae Soo Ji (dirty water bowl) that it would create the sound of water trickling. Clearing the mind like the sound of a mountain spring- keeping one present. Is this true? Could you please describe the sound the water makes as is escapes the tower?

    Sound is a very important aspect of Korean Tea. Often it is simply overlooked, especially by those in other tea drinking cultures. Korean tea masters take great care in producing a certain sound when pouring water and tea. The design of this water tower, and its use of sound, speaks to how deep Park Jong Il's appreciation of tea actually is.

    Again, thanks so much for a wonderfully informative post.


    PS -currently one is still living in Canada not Korea

  2. Hi Matt,
    I am honored that you are checking my posts.
    I should have commented on the sound.
    On one of my visits to Jong Il's it was May and raining. On that visit, in particular, I was very aware of the sound of water. The tower had the sound of rain as it flows over stone in springtime changing as the number of cups changed.

  3. Hi Arthur,

    I just found your blog and this post take be back to the last spring in Korea. Such beautiful memories. Thank you for it.
    I love Parks teapots- wonderful, useful and amusing

    Be happy

  4. Hi Petr,
    It's great to hear from you. Thanks for your post.
    For those reading this blog, Petr Novak is a highly respected tea ware potter from the Czech Republic. He and his partner Mirka Randova are the Czech representatives to the prestigious Mungyeong Chassabal or Tea bowl Festival held each spring in Mungyeong, Korea.
    Join the Korean tea tour at to meet him and the other international tea ware artists in person. Mention this post and receive a tour discount. Can't go this year? Register on that website to be informed if they plan a similar tour next year.

  5. Arthur, this is a quite wonderful blog. Thank you for doing it. Brings back memories. Hope there will be more, both posts and memories. Heather H

  6. Amazing works of art and useful tea items.

    Makes me realize just how little we really think of utensils here in the usa.

    Thanks & Cheers!