Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tranquility: Another Taste

Please Read Previous Post First

Min Young Ki

“I don’t get it.  This is just a common bowl.  I can find lots of bowls like this on my college student’s shelves and I have them throw most of them out.”  A well-known American potter said this to me while showing me a photo of a nice Korean tea bowl.  That bowl was similar in color and form to this bowl but; to be fair, it was not this bowl he was referring to.  Never the less, bowls like this may not be for everyone.  This bowl is so “simple” so “plain”, un-agitated, innocent, natural and “ordinary”.
Before I began this post I had a very brief moment when I thought I might attempt to “enlighten” that potter and others to the beauty of this bowl by discussing the things about it that make it truly a very special tea bowl.  What a pompous, naïve thought that was!  Unless there is personal insight nothing more can be said or seen. 
In addition, I’m certain that I don’t always “get it”.  If I understood or felt a tiny fraction of what can or should be understood or felt about chawan it might give me a little peace in this search.  I am sure that there are many really good chawan that I don’t yet “see” or “feel”.  So who am I to judge others?
This particular Min bowl is probably easier to “feel” but may be more difficult to “see”. 
When tasting various teas for the first time it often takes me more than one sitting to fully appreciate the various nuances that tea can provide.  It seems to be the same with chawan.  This post is here simply to give you another taste.

Click on images once or twice to enlarge

Soetsu Yanagi wrote of the Kizaemon Ido Teabowl:
Why should beauty emerge from the world of the ordinary? The answer is because that world is natural. In Zen there is a saying that at the far end of the road lies effortless peace. What more can be desired?  So, too, peaceful beauty. The beauty of the Kizaemon Ido bowl is that of strifeless peace . . . . .
and this chawan?
Click here to go to the next post. 


  1. Cho Hak,

    These last two posts are great. Min Young Ki's work is amazing- thanks for highlighting it.

    Min Young Ki's form is one of the best in the world. As you mentioned, there is something so subtle about it that is truly amazing.

    One put it this way at the very start of a review of one of Min Young Ki's flowering buncheon bowls:

    "The form is so natural that it fails to capture ones attention as it modestly takes a back seat to magnificent color and texture. Because one doesn't notice its form, one really notices its form."

    See here:

    It is this kind of subtly that you also speak of. One really likes how you refer to it as something you truly "feel" not "see". This feeling or subtly is easily missed or overlooked if your mind isn't ready to meet with it on that same subtle level. It could take years to hone.

    This makes Min Young Ki's tea bowls so brilliant.


  2. Thank you Matt,
    Hayasiya Seijo the former Director of the Tokyo National Museum in Japan called Min Young Ki, "the best of the best" tea bowl makers in Korea or Japan. Seijo is renowned for his knowledge of teabowls.

  3. Cho Hak

    What resonated for me in the bowl you showed us as well as with the kizemon is what Bernard Leach preaches in towards a standard, from the potters book, that is SINCERITY.
    I'm still a joung potter, Don't know that much about pots but to state the obivious 'sincerity' cannot be imitated.

    all the best


  4. Cho Hak

    This bowl resonates with me what Bernard Leach preaches in towards a standard from the potters book, that is Sincerity.

    I am a joung potter, don't know much about pots, only that by starting at dawn the mind is fresher and by eleven a clock you might well have forgotten to be 'trying' too hard.
    sincerity cannot be immitated, it just happens.

    all the best

  5. Hi Michel, Thanks for your comment. I also believe that sincerity is a large part of the key to quality work and I believe Min Young Ki’s work to be sincere. When I first read your comment from Bernard Leach I was immediately struck with how right you and Leach were. Bernard Leach is one of my “historic ceramic mentors” and I have great respect for him and all he contributed to ceramics. Then I remembered a student my wife had in a college art class. That student was very sincere in everything they did but the work was also immature and in my opinion, just awful. And I don’t use those terms often. So ‘sincerity’ can be a slippery slope. One can be very sincere yet still produce really awful work. The same can be true if we use such terms as ‘heartfelt’ or ‘earnest’. These concepts are important and necessary, yes, but there are other necessary ingredients that must combine with them to produce really quality work.
    I was in Mungyeong a couple of years ago exhibiting at the Mungyeong Chassabal Festival when a Mungyeong teabowl collector came up to me holding a bowl made by another exhibitor. I thought he was going to tell me that he bought it or that he really liked it. Instead he said to me, “This is a fake tea bowl. It looks like a tea bowl but it is just a bad copy of a tea bowl.” I was shocked, that he said it because I had been feeling the same thing.
    I look back at some of my older teabowls and can honestly say I was sincere when I made them. Now I would break them.
    ‘Sincerity’ like any other part of those things that constitute a quality tea bowl has to mature. I am sure it was this mature form of ‘sincerity’ to which you and Leach were referring.