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The Pottery Wars

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Korean puncheon pottery (a grayish-colored pottery in everyday use at the time) was revered throughout Asia. So much so, in fact, that when Japan invaded Korea during the Imjin Waeran ("The Japanese Invasion in the Imjin Years"), the Japanese destroyed many kilns and kidnapped thousands of potters so that they could gain their coveted knowledge and skills. The war itself lasted for 7 years, but the rash of kidnappings happened in two waves, first in 1592 and then again from 1597 to 1598.

The arrival of Korean potters in Japan introduced certain advanced ceramic techniques, such as the kick wheel and the climbing kiln, to that country and started Japan on its way to being one of the most revered ceramic producers in the world. Rather amazingly, one of these kidnapped Korean potters, Yi Sam-Pyong, is today referred to as the "father of Japanese pottery." Indeed, most of the forcibly relocated artisans settled in Japan's Satsuma province, and their descendants continue to make pottery there using traditional techniques to this day. Korea didn't fare quite so well: With virtually all of its potters gone, puncheon pottery was nearly wiped out.

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