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 Home >> Art & Craft >> Onggi (Pottery)

Onggi, a Natural Vessel Made from Clay

Onggi is a Korean traditional vessel made of clay, and developed through Korean history since ancient times. This special vessel is used specifically to store Korean traditional food such as Kimchi, soy sauce, and soybean paste.    

In addition to vessels meant for food storage, there are many products made of clay, which were used in daily Korean life, such as chimney pipes, candle sticks, and lamp oil containers. Whenever any of these items were broken or thrown away they could be disposed of easily with out causing any pollution of the environment. Onggi is indeed a most natural vessel.

Onggi's Scientific Design

There are two basic forms of Onggi which differ in the way they are fired and glazed.    Ojigeuleut Onggi is fired at around 1200 degrees centegrade after being covered in a glaze made from lye. This produces a lustrous shine to Ojigeuleut vessels.    Gilgeuleut Onggi is fired at 600 to 700 degrees centigrade, and does not have a lye glaze.

Korea is a country well known for its ceramics making technology.      The Goryo (935-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910) dynasties produced many kinds of ceramics.    Among them, Cheongja, Buncheongsagi, and Baekja are highly estimated in the world for their beauty.    But these styles were enjoyed    exclusively by the noble class, and are known mostly for their beauty and artistic value. However,    Onggi was, and still is, used by all people for storing fermented foods because it accelerates the fermentation.

People prefer to store fermented food in    Onggi vessels because it also    preserves the fermented food well.    Onggi vessels are porous and therefore well ventilated. Onggi can also be used to preserves the freshness of rice and barley, and to prevent them from decaying.

Onggi Making : a Very Particular Process

Onggi can preserve water as well as food for a long time due to the special process by which it is made.

When making Onggi clay and water are mixed together and then the shape of the vessel is formed.    As it dries, tiny holes are left due to the evaporation of moisture.    A glaze is then added which fills the holes and the vessel is set in the shade to dry for three days.    Onggi must then be fired in a wood-burning kiln at very high temperatures.    The burning wood produces soot which mixes with the glaze on the vessels.    This combination creates a dark shiny vessel with excellent ventilation to prevent food from decaying.

Onggi is a cherished vessel among Koreans.    It is regarded as a vessel which helps to preserve one's health.    People can easily purchase Onggi on the streets near Gyeongbok-gung (located on subway line #3) as well as in the stores in Insa-dong (near Anguk station, line #3).    You can also appreciate    the variety of shapes in which Onggi is made when you visit    the folklore museum.

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