|Green Rust Brassware |
If brassware isn't polished regularly, it becomes rusty. I remember that my mother used to wash and polish our brassware when we had guests to dinner. Yellow brassware has a characteristic smell that is linked to my hometown, a village in Korea.
What does 'Yugi' mean?
'Yugi¡¯ describes vessels that are made of compounded metals, either copper and zinc.
In pure Korean words, we call it ¡®Noj Keu Reuj¡¯. The brassware named ¡®Yu Ki¡¯ first appeared in the period of King of Kong Min, in Goryeo. This concept of brassware soon became popular, and was widespread by the middle of the Joseon period. Many items were made out of this brassware, such as basins, tableware and musical instruments such as small gongs.
The brassware is fairly heavy, and has quite a different quality from that of throwaway kitchen utensils. Besides, it also keeps meals warm, so it soon became a kitchen necessity, and Korean ancestors used sets of porcelain vessels in the summer and brass objects in the cold seasons.
Brassware in daily life
When the brassware was placed on the dinner table, people felt it was the beginning of the winter. Thus, when Chu Seok, the Harvest Moon Day festival came, women took out the brassware and kitchen utensils from the box that they kept them in, and washed them in water mixed with ash from wood. This was a main event in the small villages of Korea.
It is not easy to keep brassware polished and clean of rust, and it is easy to imagine how difficult it was for Korean women to keep their brassware clean in years gone by.
There were many types of products made from brass; not only kitchen utensils such as spoons and vessels, but also musical instruments such as small gongs and trumpets. In addition to this, some Buddhism ritual items, such as candlesticks, were made of brass.
According to an article in ¡®Capital magazine¡¯ written by Deuk Kong Yu, a practical science scholar, in the period of King of Yeong Jo people placed a great importance on brassware. He believed that people used brassware to eat food out of, such as rice, soup and cooked vegetables. Therefore, it appears that brassware was very popular throughout the period.
Brassware disappeared suddenly because the Japanese Empire exploited it to make weapons, and after the liberation of Korea from Japan in 1945, brassware was reproduced again, although sadly the ancient Korean tradition is now extinct. Today, brassware is not used within the household, but is displayed as a traditional Korean handicraft.
The Manufacture of Brassware
Due to the manufacturing processes and different types of materials used, brassware varies greatly. Brassware made by compounding one Keun of copper and 4 ¡®Ryang¡¯, 5 ¡®Don¡¯ of tin was considered to be of the best quality.
There are two ways of manufacturing brassware. For cast-iron ware, a mould is made and then melted brass is poured into it and it is shaped and polished. Although this is the easiest method of making brassware, the products are generally of a low quality.
By contrast, the ¡®Ban Jja¡¯ manufacturing process is a more lengthy one. Up to 12 people melt the brass, which is made of copper and tin (as mixing with other metals risks breaking it). They then make a round lump of metal which is heated and shaped so that it becomes solid. This requires more manual work than the other methods used, so brassware produced in this way is rather rare, although it considered to be of the best quality.
Nowadays, brassware is no longer a part of everyday Korean life, and there is little chance that it will ever be produced in such great quantities again. It is simply a reminder of how Koreans used to live their lives.