A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is set in the Koryo era of Korean history, from which modern Korea derives its name. This blog post offers some explanation of the cultural and geographical setting of the story. Koryo is often spelled as Goryeo due to the Portugese romanization of the Korean alphabet although the Koryo spelling is more indicative of the actual pronunciation in English.
While Koryo considered itself a sovereign nation, it maintained a close relationship with the Song and Liao dynasties of China and sent celadon pottery as tribute to the emperor. Besides the Chinese empire, Koryo sent celadon pottery as diplomatic gifts to other countries.
The capital to which Tree Ear journeys was previously called Songdo, now Kaesong. Koryo actually had several capitals rather than a single capital, which included the modern day cities of Seoul and Pyongyang.
Buddhism was the historic primary religion before it was eclipsed by Confucism in the Joseon era. While trade was important to Koryo, there was not a large middle class. Most citizens were either aristocrats or peasants. Life was very hard as a peasant. Merchants and artisans like Potter Min were the beginning of a emergent middle class but control was still firmly in the hands of the King and the aristocrats.
Caledon pottery was mostly centered in what is now Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province) in South Korea on the coast of the Yellow Sea. While Korean pottery has a very long tradition, it was during the Koryo period that the distinctive greenware was developed before it was eclipsed by a preference for white and white and blue pottery.
Thank you for reading,
You might also like a post with free student work pages and teacher answer keys at this link. It is a free instant download PDF for teachers and homeschools.