Asia Online (TAO)
Billy Mood's Yixing
Teapots, Part 1
With a history spanning thousand of years, it is inevitable that any form of art are subjected to copying. However, if we were to study how the various art forms are being taught to the next generation in China, it is not difficult to realize that copying is in fact part of the process of learning the trade! Zisha pottery, having a history of almost 500 years (from the late Ming Dynasty) is also one of the art form that were heavily copied. The more famous a potter is, the more others copied his works. Of course the main purpose of copying is to reap the monetary benefits as these works command a high price. Such works are copied in form and in name, meaning that not only is the shape similar, even the seal chops are copied.
The art of Yixing zisha pottery making has very strict rules on the relationship between the master and the student. A student studying under a master must accept the master's oral instructions and style of teaching. There are however only 2 standard styles of teaching and they are:
to the master's explanation of variation techniques and his on the spot demonstration
of how to do it.
the master's works, who will be on hand to rectify and impart the finer details.
Copying being a method use in learning the art form is inevitable during a potter's training period and does not stop there. In fact, many potters carry on to copy the works of other masters, to further improve their skills. Even Grand Masters such as Gu Jing Zhou commented that his skills improved by leaps and bounds after he copied Sao Da Hern's (a renown Qing Master) works. In fact, copying the works of past masters are consider the norm and is a process which all potential masters go through. Some of these copied works are of comparable standard to the original piece while others even exceeded it. Such works will either bear the seal of the potter who copy the work or even the original seal was copied. The main purpose here is to learn the art form rather than for monetary gains.
Yixing of Jiangsu Province, China, is the home of chinese pottery. The zisha pottery of Yixing is famous for its elegant form, elaborate craftsmanship, archaic colour and functional performance. Originating in Northern Song Dynasty, Yixing zisha pottery has a history of several hundred years from Song to Yuan and eventually maturing in the early Ming Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, Yixing zisha become a necessity in teahouses and peasant families, and was highly valued by the upper classes. They are considered luxuries for the high officials of court and royal households.
Comparing the zisha teapot with other art forms such as music and painting, we noted that the principles their enjoyment are not much in difference. To acquire the connoisseurship of zisha is simple to some but difficult to others. Connoisseurship of zisha teapot must germinate from an enjoyment of it. One has to develop a love of zisha teapot before one can go deeper and deeper into the world of teapot and understand the true zisha pottery and its material characteristics, chemical composition, molecular structure as well as the teapot's colours, form, decoration means, artistic styles, master potters etc. Only by doing so can one improve one's connoisseurship and gradually establish the style of one's collection. No connoisseurship is possible without a substantial collection. One should remember that it is quality that counts not quantity when expanding a collection of Yixing zisha teapots.
& THE FINE ART OF HOW TO DRINK IT
the Chinese go, the custom of drinking tea follows. The Chinese were the first
to discover the tea leaf. A saying identifies the seven basic daily necessities
as fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea.
the mid-Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), a man named Lu Yu compiled the first compendium
in the world on tea - The Tea Classic. The work helped to popularize the art of
tea drinking all across China. In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India
Company introduced Chinese tea for the first time to Europe.
is made from the young, tender leaves of the tea plant. The differences among
the many kinds available are based on how the leave are processed. The key is
in the roasting and oxidation process. Oxidation turns the deep green leaves reddish-brown
in color. The longer the oxidation processes the darker the color. Depending on
the length and degree of the process, the fragrance of the leaves can range from
floral, to fruity, to malty.
that has been mildly oxidized, such as Dragon Well and Green Snail Spring, are
called green tea. Such tea is jade to yellow green in color, and gives off the
fragrance of fresh vegetables. The Chinese call tea that under goes full fermentation
red tea. It is reddish brown in color and has a malt-like aroma. Oolong, or Black
Dragon, tea is partially oxidized and unique to China. Fujian province is one
of its most representative areas of production.
make a good pot of tea, special attention must be paid to the water quality, temperature,
the amount of tea leave used, and the type of teapot. Soft water, with its low
mineral content, is required to steep tea; hard water should be avoided. The correct
water temperature varies according to the type of tea. For most fully oxidized
and moderately oxidized kinds, it should be at boiling temperature, to may be
low as 75 degree C for lightly oxidized tea.
proportion of tea leave to water depends on the amount of tea used. The teapot
may be filled from one to three-quarters full with leave, depending mainly on
how tightly curled they are. Steeping time starts from one minute or less, but
varies according to the variety of tea leave used. Subsequent brews from the same
leave must be lengthened proportionally. The best teapot to use for most oxidized
tea is a purple clay teapot from Yixing. Ideally the cups should have white interiors
so that the color of the tea can be assessed correctly. The color of the brewed
tea drink should be clear enough to see through, no matter what is the color of
the drink. If it is murky, then there are problems with either the tea or water
is China's national drink. It contains vitamins, essential oils and fluoride.
It is a diuretic, attributed with the properties of improving the eyesight and
increasing alertness, so it is believed that regular tea drinkers enjoy an increased
is a cash crop in China and Taiwan. Local areas hold their own tea tasting competitions,
attracting the participation of large numbers of tea farmers, merchants and connoisseurs.
The price of any tea that is designated a superior grade in these competition,
such as Cha Wang or King of Tea which is actually top grade Tie KwanYin, fetches
bids as high as $30,000 per kilogram.
To find out how to brew chinese tea, kungfu style, step by step and understand the true meaning of each step, visit the pages on How to & Essence of Kungfu Tea
BASIC TEA UNTENSILS TO BREW KUNGFU TEA
The following items are considered necessary if you want to brew kungfu tea. You maybe able to get away without some of them but having the entire set will certainly make your life easier.
Known as tea boat (translated from chinese), this is where all activities of kungfu tea takes place. You place your teapot and tea cups in the boat and brew your tea in it. So call because any additional water that you pour in the process will flow and stored in the bottom layer.
The most important part of the tea set, a small Yixing teapot. The essence of kungfu tea is to brew using small clay teapot. In the old days, in Chaozhou where kungfu tea originated, people use small teachew clay teapots. It was replaced with Yixing teapots as it exhibits better qualities. Of course, you can even use porcelain or metal teapots, it may not affect the taste to such an extent that is noticeable immediately but then the essence of brewing kungfu tea would be lost.
When the tea is ready for pouring, you can either pour it directly into the cups or into a gong dao pei. Gong dao pei in chinese mean "fair". It is use to ensure that everyone gets the small quality of tea. The reason is unless you are an expert, pouring tea direct into cups may result in cups of tea with different strength or, in other words, some cups are more diluted than others.
fork & spoon
As the name suggest, fork and spoon are used to scoop the tea into the teapot. Another use for the sharp end of the fork you can use it to poke into the spout of the teapot to clear chokage when the water is not flowing or flowing very slowly out of the teapot.
Used for channeling the tea leaves into the teapot without spilling over all the place.
This is a multi-purpose piece of cloth. It can be use to dry the bottom of the teapot prior to pouring out the tea. Other uses include wiping the teapot dry after each session and rubbing to shine the teapot.
Many types of kettles have been used for boiling water to brew tea. Metal kettles are the most convenient and durable. However, it was stated that when water boils, is a chemical reaction taken place with the metal surface of the kettle which affects the taste of the water. Glass kettle on the other hand does not caused any chemical reaction. As for clay kettles, if there is a change in the quality of water, it was not recorded in the books. You may of course use any kettle that fancy you as I doubt that the changed in taste would be significant enough to be noticeable unless you are an expert and very particular about it.
Here is the picture of all the items recommended to brew kungfu tea. I have not introduce some of them as I think they are not necessary except for the tea container (which is dicusssed in another page). Of course you may think otherwise.
So, thats it! All you need to start brewing kungfu tea. All the item are available as loose items or in set. It is better to get the those neccessary items (those that I introduced above) first before buying the other items when you need them.
What? Doesn't know what is or how to brew kungfu tea? Then you should visit my other pages on brewing kungfu tea. Go back to and select the appropriate link.
TO BREW KUNGFU TEA
Obtain all the items as shown in the above picture. The teapot should be a small yixing teapot (about 2oz in capacity) capable of filling about 2-3 cups (porcelain cups of 0.33oz capacity each). Start by pouring hot water into the pot to warm it. Finished off by covering the teapot and pour hot water over the entire teapot including the cover.
Pour out the water from the pot. Then put some tea leaves on a piece of white paper and separate the large leaves from the broken leaves. If there is no broken leaves, you can create some by crushing the full leaves (Note: mixture of broken tea leaves is a must to properly brew Kungfu tea). Next put in some broken tea leaves into the pot and fill the teapot from 1/2 to 2/3 full with large leaves (depending on you taste). The ideal ratio would be 80/20 of large to broken leaves. Just remember that more broken leaves, you get stronger tea at same brewing time. Adjust according to your taste. Please pay careful attention to this very important step.
Next fill the teapot with hot water (just enough to immerse the tea leaves) and discard this brew immediately. This process is to clear the leaves of impurities and to open up the leaves to enable it to release its flavour. Pour in the next round of hot water up to the brim, use the cover to remove bubbles and cover it. Finished off the process by pour hot water over the entire teapot.
Steep for 30 seconds (or more) from the time you finish pouring the hot water and the first brew is ready for pouring out. Add about 30 seconds to 1 minute for subsequent brews (you need to practice in order to determine the appropriate time). The essence here is produce a cup of similar strength tea for each brew.
While waiting for the tea, warm the cup using the warm water in the tray. It is good practice to do every round so as to keep the cups clean.
Time is up, pour the tea out of the pot directly into the cups by flowing from one cup to another. Never completely fill one cup first before going to the next. This will result in uneven quality of tea in each cup. The last few drops of tea is the essence and should be shared equally by giving each cup a few drops.
Alternatively, you can pour the tea into a "kong-tao" container first and then distribute into all the cups and drink it. This is to ensure that everyone gets a cup of tea of equal strength.
it? Pratice made perfect! Don't forget to smell the tea cup immediately after
finishing your tea, it is one of the reasons why we go through such efforts to
make a cup of tea!
Simple? Not exactly! The above steps can only be perform to perfection if you know the true meaning behind it.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR INFUSION TIME!
am I supposed to do? I could almost hear you asked that question!
Well, it is simple! Really! You would however need to have some experience in brewing kungfu tea before trying out this method of mine. Before I describe how to go about doing it, just a word on my standard of preparing tea leaves. I normally use a small teapot (not more than 3oz in capacity), and add tea leaves (oolong) with a ratio of 85% large leaves and 15% broken leaves or crumbs. Of course such ratio is flexible and you can be adjusted it to your own liking and taste. The rest of the steps are as per standard, but instead of the normal fixed and fast rule which says put so much tea leaves and infused for so long, I will tell you a much more flexible method to determine the optimum time for infusing the tea so that you can adjust accordingly for each session.
drink will be describe as follows:
- which is more than 50% lighter than your normal tea drink color
- which has about 20 to 30% lighter than what you get if the tea leaves has a
mixture of 85% large leaves to 15% crumbs
- color close to the normal tea drink or darker.
course you have to first determine what is the "normal" color for your
tea drink. Although there is some sought of standard, each individual got different
taste so the "normal" for one would be different from another.
above description apply to the tea drink from the very first brew, the one which
we do not drink. Yes, we are talking about the first brew here because it will
be used as a basis for determining the infusion time of subsequent infusions.
begin. Once you have warm the teapot and put in the tea leaves, we can proceed
to heat up the tea leaves by pouring in hotwater (95 to 100 degree C). Immediately
pour out the water into a cup and note the colour depth of the water (this cup
is used to rinse the teapot after we are finished with it).
If based on your pass experience, this cup of tea falls into the category of "light", it tells us that either not enough crumbs are used, only large leaves have been place in the teapot or not enough tea leaves are used. To correct the lack of depth for this session, the timing for 2nd infusion should be about 1 to 1.5 minutes, to get a decent tea drink with enough "kick" to qualify as good "kungfu tea". Double the time for each subsequent infusions. Due to the increase infusion time which deplete the leaves, this session will not last more than 4 infusion.
the colour is "normal", we can be relax because most likely ratio of
85% large leaves and 15% crumbs have been achieved. (Note: there is no other way
to achieve this colour except with the right combination of large leaves and crumbs).
20 to 30 seconds for 2nd infusion and 1.5 times that timing for subsequent infusions
should be sufficient. Alternatively you can double the infusion time from the
4th infusion for increase depth. You should be able to infuse up to 6 or even
7 times. This is the standard (I recommend) and you should strived for.
the colour is "heavy", you got a serious problem. Too much crumbs have
been added or the leaves consists of mainly broken bits and dust. The 2nd, 3rd
and 4th infusion should be pour out immediately with no more than 15 seconds for
the 4th infusion. From the 4th or 5th infusion onwards the tea drink should be
back to normal or slightly heavy. Once the tea drink colour is back to "normal",
go for a 30 seconds infusion as a starting point. You should be able to infuse
as many as 10 times for this session!
may asked why should I bother with the above. Simple. I want to achieve as perfect
a brew as possible everytime, irregardless of the tea leaves mixture without resorting
to weighing machines. I want to follow the footsteps of our ancestors who are
able to achieve it by experience (or instinct?). However, to achieve that take
years, therefore I sought for a simpler technique.
I am confident that this technique works every time because the extremely short infusion time for the first brew is a constant factor for us to base our judgement on the tea leaves used. So long as you have determine what is your "normal" color, the other variables such as how fast you pour in the hot water, whether you filled the teapot full etc. can be easily resolved.
OF KUNGFU TEA
The art of brewing a cup of chinese tea requires far more knowledge than the simple steps shown previously. The following is a description of what is required to truly understand the art of brewing chinese tea.
of tea leaves
Different kind of tea leaves expand differently, so the amount of leaves to be place in the teapot will differ greatly. Example; it is normal to fill 2/3 of a teapot if you are brewing oolong tea but only 1/2 the teapot if you are brewing green tea such as DongTin oolong tea. Some oolong tea uses more leaves while others use less. If you put too little, the tea will taste diluted with no kick. Too much and the tea will taste concentrate and bitter. Of course, if you know that you have put too much tea leaves, shortening the brewing time will more or less solved the problem, however as the tea leaves have no place to expand, it will not be able to release all its flavor. Generally speaking, due to different processes when producing tea, tea leaves from Taiwan and China are radically different. Taiwan tea tends to be curled up like a ball and when brewed it expands to a very large leaf. That's why you must not filled more than half of the teapot. Tea from China tends to be in a wrinkled form and when brewed it expands to about 2 times it size. Some "qing pei fuo" or lightly fired tea leaves such as Tie Kuan Yin of Anhui, China, are also processes into a ball and because of the expansion rate, much lesser leaves are used per brew.
You should used the appropriate size teapot when practising gongfu tea. If you have 4 persons drinking then used a 4-cup teapot. Using a bigger teapot is possible but do not use a smaller teapot, because each brew of tea is not enough for all to try. Not fair to your guests since each brew of tea is slightly weaker than the one before no matter how good you are. Another important reason for using the correct size pot is that tea leaves steep in a pot filled to the brim with water releases more fragrant and superior taste compared to tea leaves brewed in a large pot and water not filled to the brim. The difference maybe small but still noticeable. Such situation normally occurs when you brew gongfu tea in a large pot but using only a small amount of tea leaves and filling only enough water to cover the leaves.
When should you start brewing your tea?
When the water starts to boil?, or when it is well boiled? or let it cool down first?. It all depends on the type of tea leaves used.
Generally, oolong tea requires 100 degree boiling water, Green tea requires 80 degree boiled water and others like Jasmine tea needs only 75 degree boiled water. Important point to note is, never leave your water boiling continously as the qualities of the water will changed effecting the taste of your tea. Remove the kettle from the flame once you noted that the bubbles are churning up at a furious rate. It is of course best to use natural spring water straight from its source. If not possible, then place tape water in a pail overnight and used the top half as any impurities would have sank to the bottom, Mineral water in bottles have been processed and affect the taste of your tea. Don't believe me, try it! All different types of tea will taste the same.
about the time to steep your tea?
Is it always one minute? If not how long? Experience is very important here and it is best not to resort to timers etc. as that reduces the fun. Every human body has a built-in clock, so do make full use of it.
for oolong tea, it takes about 30 seconds for the first brew and adding about
50% to the timing for each subsequent brew. The variables are the temperature
of the water, how you pour in the water, grade of your tea leaves, whether you
mixed any small bits of leaves in, the type, shape and quality etc. of the teapot
used. Complicated? You bet! That's why you just have to experiment and practice
till you get the drink that you like. Do remember that what you prefer may not
be what others prefer.
The essence of gongfu tea is more than words can describe and understanding the above is one big step in the right direction. Hopefully, in time to come, you will also achieve the spiritual side of gongfu tea.
OF TEA DRINKING
Chinese people not only indulge in drinking tea themselves but also like to present
visitors to their houses. In fact this has become an elegant manner of entertaining
a guest. The history of tea, from its first discovery had became part of social
life and a culture, extends over several thousands of years. From
historical records, we can see that there was a gradual development process for
tea from its application as a medicine to food and then to beverage. There is
a mention of Shennong who, after tasting all the plants in the country, had been
poisoned by seventy-two kinds of toxic matters and was cured only by taking tea.
There is another reference to tea as being first taken as beverage in the times
of Qin and Han. During the Western Han Dynasty, tea drinking was the daily habit
of the households of government officials, and there were all sorts of special
utensils for it. Tea drinking also prevailed in the court Han Dynasty in Chang'an.
Though tea was popular then, it was mainly a luxury for the high officials and
the nobles. This remained so till the period of the Three Kingdoms.
According to Biography of Wei Yao in Annal of the Kingdom of Wu, Wei was once served with tea by the sovereign of the State of Wu as he could not handle alcohol. By the time of the Six Dynasties, the tea tree was already planted everywhere in the south and tea drinking became a fashion of the day. The literate regarded it as an enjoyment of elegance. The book Jin Zhong Xing Shu noted that the nobles and high officials were keen to serving their guests with tea and fruits, so as to advertise what a simple, noble and plain life they were leading. Even Emperor Wu of the Southern Qi Dynasty, in following the practice of some of his officials, ordered that after, his death, tea and rice be used instead of animals as sacrificial offerings to him as a symbol of his honesty.
the Northern and Southern, Dynasties, tea was considered to be a must for poem,
writing letters and for meditation by Buddhist monks and Taoist priests. Hence,
we could see that other than its practical use, tea also possessed social and
spiritual functions. People from all walks of life would endow tea drinking with
different cultural spirits.
These tea-related practices were initiated by the ruling classes and the literati of the Six Dynasties and then spread to all members of the society during the Tang Dynasty. Its further development led to an integration, with literature, art and folklore and the emergence of poems, songs and paintings with tea as their themes, as well as the way of tea drinking. This system of tea-related culture was highly regarded by people of all social strata. During the Six Dynasties that tea drinking was base on metalware and utensils made of bamboo. Certain bowls and green glazed saucers from the Yue kiln (in Zhejiang Province of the Eastern Jin Dynasty were probably tea sets). Since tea drinking was so popular in the Jiannan region during the southern Dynasties, there appeared a large number of green glazed porcelain tea cups and saucers, decorated 'mainly with' lotus and lotus-petal patterns. A typical example is a green glazed porcelain cup and saucer - with lotus-petal design unearthed in 494 from a tomb of the Southern Dynasties. Before the Tang Dynasty; the art of tea drinking was not so fashionable in the north as in the south. It was with the prospering of the Zen SchooI of Buddhism in the north that tea drinking become popular there. The book Feng Shi Wen Lian Ji noted: "During the years of the Kaiyuan reign, there lived at the Lingyan Monastery a Buddhist monk of the Zen School called Xiangmo.
his effort, the Zen School flourished. In learning the doctrine of his school,
he allowed himself neither sleep nor food except a drink of tea. Everybody practice
till tea drinking turned is into a 'vogue." Tea drinking was all the fashion
during the Tang days, as evidenced by poems and paintings of the name and references
in Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea), China's first classic on tea. The book Feng
Shi Wen Jian Ji also noted: "Everywhere, from the regions of Zou, Cang, Di
and Zhe, to the capital, were teahouses where bowls of ready cooked tea could
be easily bought with money.
The Classic of Tea was written by Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty. It consists of three volumes, ten chapters and seven thousand characters. Each chapter deals with one, of title following aspects of tea: the source, the utensils, the processing, the tea sets, the cooking, the drinking, the way, the output, the guideline and the drawings. The book expounds the origin and evolution of tea, and the processes of making, boiling and drinking tea. Hence; it aroused widespread attention and repercussions in the whole society. Poems. and artistic praise of tea were plenty. One such example was a funny little piece describing the effects of each bowl of tea on the author himself. By this time, tea drinking in the upper classes had acquired a set procedure, a ritual.
were twenty-four different utensils recorded in Chapter Four of the Classic of
Tea which might show the attention paid by the nobles to tea enjoyment. It was
pointed out by the book that the best bowls for tea drinking should be the celadon
one from Yuezhou in Zhejiang Province and the white glazed one from Xingzhou in
Hebei Province. The form and the quality of the ware used were very much dependent
on the details of tea drinking habit of the time.
of the Tang Dynasty liked tea cooked from tea dust which was prepared by grinding
baked tea-brick. The cooking process went like this: water was first boiled to
bubbling (what we call second boiling) and then one dipper of boiling water was
taken from the pot. A bamboo straw was used to stir at the center of the boiling
water while tea dust of suitable quantity was being added. When froth was formed,
the water taken from the pot was put back in to stop the boiling. Tea was then
distributed to several bowls evenly. Obviously, tea enjoyment in the Tang Dynasty
stress more on froth, colour and taste than anything else. Hence, green or white-glazed
bowls with a smooth surface were the most fitting to the application cause stains
left in the bowl were the least and the beauty of tea froth and colour were best
in contrast. Besides, as recorded in the Classic of Tea, the capacity of the bowl
use was also of great importance. One litre of tea was best in taste if distributed
into three equal shares or five equal shares at most. Therefore, a tea bowl should
be of moderate size, with a capacity of half a litre.
In the Song Dynasty; the tea drinking habit was somewhat changed. A new fashion of tea competition emerged, especially among the ruling class and the literati. Even Emperor Hui indulged in this hobby. In his book Da Guan, Cha Lun, he wrote: "The literati of the whole country are participating in this hobby and searching for the best porcelain utensils." A novel cultural content was acquired by tea drinking besides its inherent practical value. It was first the colour and then the soup that were the, subjects in tea competitions.
procedure went like this: Semi-fermented tea paste was tightly wrapped with clean
paper and pounded into powder which was then taken out and ground to a white colored
dust. The tea dust was then put into a heated cup. Boiling water was added four
times till a layer of white froth formed on top. The colour that appeared was
the subject of the of competition: white colour was the highest in rank, greenish
white the next and greyish white the third in rank, with yellowish white being
the worst. Another, subject of competition was the soup, which should not stick
to the wall of the cup. One became a loser with the first staining to the cup.
The appearance of tea stain was actually a physical phenomenon caused by the yellowish
dye and colloidal matters in the tea solution after cooling down. In order to
have the stain appear later, the cup should remain hot for a longer period. Also,
since the best colour in the competition was white, a cup in black colour, would
give a good contrast. Thus, we can see that a suitable cup of thick wall and black
colour would be imperative for winning the tea competition. That is why the output
of black tea cups everywhere, north and south, was rising tremendously at the
The most striking feature of tea drinking in the Song days was the numerous tea shops, teahouses and tea clubs scattered all over the country and the great varieties of tea soup. For example, the Lady Wang's Teahouse in the novel Water Margin was just a place where people used to go for a cup of tea. These tea houses and tea shops were not merely for drinking tea.
it came to the Ming Dynasty tea drinking be came even more popular than before,
with nearly everybody taking a part, but entirely different from the Song days.
The Song peopIe drank paste tea and favor competitions. The Ming people drank
bud tea and talk for tea enjoyment. The enjoyment of tea in the Ming period is
slightly different from that recorded in The Classic of Tea, while the preparation
of tea also differs from that mentioned. Another book of the Ming Dynasty noted
that the magic of tea lies in storing the best tea leaves properly and brewing
them the right way. In the Ming Dynasty, bud tea was produced by screening the
newly picked tea buds from matured tea leaves and branches and stir frying it
in a large cooker and drying it with heat. To drink tea, the teapot was first
heated up with boiling water and then bud tea was put into the teapot before boiling
water was added. The tea was then evenly distributed to several cups and ready
The thing in enjoyment of tea was its colour. The best tea color should be green while the best froth colour was white. Any other colours like yellow, black, red, purple and dark were all inferior. Superior tea was in green colour, the best matching cup should be white, so as to give the best contrast. In his book Kao Pan Yu Shi, Tu Long stated': "There was a tea cup in elegant shape, made of fine material. A thick-walled vessel white in colour, the cup was good for testing tea colour. A man once got hold of a cup from' the Jian (Chien) kiln. Being all black, it did not serve the purpose." When brewing tea, the people of the Ming Dynasty would use a teapot or a tea cup. It is the custom in Hangzhou to brew tea in a small teapot with boiling water. In the monasteries, there were always Buddhist monks brewing tea in the way they did in the Wu region.
pot and two small cups were put on the desk with the fruits or pastries at all.
You drank as you pleased. It was truly a most tasteful and elegant form of tea
enoyment. The Zisha teapot in this case is the best teapot in use. Fragrance of
tea will not be affected by the teapot, and no over-boiled taste is present. However,
a teapot should not be of a capacity less than half a litre.
Obviously, after the middle of the Ming Dynasty, Yixing zisha teapots and the porcelain teapots from Jingdezhen gradually became the order of the day. Zisha (purple clay) is particularly dense, free from any taste of earth. Teapots made from such clay could be used for a long period of time. Tea brewed in zisha teapots was tasteful and could be stored in them longer than in any other utensils. The colour of the zisha teapot remained the same as the clay from which it was made. The teapot acquired a natural shine from much use and repeat wiping. It was greatly admired by the literati for its archaic or elegant form. This in turn sped up the development of the zisha teapot.. No wonder that zisha teapots of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were full of the noble elegance and rural interest so adored by the literati.
Tea drinking in the Qing Dynasty was exactly the same as in the Ming dynasty. In ancient times, tea was prepared by cooking, boiling, simmering but now (in the Qing Dynasty) only by brewing with boiling water. Any heating would turn the tea into yellowish color and bitter taste, not fit to be drunk any more. The major teaware.of this period was the cup, teapot, covered bowl and tea tray. The last two items were not found in the preceding dynasty. Production of the zisha teapot reached its summit in early and mid-Qing Dynasty. Not only was it loved by the literati, officials and merchants of the Jiangnan region. It was considered to be indispensable for tea enjoyment even by the Qing emperors. In the latter period of Kangxi, there appeared a zisha teapot with multicoloured peony design made by order of Emperor Kangxi. Emperor Yongzheng was also a lover of the zisha teapot. Whenever he came across a masterpiece of this pottery, he would order it to be reproduced in the imperial porcelains.
Tea drinking has prevailed in China for several thousand years without a break. It has promoted the growth of the country's ceramic industry. Amongst the various porcelain and pottery tea wares which indicate China's rich tea culture, the Yixing zisha teapot is a brilliant pearl shining with everlasting splendour.
CHINESE TEA HOUSE
a Chinese teahouse, the heartbeat of the city roars on. A motorcycle sputters
pass loudly, cars zoom by impatiently, rickshaws pedal along slowly. A jabbering
queue forms outside a popular Chinese restuarant. Inside the teahouse, however,
a languid world awaits. The only invitation to this snatuary is a rustic, old
wooden sign and narrow, softly lit stairway. Climb those steps and you wil find
a hideaway where the city bustle is shrugged away as effortlessly as your shoes
how" beams the teahouse waitress as she pads forward to greet us. Behind
her a cozy room is divided into alcoves by bamboo blinds and furnished with coffeeshop
style marbel-topped tables and wooden chairs. But the waitress moved on up the
ornamentally carved stairs to more rooms, a Korean-themed room with low tables
squatting in a wooden recess and casually thrown pillows and a spartan Japanese
room with low tables.
room is the one humming with energy at the moment. Here, the lanterns cast a golden
glow on a group of youngsters, Caucasians and Japanese tourists animatedly engaged
in building a hymn of voices. Meanwhile the piped-in music offers a haunting tune
which fills the air with a soothing fusionof vocal and bird sounds that would
have been tagged New Age, but for the Chinese instruments.
offer a glimpse of a laid-back city that is seldom seen and increasingly embraced
by stressed out urbanites. It has become the antidote to the "city sickness"
offering a calming respite from frenzied city living. "Cities are like a
clock and if you keep winding this clock without loosening it, it eventually breaks.
Tea allows us to loosen it psyche." explains the teahouse manager. According
to a regular visitor, teahouse gives you transquility and peace and is a good
place to de-tress.
keep up with this appetite, most teahouse is carefully created to rest restless
souls. Greeting guests at the entrance with red banners flapping in the wind,
warming them with the rich glow from lamps made of bird cage wrapped in rice paper,
teahouses evokes long, lazy leisurely days. On each table, guests finds a burner
and kettle awaiting while natural light falling through the blinds and onto the
wooden floor and swirling fans seem a personal invitation to linger. The warmth
of the kettle in the cold room, in coalescence with the background noise of faint
voices in hushed conversation, is as welcoming as a warm blanket on cold nights.
"new age" remedy from city frenzy is actually an infusion of 4,700 years
of history. Tea drinking is a part of Chinese history almost as old as the said
history itself. Chinese tea is about "li" and "li" in Chinese
refers to a code of manners. To appreciate tea, a person must have harmony, humility,
transquility and love. A man finds peace if he is at one with his tea. Those not
in harmony will employ the wong techniques and the tea will not taste good. Similarly,
the tea lover must love the tea and have humility and transquility or he will
not ponder sufficiently on his preparation and will not be able to prepare a good
cup of tea.
the Chinese, the art of tea extends to a zen-like appreciation of the brew that
goes beyond the tastebuds. Tea drinking involves the five senses. A tea drinker
savors the color, fragrance, and finally the taste of the tea. At the same time,
he listens to the swirling of the brew in the cup and feels the warmth of the
filled cup. Then, it goes deeper into you, into your heart and it makes you more
refined. Tea reflect's a man's life and the Chinese understand this. That's why
it is so popular with the Chinese. Whether you are Chinese or not, wise men say
a love affair with tea can be the beginning of a spiritual awakening.
Chinese believe the three distinct tastes of tea represent the three phases of
a man's life. Tea starts off tasting tart, then bitter and finally sweet. Similarly,
with many successes and failures, a young man finds life tart. It begins to taste
bitter as he approached middle age, when family responsibilities weigh on his
shoulders. In the later years, upon retirement, life is sweet.
With both a deeply entrenched heritage and modern relevance, tea draws close parallel with our city.Like tea, the cosmopolitian city straddles two different worlds. one old, one new. Both continue to evolve slowly.
Oxidation refers to the complicated chemical reaction, when air (oxygen) reacts with the molecules of the tea leave, that result in the various flavors unique to each type of tea leaf. This is of particular importance to partially oxidized tea leave such as Oolong tea.
the processing of tea, 'jiao ban' or turning or tossing of the tea leave in a
wok is used to control the degree of oxidation. Tossing and rubbing the tea leave
lightly between the hands damages the molecular structure of the tea leave and
allow oxygen in the air to enter and reacts with it.
The chart below shows the oxidation level of various types of tea leave.
teas are broken down into the following range:
most common types are green, red and oolong tea. In the west, red know is known
as black tea. Although this term is common used, it is not correct because in
China black tea refers to another range of tea. Furthermore,I noted that white
tea have been said to be unoxidised by many westerners in the internet. Based
on the above, we know that is not quite true.
Although Oolong tea is supposed to have an oxidation level of 50%, it varies according to each individual merchant and their clients. In recent years, a number of the tea processing factories in China have oxidized Oolong tea leaves to less than 50% as requested by clients in Taiwan. I found the taste of such tea appealing and have actually convert to drinking such tea. Beside the taste difference, there are noticeable increase in aroma from the brewed tea as compared with the traditionally processed Oolong.
Chao Zhou (teochew) Kungfu Tea
you know why "kungfu" tea is known as "kungfu"?
tea was so named because of the elaborate steps required to prepare a cup of tea.
The steps and skills are considered similar in spirit to the practice of martial
arts which in chinese means "kungfu", hence the name. "Kungfu"
tea originated from Chao Zhou county of Fujian, China. The dialect of Chao Zhou
people is know as "teochew". The people in Chao Zhou loves to drink
tea especially oolong tea of the Fujian Province and Tie Kuan Yin tea of the Anhui
Province, which is in the neighbouring province.
Arguably, the best oolong tea are produced by plantations are in Fujian, China, surrounding the WuYi Mountains. The most famous or best of Fujian oolong tea are :
Pai Ji Kuan
Tie Lo Han
course, there are also plenty of other top grade teas available such as; Shui
Xian tea. In fact, the entire range of tea in Fujian belongs to the shui xian
category but because of the difference in quality due to soil and weather conditions,
various names were developed to differentiate them.
In the early days, the best tea are usually bought by the rich and government officials or offered to the Emperor. The peasants can only afford lowest grade tea leaves and the taste is not exactly good. So, someone came up with a process to improve the taste of these low grade tea using special techniques and the tea actually taste much better, equivalent to a higher grade tea. As a result, the process spread far and wide and is know as "kungfu" tea today. But the "kungfu" tea of today is not the same as what was practice then and notably, a number of important techniques that required some skills have been omitted. Despite that, there is no noticeable loss because the quality of tea leaves used in today's "kungfu" tea are much much higher than what was used then. The following is the steps of the original Chao Zhou Kungfu Tea:
for low grade tea which are very poor in taste. The essence lies in the continuous
flow of all the steps and no talking during the brewing process. To achieve the
essence, spirit and atmosphere of the tea brewing process, the choice of tea accessories,
location of items on the table, timing of each step etc. are extremely critical.
Steps of Chao Zhou Kungfu tea
Sit upright with a tea cloth (for wrapping the teapot) on the lap of your right leg and another tea cloth (for wiping cups) on the lap of your left leg. All other utensils are placed on the table as per normal.
the pot by pouring in hot water into it. Once the water on the surface of the
pot evaporates, pour out the water from the pot into the gongdao container.
Place the pot on your right lap and use the tea cloth to hit it continuously to dry the pot then hold the pot in your hand and "fan" it, exactly the way you use a paper fan to fan yourself, till the pot dries. The purpose of this step is to prepare for "dry heating" the tea leaves as compared to other normal high grade tea which uses the "wet heating" method
Grab some tea leaves with your bare hands and examine its moisture content, to determine the "heating" period. If the tea leaves feel dry and crispy, then no "heating" is required. If it is soft and not crispy, you will have to "dry heat" the leaves and may have to repeat the process several times to achieve the optimal result.
Put the tea leaves into the pot. "Heating" does not mean doing it over a charcoal flame. Instead, the heat from hot water is used. Seal the vent hole and the spout of the teapot with something and place the entire pot in a pool of hotwater making sure that water does not sipped into the pot. The timing depends on the moisture content of the tea leaves. Repeat the process if necessary. The purpose of this step is to remove the mouldy smell of tea leaves that have been exposed to air and return freshness to the leaves.
During the "heating" process, warm the cups using hot water.
Remove the pot from the pool of hotwater, wrapped it with a tea cloth and shake the pot. The purpose is to allow the temperature inside the pot to synchronise with the exterior. Put the pot back on the tea boat and fill the pot to the brim with hot water.
Once the pot is filled quickly lift up the pot, and using a tea cloth to cover the spout, swing the pot in a circular (horizontally) fashion swiftly. The purpose is to force the unpleasant flavours that have been released back into the leaves. the number of cycles the pot is being swing is reduce by one for each subsequent brew.
After swing the pot, poured the tea into a gongdao container then wrapped the pot with a tea cloth and give it a few hard shakes up and down to even the temperature in the pot. The number of shakes to the pot is increased with the no. of brews, the exact opposite of swinging the pot. The purpose of shaking the pot is to reduce contact between tea leaves by dislodging them and preventing the old tea leaves from releasing their bitter taste (once it is soaked).
standard for Chao Zhou Kungfu Tea is to produce only 3 brews per batch of tea
and each brew must be of the same quality. This means total concentration during
the brewing process. One can only relax after the 3 brews are completed and poured
into cups for all to appreciate.
Zhou is located in the lower region of Han Jiang River. Though the Chao Zhou Kungfu
tea style practised by the teochews are known far and wide, it is not easy to
learn. Each family has their own style of "kungfu" tea brewing and such
techniques are passed on to others only after they have gone through an elaborate
and formal process of acknowledging the Master. The technique describe above is
not an original style but one that includes part of other styles. Still, it is
as close as you can get to a traditional technique of brewing tea that have been
around for centuries.
I apologised that no photos of the process are available but I hope the above gives you an insight into the difference between the traditional and modern day techniques of "kungfu" tea.
YIXING ZISHA FACTORY
Zisha Factory, also known as Zisha Factory No. 1, was form in October 1958. During
this period potters worked individually and mined their own zisha clay or buy
from peasants who mine zisha clay for a living. The factory was created to coordinate
all the various activities of making teapots under one roof. All independent potters
and miners were recruited. The factory controls the mining of zisha clay and takes
care of all the curing process including distributing the clay to all the craftsmen.
Of course, the masters get the best quality clay.
were subsequently introduced in the 1970s, which consists of the following:
1) Technician (Xing-siu)
2) Craftsman (Ji-su-yuan or Gong-yi-mei-su-yuan)
3) Craftsman (Ming-jian-yi-ren) - independent porters
4) Asst. Master craftsman (Zu-li-gong-yi-si)
5) Master craftsman (Gong-yi-si)
6) Snr Master craftsman (Gao-gi-gong-yi-si)
7) Provincial Grandmaster
8) Grandmaster craftsman
Other than the above ranks, there are also a number of others (unnamed) who concentrates on producing only commercial grade teapots. Factory No. 1's commercial grade teapots are considered the best because they employed only skilled potters. According to a source, there used to be about 5 mining sites but only one is still surviving today and it is controlled by Factory No. 1. Therefore, it is natural that all the best clay are retained for their own use and the remainder is sold to any others including other factories.
That's the reason why independent potters resort to adding chemicals into the
clay so that their finish teapots will achieve a better finish and attract buyers.
from the rank of Technicians are allowed to have individual workshops within the
factory, which is just simply a big room shared between a few technicians or craftsmen.
Only masters and those that are famous or have superb skills are allocated a room
individually. The advantage of having their own workshop is that it allows their
family members or disciples to work with them. Workshops of grand masters or even
senior masters are retained for their use even after their retirement.
For a technician to be promoted to the rank of craftsman, he or she is required to have a minimum of 8 years experience and have secondary education. Yixing County Council's endorsement is required before an application is approved.
There are another group of craftsman known as "Ming-jian-yi-ren" or
independent potters who have achieved the required standard, employed by the factory.
works by potters from the rank of technician onwards are considers as masters'
To promote to Asst. Master craftsman, a craftsman must have more than 10 years experience in the factory, higher secondary education and have articles on Yixing pottery published in magazines. This time the final approving authority is the Council of Wuxi District.
For promotion to Master craftsman, a potter much hold the rank of an Assistant master craftsman and have more than 20 years' experience in the factory. He is also expected to have published articles in influential magazines locally or overseas, won prizes or merit awards in local or international competitions. Must have achieved certain fame coupled with excellent theoretical knowledge and practical skills in pottery. The approving authority is also the Council of WuXi District but only after the Council has conducted its own examination of the potter's knowledge and skills.
In the next stage of Senior Master craftsman, 30 years of experience is required with university level education, won awards in major competitions with excellent knowledge in design coupled with superb pottery skills. The final approving authority is Council of Jiangsu Province. The potter is expect to pass the examination or test set by each examining council including that of the Jiangsu Province before being promoted to Senior Master Craftsman.
the stage of Provincial and Grandmaster craftsmen, such posts are usually proposed
by the factory and to be accepted by the person in charge.
the above, we note the laborious step each potter takes to achieve their ranks.
It is also a form of recognition of the level of their pottery skills. Factory
No. 1 is the only zisha factory whose grading of potters are recognized by the
The above info is just to give you a background into Yixing Zisha Factory. Although their teapots are the ones that are highly sought after by collectors worldwide, it does not meant that teapots by other potters are not worth collecting. It all depends on your objectives in collecting teapots. Generally, if you are looking for teapots that are well design, good workmanship, make from good quality clay and worth something in future (if you intend to sell it), then there is none other than teapots by masters of Yixing Zisha Factory (No. 1).
HOW TO SELECT A YIXING TEAPOT
A teapot is the heart of a set of tea appliances. A good teapot not only allows the tea leaves to give its best, it also helps a tea connoiseurship enjoy the art of brewing of chinese tea to the most.
1. Well Crafted
All parts of the teapot should not only look in proportion to each other so that in whole, gives a sense of beauty. Since we all have diiferent perceptions as to what beauty is and different purposes in collecting teapots, so long as you like the teapot, there is nothing wrong in collecting it. Afterall, you will be the one using or appreciating it from now on and not someone else.
Easy to hold
The curvature of the handle of a teapot is control by the size of the teapot. Where to place the handle will affect the centre of gravity of the teapot when it is filled with water during brewing of tea. If it results in gravity being off centre, then the teapot will be difficult to hold and pour. Therefore, a good teapot should been designed such that it allows one to hold the teapot comfortably.
Smooth water flow
How the tea flows out of the tea spout will affect the quality of the tea. Tea should flow out fast, straight and smooth instead of dripping. If the flow is too slow, the tea leaves would have been steep for too long. The spout should enable all the tea to flow completely out of the teapot instead of leaving a residue amount. According to an expert, tea poured from a teapot with straight spout would have a higher fragrance than from one with a curving spout. But it is exactly the reverse when it comes to after taste in the throat. How much truth are there in these statement? Try it out and tell me!
The teapot cover when covered should seal the teapot as tight as possible. This will enable all fragance of the tea leaves to remain in the teapot. One simple way to test is to fill the teapot with 2/3 full of water and invert the teapot, with your finger tightly sealing the opening of the spout. The teapot cover should not fall off, showing that it is tightly sealed.
The exterior of the teapot should be smooth and complete without any chipped or cracked showing. Old teapots usually chipped at the spout, the edge of the opening and cover. When buying a old teapot, lookout for any heavily stained parts as it concealed cracks which would otherwise go unnotice.
Quality of the clay
It is very difficult for a beginner to determine the quality of the clay without being exposed to all the different types of teapots and making an indepth study of it. Therefore, you will have to read more books, examined as many teapots as you can and soon you will be able to distinguish whether a teapot is of good quality clay and how old is the clay etc.
7. Smell of clay
New teapots usually have no smell, but some teapots do exhibit some unpleasant clay smell which if not properly treated will seriously affect the taste of your tea.
How to prepare a new teapot
Before using a new teapot you should prepare it so that the teapot is ready for absorbing all the fragrance of the tea leaves.
do remember that you should use different teapots to brew different types of tea
leaves. Yixing clay are very porous that's why it is such a good vessel for brewing
tea as it able to retain the as well as trap tea particles in these pores. With
frequent usage, more and more tea particles are trapped and every time you brew
tea, fragrance is released, which when mixed with the current brew makes the tea
taste better than if it was brewed in a new teapot. In 30 years' time your teapot
will have absorbed so much tea fragrance that it gives you a fragrant tea drink
by just pouring hot water into the teapot (without adding any tea leaves).
Well, I have not brewed any teapot long enough to achieve that. If you do, let me know.
HOW TO AUTHENTICATE OLD YIXING TEAPOTS 1
is in fact the most frequently asked and also one of the most important questions
that a would be collector or even a connoisseur would asked. Every Yixing teapot
collector would come across so call old Yixing teapots and many would be tempted
to buy even though they cannot authenticate it and have to depend on the words
of the seller that it is indeed an old teapot. Most of the time, these collectors
would discovered later that the teapot is not as old as it was claimed to be.
At the worse case, the teapot is a fake and have been 'made old' to trick you.
So how do you get around all these problems and ensure that what you purchase
is truly an old Yixing Teapot?
be a collector of Yixing teapots, one ought to have an in-depth knowledge of the
subject. Know the history and background of Yixing teapots. Understand and be
familiar with all the master craftsmen that ever lived and what they are famous
for. Example; Jiang Rou, a Grand Master Craftsman of Yixing Zisha Factory (No.1)
is an expert creating teapots that emulate real life things such as fruits and
insects. So, if someone present to you a geometric teapot made by Jiang Rong,
then immediately you know something is wrong. Similarly. Zhu Kexin, a master craftsman
of the Ming Guo period, created the Bao Chun teapot in the 1960s, so if you come
across a Bao Chun teapot made by someone earlier than that period, do you think
it can an authentic piece?
we also need to understand who or which masters are recognised by the central
government. Before 1950, there was no proper organization and ranking to all the
craftsmen working in Yixing and everyone have to mine, mix and cure their own
zisha clay. With the formation of Yixing Zisha Factory (No. 1), these craftsmen
were organized and ranked according to a set standard and courses to train new
craftsmen were created. All craftsmen have to undergo a series of training comprising
of (segments of 3 years each) apprenticeship in pottery, design courses and on-job
training. Upon completion of this training period, they may take a craftsmen test
and shall be decorated as a craftsman if they pass. They may subsequently progress
to asst. master craftsman, master craftsman, senior master craftsman and finally
national master craftsman. At every stage, an examination awaits the candiate.
Of course, only those craftsmen in Yixing Zisha Factory (No. 1) are recognised
by the central government.
Zisha Factory (No. 2) was formed in 1984 by brothers, Xu Siew Tang and Xu Han
Tang, both master craftsmen. They managed to lured some craftsmen from Factory
1 to join them. Subsequent ranking of their craftsmen were self appointed and
therefore not recognised by the central government. What does that mean to a teapot
collector? Generally speaking that you should avoid collecting teapots made by
craftsmen from Factory 2 since they are self appointed masters. However, we have
to admit that there are a number of talented craftsmen in Factory 2 and we should
collect based on quality rather than namesake.
is just a bit of the knowledge that all collectors should at least be aware of.
Next, lets discuss in detail what exactly you have to look out for when authenticating
The design of teapots changes with each era. By reading books on old teapots, you will note that certain designs are popular in certain periods and other designs in another period. Although many masters have done it before, such as Gu Jinzhuo, it is possible to copy the design of the teapot but it is very difficult to copy the spirit. Without the spirit of the original design, an imitation teapot looks lifeless and has no appeal to be collected by anyone except the uneducated. Take the example of my late Qing period (you can view in my Antique Collections) Zhu Ni Shui Ping teapot; such design was created in the Qing dynasty and did pass on to the early days of Ming Guo period. Subsequently it is phased out as potters move on to newer designs. Such design therefore appear only during that period and the workmanship is impeccable. Imitation pieces would never be able to imitate the clay or the workmanship let alone the spirit of the teapot. So, having a knowledge of various teapot designs through the ages would help in determining roughly the age of the teapot. Taking the above example again; if I tell you that the teapot was made in the early Qing period (almost 300 years old) would you believe me? Sure, you can tell that the teapot is old but without the knowledge you won't know that such design only appear in late Qing!
I would consider recognising the age of zisha clay as the most difficult to learn because there is absolutely no material available to study or reference from. The matter is made worst by the fact that early craftsmen handle their own clay and each have their own secret way of mixing and preparing the clay for use. So the only way to learn is by handling as many types of teapots as possible especially those old teapots and not forgetting, imitation teapots. Only then can one gain the knowledge of how zisha clay changes through time, recognises the properties of old clay and most important of all, ability to weed out the fake teapots.
zhu ni clay has properties that make it unsuitable for large teapots because it
tends to crack-up during heating. So, if you see a large zhu ni teapot, then you
can be sure that this teapot is not make of pure zhu ni but a mixture of other
zisha clay also. The color and characteristics of zisha clay changes through time
so it is possible to tell the age of a zisha teapot by looking at the clay. For
example, since zhu ni went extinct by early 1970s, there cannot be zhu ni teapot
make in the 1980s unless created by some masters who have kept the clay for so
Example; Tianqing clay (greyish color) appears during the mid-Qing dynasty and went extinct before end of Qing dynasty. It is so rare that some shops are claiming that teapots of Tianqing clay are from the Ming dynasty!
fact, the properties of zisha clay is so complex that it sometime confuses even
the experts if they are not careful. There have been many cases where teapot connoisseurs,
who were recognized to be an expert in this field, got conned into purchasing
teapots that have been treated to look old. Many auction houses now do not accept
old teapots for auction because they do not have the expertise to really authenticate
In the old days, Yixing teapots are created by hand, meaning that every single part, curve and decor is create manually without the assistance of moulds. Time has changed with more and more craftsmen turning to moulds when creating teapots. However, many craftsmasters are still adhering to the tradition of full hand made teapots. Every master craftsman has skills that specialises in certain areas. Some are talented in making 'hua huo' or decorated teapots (such as Wang Yin Xian), others are extremely good in geometric shapes and so on.
specialised skills in one field does not mean that these potters will not create
teapots of other shapes. But no matter what sort of teapot a master craftsman
create, the workmanship and quality is undisputed. Every single detail is taken
care of with no edges left untouched. If you come across so call teapots by masters
but exhibits poor workmanship in certain parts of the teapot, then I advise that
you take more than a second look because it is probably a fake!
One of the unique feature of Yixing teapots is that every single piece have the maker's chop. Most craftsman uses more than one type of chop and some of them does not even reflect their name or are written so artistically that unless you knew or seen it before, it is not possible to be sure who make the this teapot and whether it is authentic.
is therefore not wise to buy any teapot based on solely on the maker's chop. Since
the early Ming Dynasty, many craftsmen have copied masters such as GongChun and
Shi Dabin etc. Some of these copies are actually so well made that they become
master pieces of their own. I personally come across collectors who purchased
teapots based on the maker's chop. They are willing to overlook all the defects
in the teapot such as poor workmanship and lack of spirit, so long as the chop
is that of a master's!
fact, fake maker's chop in teapots for early masters are easy to detect because
no matter how good these people are, they cannot manually copy the strokes of
a character done by the masters. Even if they are able to do so, other tell tale
signs such as the age of the clay etc. will help us distinguish it. The only problem
is that most of us do not have access to such master pieces for comparision. Also,
it helps if we understand the fact that all teapots by masters in the 16th century,
such as Shi Dabin, are hand written signatures rather than seal chopped! So if
you see a Shi Dabin teapot with a seal chop, it is guaranteed a fake. Seal chops
never come into used till much later. Similarly, calligraphy on teapots although
started in early Qing Dynasty, was only made popular by Chen Mansheng in the mid-Qing
period. So how could a Ming Dynasty teapot come with calligraphy engraved on it?
OF 'MADE OLD' TEAPOTS
There are many teapots on the market that have been treated or 'made old' to trick the unknowing. All these teapots are mostly not of Yixing origin and bears some masters' chop. The outer surface have been sand down and rub with shoe brush, black soot and some even buried in soil for a period of time to give it a old and used look. This method is easy to tell because for many of them the inside of the teapot was not treated, one look at the clay reveals all. For those where the interior have been treated and the clay cannot be distinguish, a brush and a pail of hot water is all that is needed to wash the dirt away. I have heard of another method where the dirt cannot be removed using water and requires thinner to reveal the actual clay below.
have seen such teapots everywhere I went, in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong
and Malaysia etc. In fact I bought one many years ago and spent half a day brushing
away the dirt from the surface of the teapot. Well, that teapot is still around
and the chop at the bottom is that of 'Shi DaBin', the great master craftsman
from Ming dynasty.
Very few old teapots survived centuries and still remain complete. Most old teapots are either chipped at the edge or missing one part of it. It is rare to find an old teapot that does not have a patina over the surface as a result of years of use. New teapots made old can never exihibit such patina unless it has been treated as I mentioned above.
now you understand that collecting Yixing teapot is difficult, authenticating
an old Yixing is even more difficult. You just need to have that knowledge and
there is no other way you are gonna acquired it except by seeing as many old teapots
as possible. It is not common that ordinary collectors are able to have the opportunity
to own a master teapot that are more than a century old. However, if such opportunity
should appear, it is wise to authenticate it further by seeking the assistance
of other experts since the chance of it being a fake is 99%!
Most, if not all collectors, paid for their lessons when they bought so call masters' or old teapots which turn out to be fakes. It is a costly lesson and cannot be avoided. If you have not gone through this stage, then your are still far from being a teapot connoisseur.
HOW TO AUTHENTICATE YIXING TEAPOTS 2
In this page, I am going to show you various examples of what we discuss previously in how to authenticate Yixing teapots.
Although there are a large number of copies done on Shi DaBin's (famous Ming dynasty master craftsman) works, we present 4 samples of his seal here for analysis.
Do you know which one is the real one? Yes, you guess right! The first one on the right is the original signature of Shi DaBin. The second is a copy done in the early Qing dynasty, which display extremely good calligraphy skills. The third signature was made in the late Qing dynasty but is a poor imitation of the original. The last signature is done in recent years and is good enough to fool even the expert!
If you are still unclear about what I meant by fakes seal chops, I hope this example clear your doubt. The biggest problem here is how do we know it is a fake if we have never seen the real one before? In recent years, many books have been produced which includes examples of a large number of master pieces ever created. Such books can be used as a reference and you can always confirmed the authenticity with other connoisseurs. Do not buy if you are unable to proof beyond a doubt.
would really advised that potential collectors NOT TO treat the seal chop as a
reference point to judge the standard of the teapot. If the chop is by a master
craftsman, then the workmanship of the teapot should be that of a master. No excuses
for poorly finished corners or unrefined joints. Never convince yourself that
the teapot is real based on the seal chop and overlook the poor workmanship. If
you get cheated by adopting such practice and attitude, then you got yourself
to blame. If the chop is that of a unknown, we can then be more forgiving when
judging the workmanship of the teapot.
Seals chops before 1960s are usually made of wood. Those after 1960s are made of stone or metal. The imprint from a wooden seal chop is distinctively different from those made of metal or stone as shown in the photos above. Knowing this can serve as a simple and fast method of determining the age of teapots. Teapots without timber seal chops cannot be older than 1960s. Having a timber seal chop however does guarantee that it is made before the 1960s.
Recently, I come across this teapot which was claimed to be from early 19th century.
However, after studying the teapot in detail, I found many things that does not matched what the seller has claim. First, I found out that this particular type of teapot is known in chinese as "Yu Huo Long" and it was created by craftmaster, Chao Da Hern in mid-Qing dynasty. This mean that the teapot was created sometime in late 18th century. This teapot is definitely not Chao's creation because his seal was not present and the workmanship is real bad. Secondly, in Chao's original piece, the dragon has got double eye lids but this teapot has got single eye lid. Thirdly, the original dragon was very vivid as compared to this lifeless dragon. Chao Da Hern is a famous master potter during that era. We would expect nothing less than first rate workmanship from him. It is definitely a copy of the original.
Now, how do we determine if the teapot is actually that old. A old teapot which have been around for 200 hundred years must have telltale signs of its age, so how can it be brand new?. Even if it is kept in a perfect condition, it must have gone thru many owners. So if we supposed that each owner use it for just a year, the teapot would have developed a super glossy patina on its outer surface and signs of tea stains in the inner surface of the teapot. But all these are missing from this teapot, so do you think that it is really 200 years old. Definitely not!
Of course, there are arguments that what if the teapot was really kept in a perfect unused condition? I do not disagreed that it could happen but if you understand the chinese culture of that period than you probably would not even think of this possibility. Chinese in the 19th century are avid tea drinkers. Each teapot (especially those by masters) are treasured by many scholars and commoners alike. Each and every teapot is bought for use and never for display because it is not the tradition.
Next, we look at the selling price. Price is a good indication of what sort of product you are buying. Nobody price a volvo for $500 or a loaf of bread for $50 unless you does not know the market value of the product. The seller bought this for $200 from Sotheby but why would Sotheby priced a 19th century teapot at $200 when they priced other late Qing-period teapots being auctioned in Taiwan for more then $5000? Obiviously something is not right here. Maybe you know the reasons?
is the teapot made of zisha clay? Difficult to say but based on the photo, it
does seems like zisha. However, from the seller we know that Sotheby auctioned
this teapot to him, so it would not be unreasonable for us to consider the teapot
as made from zisha.The reason is that even if the seller is not well versed in
this field, Sotheby should be able to distinguish between a real and fake Yixing
even if they are not capable of telling its age.
Finally, if the teapot is not a early 19th century teapot, then when on earth was it made? Based on the clay properties, the workmanship in certain parts of the teapot and authenticating it with other teapot connoisseurs, we are sure that this teapot is made in the 1980s.
Above is an example of a modern day "Yu Huo Long" teapot by Master Wang Yin Xian. Note the difference in details? You can be sure that the piece done by Chao Da Hern is just as good. Fakes or copies are usually of bad workmanship because it is crafted by the unskilled.
This example is similiar to the above but it have a few interesting points that we can learn from. How do you tell that it is not a 19th century teapot? First, as I mentioned above, it has no signs of being used at all. Secondly, we know that there are teapots of such design during that period which also include lions other than cows. The critical give away sign however is the location of the air vent hole. In this teapot it is at the mouth of the cow, but in actual teapots of that period, the vent hole is either at the leg or near the stomach of the animal, never at the mouth!
Also, the outline of the cow is poorly crafted as compared to the original. The fourth factor is the spout. Spouts of teapots in 19th century are long and narrow but the spout of this teapot is short and stout, a copy of master craftsman, He Dao Zhong's creation in the 1980s. Last, but not least, is the selling price of this teapot which I have already discussed above.
I know that some of you may comment that I can never be sure since I have not handled the actual teapot. I agreed with that statement but it depends on the kind of teapot being authenticated. In some cases, even after analysing the photos I am unable to be 100% sure that it is a fake or the real stuff, then I will need to handle the teapot. But in the above examples, the photos are clear enough for me to make a confident authentication of 90%. Still, my advise for all potential collectors are: try to handle the actual teapot when making authentication so that you will learn better.
If you think that authenticating Yixing teapots are a breeze after reading my other article, then you probably realized now that it is not easy and requires expert knowledge. However, I can assure you that if you put in the hardwork and gained the skill to authenticate Yixing teapots, nothing is gonna beat the enjoyment you get out of authenticating Yixing teapots.
ALL ABOUT YIXING PURPLE CLAY
is the pottery capital of China, and is the place where purple clay originated.
It is the hinterland beyond Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai and Lake Tai.
Yixing is a scenic spot with mountains and streams around; its land is fertile
and abundant in produce. It is said to be the "ancient town of pottery, the
world of caves, the green belt of tea, and the sea of bamboo." Yixing lies
within the Asian tropical zone, but has four distinct seasons which are mild and
especially beneficial for producing pottery
God favored Yixing and granted it the conditions for producing pottery: a rich resource of purple clay soil lies hidden in the ground of Yixing. Legends about pottery originating in Yixing abound. About four to five thousand years ago, towards the end of prehistoric age, our ancestors had already begun making fired pottery on this very spot. The period from Shang Dynasty to Zhou Dynasty, geometric pottery and those with stamped markings appeared along with the early green porcelain. From the Qin Dynasty onward up till today, pottery and porcelain have been heavily produced. Purple clay pottery began in the Northern Song Dynasty. It flourished during the Ming and Qing Dynasties and is still thriving today. The efforts of the successive generations of potters have resulted in many celebrated craftsmen and all types of different forms of purple clay pottery.
The everyday necessities of the Chinese people include oil, salt, firewood, rice, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and tea. The Chinese have the habit of having "tea and rice"' everyday. Tea is consumed before a meal of rice. Also, when guests visit, it is the custom for hosts to offer good tea to express hospitality. Tea, in general, is a beverage that no one can do without. Drinking tea can clear your mind and raise your spirit, and is good for the health. Therefore, the tea set, especially the teapot, came to be treasured more and more by the culturally refined, and through their involvement, purple clay pottery gradually rose from the level of folk art and developed into the unique national tradition and cultural art that it is today. And this all happened at the right time and place as it was destined to.
The first requirement of purple clay pottery is the purple clay soil which is a mixture of three soils: the purple soil, the green soil (from the mountains of Yixing) and the red soil. All are from local mines and are composed of natural minerals. They are hidden between rocks and ordinary pottery soil, that is why they are sometimes called the "soil within the rock" and the "soil within the soil." The purple clay soil is excavated by tunneling, naturally wind-dried, crumbled into powder, sifted, mixed with the right amount of water, left in a cool shady place to stale, and pounded (churned in a vacuum), in order to reach the ideal quality for molding. The three soils are mixed according to need and the color desired. Then, it is fired at various temperatures depending on the soil composition. Darker colored clay is more rich but the color gradations range from sky green, millet, deep purple, pear skin, cinnabar purple, flowering apple red, green gray, ink green, to bluish black, etc. There are colors that can be described as modest purple, delicate red, mature green, chromatic black, and florid gray, etc., that are truly elegant.
clay soil is a kind of special pottery soil that is very fine and delicate, and
that contains high amounts of iron. Its molecular structure is different from
that of common pottery and porcelain soils. After being fired at 12000C, the structure
becomes like fish scales and has the ideal rate of density and pores. The surface
of a pottery piece is fine and delicate and does not need to be glazed. When used
for making tea, no chemical reaction will take place. Therefore, using a purple
clay teapot for tea will allow you to savor the full flavor, color, and aroma
of the tea.
The ancients praised tea drinking thus: "water is the mother of tea and teapot is the father" and "clay teapots are the best: the lid keeps the steam in and yet does not smother the aroma." Second, purple clay teapots conduct heat slower so can hold the heat longer, and it doesn't burn the hand if you touch it. Third, purple clay pottery can be transferred from cold to hot extremes. On a cold winter's day, you can directly put it in boiling water or on the fire. Fourth, because the surface is fine and delicate, the more you use it, the shinier it becomes, the newer it looks, and the more energy it seems to exude. Fifth, the colors of the clay are rich and varied, smooth and elegant, earthy and stable. Purple clay pottery is like wool: thick, snug, neat, pure, classy; and it is luminous as a piece of antique jade. Because of its special composition, purple clay is also good for making flower pots since it can let light through and absorb water, which prevent roots from rotting. Purple clay is also great for making steam pots used in cooking delicious food.
Pottery made from purple clay is earthy and refined, and displays the ingenuity of the craftsman; it is full of cultural flavor characteristic of the East. The ancients praised that "pearls and jade can be found everywhere but there is only one soil like that at Yangxian Xitou." Therefore, one can say that purple clay soil is a national treasure endowed by the heavens.
The main types of wares made from purple clay are tea sets, wine sets, dinner sets, writing sets, flower pots, sculptures and decorations. Among tea sets, there are four types: kuang huo, fang huo, Jin rang huo, and hua huo. Kuang huo teapots can be any size, circular, cylindrical, or mallet-shaped; they are especially thick, full and simple; a craftsman will put in extra effort to make sure they appear simple, stout, round as pearls and smooth as jade. Fang huo teapots can be square, octagonal, hexagonal, rectangular, or slanted squares; they are especially straight and upright, simple, clean, serious, neat and proper; a craftsman will handle these in a clear-cut and straightforward manner. Jin rang huo teapots are representations of all kinds of flowers, such as the chrysanthemum, the sunflower, the plum blossom, the water chestnut flower, the cherry-apple blossom, etc.; the lines are always curved and the markings give the feel of order, rhythm and movement. Hua huo teapot forms are mainly derived from nature such as the pine, the bamboo, the plum, the vine, trees, gourds, and fruits, etc. Parts of these natural objects are selected and represented with exaggeration. To make them more interesting; the flowers or leaves sculpted or molded onto the body of the teapot must be life-like and arranged in a reasonable, suitable fashion. They should represent the poetic in life, the ideal above life, the platonic in nature. Purple clay pottery has numerous varying forms and styles, and an infinite number of representations. It is really the great achievement among all the crafts made for household use.
The various types of purple clay pottery reflect the various types of people and personalities that exist. They can be described as round and plump, gentle and full, strong and tough, feminine and slender, handsome and masculine, aloof and suggestive, uninhibited and sophisticated, penetrating and calm, subtle and full of presence, amenable and enjoyable, and are dear to their collectors and owners.
purple clay molds are easy to handle, the crafting and production of purple clay
pottery are different from those of other pottery and porcelain. The past centuries
have produced a unique set of techniques and skills for handling purple clay.
For example, when making a round piece, strips or sheets of clay are luted together
into circular shapes and then beaten with a spatula into the desired shapes (the
da shentong method). For a square piece, the xiang shentong method is used which
involves beating the mold with a spatula into the desired thickness first and
then luting the pieces together; after either method, detailed work is added to
complete the piece. Usually, from mixing the clay soil to a completed mold, everything
is completed by one person. Therefore, the quality of the craft and its artistic
value are dependent on the skill, artistic background, training, technical ability,
and experience of the craftsman.
A perfect piece of pottery must first have carefully selected material, which involves knowing what kind of soil to use for which kind of piece. During the design, one must consider the crafting process, methods, techniques which include knowing how soft or hard the mold should be. In the production process, one must understand what changes will occur and what influence drying and firing has on the piece. Only in this way can one expect to achieve the desired effect. Only in this way can purple clay soil and fire be combined to produce special artistic pieces.
There is another special point about purple clay pottery, and that is the poetry and calligraphy directly painted or engraved on the pieces. The earliest examples of this type are from the end of the Ming Dynasty. Chang Mansheng and Zhu Ziye were the most prominent figures that left paintings and poetry on teapots. They initiated the development of art engraved on purple clay pottery, and the saying, "teapots are made legendary through words and words are made valuable through teapots."
In recent years, new types of decorations have emerged, and a dazzling array of decorations and new handicrafts made from purple clay have captivated admirers and have made purple clay pottery more appealing than ever before. Purple clay pottery can not only be useful household items, they are also valuable collectibles. The purple clay teapot is "the best in the world" for making tea. Its substance and form are perfectly matched and it is a pleasure to use and to look at. People say that to make red tea, a deeper teapot should be used, and for green tea, a shallow one. For work or play, fatigue or stress, and especially for enjoying magnificent scenery or the quiet of a garden, it is an incomparable addition.
Purple clay pottery is praised and valued because of its special artistic form and deep cultural significance. Purple clay pottery is not only the symbol of Yixing, but also a foremost representative of Chinese traditional craft, a cultural treasure created and possessed by all of mankind. The development of cultural art has no borders. To develop the culture of purple clay pottery, it should be turned to the whole world and become amenable to all. It should be used and studied worldwide. History has given us purple clay pottery, and we should take up the task and responsibility for developing and studying it. This is a privilege that we have in our time.
TEAPOT CONNOISSEURSHIP 1
People often ask: why are there teapots valued up to tens of thousands of dollars while others, equally efficient as tea-brewing appliances, may be worth less than a dollar? This indeed is a difficult question to answer. Accordingly, the zisha teapot is a possessed of practicability, craftsmanship and artistry, and is a worthy subject of academic research, in-depth study and appreciation.
the direct and indirect involvement of academics, painters and calligraphers throughout
the centuries, the zisha teapot is expanding in its patronage, arousing in society
an ever-increasing connoisseurship of the zisha teapot.
To a Connoisseur, there is one important point that must not be confused. The zisha teapot consists of four distinctive classes: appliances (mass-produced), handicrafts, works of master potters, and artistic masterpieces. The appliances form the basis of the industry it is supporting. Its present scale of mass production and cultivating its artistic development. Manually made by ordinary purple clay, they are for the teahouse or domestic use. In the history of zisha pottery, the people involved in the mass production of appliances were always the greatest in number. Thus the volume produced is also the largest with product quality the least admirable. Out of the small number of different models, each may be produced in the order of tens, of thousands. None of these, however, is considered worthy of study and collection (except the' works of a few. past masters who specialized in and produced appliances). For example, during the forties, there appeared several batches, which bore the rectangular stamp that looks like Shi DaBin. These are often mistaken for past master's works of but in fact are not related to him at all.
As for the handicrafts, it must be noted that it is only with a contingent of skilled labor that we can select out of it some better craftsmen who would refine their technique and master the zisha tradition. Works produced by these craftsmen possess both functional and artistic merits. Though limited by their individual experiences, cultural backgrounds, and artistic quality, they are equipped with elaborate craftsmanship.
speaking, their works are just imitations of traditional forms (not expressing
their own artistic features), but may sometimes be creations of their own that
are pleasing to zisha novices. Although an item attractive at first sight may
not necessarily remain so after a prolonged study, such products can be classified
as handicrafts worthy of collecting.
Next we come to the masterworks of master potters. By master potters, we mean the few most celebrated masters this field with fame obtained through competition. Based on the works of each participant, this competition is fair to all concerned. A master potter is not just someone with the name but someone with the real quality. The name does not guarantee that one's works are good while without does not mean that no good works can come from him. Without masterworks no one can be called a master potter. Masterworks become less with the decrease of master potters. Anyway, masterworks are important part of the teapot connoisseurship and
FinaIly, there is the artistic masterpiece which defies definition in just a few-words. Perhaps, I shall leave this to creators, patrons, and connoisseurs for their thorough study and discussion. No teapot connoisseurship is possible without a substantial collection. Individual collection shall vary in approach and taste. I see no reason why a standard should be forced. Large in amount comprehensive in models, wide in scope, superior in quality, specialized in depth, as well as restricted to only the big ones or the miniature ones. Any of these can be a collector's objective. Learning teapot connoisseurship with your collection and then expanding your collection through connoisseurship will surely afford you infinite pleasure.
TEAPOT CONNOISSEURSHIP 2
art of purple clay sinks deep and stretches wide in the cultural domain. It puts
together, tea ceremony, flower arranging, literature, calligraphy, painting, metallurgy,
handicraft and technology. It takes articles from everyday life and raises them
to the realm of aesthetics, and in the process, they become art objects of deep
The art and craft of purple clay pottery is not only extraordinary, it is also full of significance. It isn't just made up of clay and space; its main composition is culture, deep traditional culture; how else could it possess such deep artistic attraction, how else could it be so contagious?
Although the art and technique of purple clay pottery involve different elements, the two must exist as one and not be separated. Technique is the basis of materials, and art is the existing energy. Technique is the high or low production standard, and without a high technical standard for the method of production, the result would not have strength in expression. If a piece of the highest caliber in design is made roughly with low quality production, it cannot express what is intended in the design. If the best technique is applied but the craftsman lack artistic intelligence, the result would be a polished piece, perfect only in form, and would lack flavor, spirit, and the overall quality would still be low.
To truly appreciate a piece, one must observe it and appreciate it through its form, spirit, energy, movement, rhythm and ingenuity.
the shape of the ware, whether it's geometric, derived from nature, or closely modeled on natural objects, no matter the form, they all have the language of shapes. This language has no sound; it tells of the shape of an object created by molding. This means that every piece of ware is carefully thought out and planned since the result must have meaning, or else it would lack artistic value. A meaningful piece holds fascination, captures the imagination, and must be of a shape that has gone through refinement or transformation.
every piece must have "spirit." "Spirit" is the hardest to describe in words. It is the expression of artistic force from within the piece; it is the inherent appeal of a piece; its spirit is brought about through refinement. We usually regard guang huo (geometric form) types as simple and clean in shape. If the shape is round, its physical mass must be balanced; it must not be overly rotund and the circular lines must be perfectly curved, etc.... Of course, geometric forms are also changeable, the lines flow and extend with rhythm to reflect the ware's intrinsic rhythm in its spirit. Carefully made pieces are not thin, hard as rock, and lacking in spirit. If the four sides of a square shape is measured for evenness when making a square, the final product will likely be negative and the piece will lack vitality. Therefore, squares must have flesh and strength. Forms derived from nature, and forms closely model on natural objects must express the living spirit of the object it represents.
must first grasp the object's particular shape, its way of growth. Objects such
as the pine, bamboo, plum, cypress, peach, gourds, fruits, flowers, birds, fish
and insects are commonly seen by everyone which means these must carry the feeling
of familiarity. This means that to make any of these into teapots, appropriate
elements of nature must be chosen as the basic shape or as a decorative part on
a teapot. What is represented must appear more than what they are in reality since
the art of pottery is to extract the essence of what is beautiful in these objects,
to produce natural beauty in concentrated form. It is not to make exact copies
that are dead and dry. It is to seek the heart and soul of nature's vitality.
That is how each piece of ware can express a "spirit."
this refers to inherent appeal and atmosphere which must be homogenous throughout a piece of ware. To be refined, its pose must be natural, moving, yet original, especially for a teapot since one must be able to express in a mass as small as the teapot, the greatness and magnificence of a tree or bamboo, the fervent growth of a branch, dauntless and brimming with energy
forms derived from nature and geometric forms have their differences. Forms derived from nature must display the living and growing state of the object represented. However, these forms must not go beyond the limits of living and growing and represent something beyond or incongruous with nature. Geometric forms also involve an infinite number of changes. As the saying goes, roundness is not in the substance, and square-ness is not in the form. Geometric forms are usually very regular with a bit more or less so here or there. For some, the simpler the shape, the harder it is to make. Geometric forms depend on the appropriate use of points, lines and surfaces for shapes to be rich, natural and harmonious.
a piece must have a balanced combination of form, spirit, energy, movement and rhythm. Adding a rhythm to its movement will make the lines flow more gracefully. The arrangement of the hard and soft, top and bottom, left and right should be continuously uniform and complementary, which should make the piece even more fascinating.
an art piece of purple clay must have ingenuity in its: design, choice of materials, production, and craftsmanship. During the production process, one must pay attention to using different methods, since special pieces require special methods, including the creation and usage of particular tools for a particular piece. In addition, one must be able to manage successfully the entire production process and its various segments. This implies a technical understanding of the process. Competence in the members of the production team is also a major factor in determining the success of the wares produced.
The art of purple clay pottery uses the traditional style as the main theme. The wares are practical as tools and as decoration. They are rich in significance and their forms can exist in myriad ways.
types of wares can be found in various florid styles and each type expresses a
unique feature. The different types are a reflection of the cultures found among
the people of the East. Also, the individual wares exhibit the artistic styles
and discipline of the craftsmen involved.
In essence, to appreciate a piece of purple clay pottery, one must not only look at how well it is made. What is most important is whether the piece reflects the form, spirit, energy, movement, and rhythm of the object it represents, which show the level of the craftsman's artistry. The standard of quality lies in the degree of thoroughness in production. To fully grasp the art and technique of purple clay requires more than a day or even a hundred days. Like calligraphy, which involves continuous learning, enlightenment only comes after hundreds and thousands of trials and tribulations. A perfect piece of purple clay pottery doesn't come easily and is highly precious and valuable. The success of an artistic piece can be likened to being pregnant for ten months and then delivering in one day. In the garden of various art forms, there is music, which is so beautiful that people never tire of hearing it. There is also, in the garden, the art of purple clay which has also been passed down through the centuries as connoisseurs collect, treasure, and guard jealously purple clay pieces, and never tire of enjoying them. The long and continuous history of purple clay pottery and its popularity has proven its worth. Now, we should continue to uphold and develop this exceptional traditional art form. We should take in what can nourish us in our time to raise our individual quality and talent, to widen our vision and our mind. We should create new designs and produce art pieces from purple clay which are in step with the times.
HOW TO CULTIVATE YOUR YIXING TEAPOT
Before using your prized yixing teapot, checked how whether the air vent is clear of blockage. Test the flow of water and if it is not smooth, clear the holes inside the spout of any debris. Finally examined whether there are clay deposits within the teapot, which if present can be easily removed by scrapping it with a wooden or bamboo piece.
Boil a pot of water and place the teapot into the water carefully. Boil it for 30 to 40 minutes. Removed the teapot and soak it in a basin of warm water for a few minutes and then let it air dry.
Now place some tea leaves (any tea leaves will do) into the previously boiled pot of water and together with the teapot boiled it for an hour. Rinse the teapot and let it air dry naturally.
Before using the teapot, determine which tea leaves you are gonna brew in it. Do not brew different kind of tea leaves in the same teapot. Yixing clay are very porous that's why it is such a good vessel for brewing tea as it able to retain the as well as trap tea particles in these pores. With frequent usage, more and more tea particles are trap and every time you brew tea, fragrance is released which when mixed with the current brew makes the tea taste better than if it was brewed in a new teapot.
After you have determine the tea to use for this teapot, do not start using the teapot yet, but use it as a "gong-dao" (justice) pot where tea is poured into it before being poured into tea cups.
Every time you brew tea, use the teapot as "gong-dao" pot and always pour the first infusion (which we normally discart) over the exterior of the teapot. If possible, reserved the last infusion (which is already diluted) to rinse the exterior of the teapot. This enables the tea oil to stain the exterior of the teapot and helps patina to grow.
At the end of each session, fill the teapot with used tea leaves and water and leave it overnight or even till the next session. Before the next session, clear the tea leaves and repeat Step 5 again. The teapot should be ready for brewing after 3 months.
When you start brewing tea with this teapot, always rinsed the teapot (from cap down) with the first infusion. At the end of a session, use a tea cloth to wipe and polish the exterior surface of the teapot. Continue doing it for another 3 months and I guarantee that a rich patina will grow on the surface of the teapot.
Your teapot will start to look lovely and somehow you can swear that the clay seems very much different compared to when you first bought the teapot.
The above is what tea connoisseurs meant when they say "yang hu" or "cultivating a teapot". Enjoy yourself!
PREPARING THE TEAPOT FOR BREWING
(THE TAIWAN METHOD)
What is the first thing you do after purchasing a Yixing Teapot? Brew tea with it? Definitely not! A new teapot need to be treated or "prepare" so that the tea brewed in it will be delicious rather than being overwhelmed by the clay smell.
method describe below is known as the Wu's method of preparing teapots. It was
devised by Wu Ju Lin of Taiwan and created a strong following since its introduction
in Taiwan a couple of years ago.
lower cost of production, zisha clay was pulverized into powder form with a machine
and this helps to speed up its molecular integration process during firing. Despite
this, air cavities unique to zisha are still present in the finish teapot. But
because of the difference in molecular integration process of large and small
clay particles, some of these minute particles got trapped in the air cavities.
With the reduction of air cavities, the teapot will not be able to absorb as much
tea particles and the cultivation process will be much slower. Another possibility
of clay particles getting trapped in the air cavities is the result of insufficient
curing time frame for clay prior to use.
you have cleaned the surface of the teapot, including the internal, immersed the
teapot in plain tap water for 3 days then put it into a pot of water and boil
for an hour. Removed the teapot and let it cool down. Using the same pot of water,
boiled the teapot again for an hour. It is best to invert the teapot in order
to let the boiling bubble goes over the entire teapot, internal and external.
the hot teapot from the boiling water and put it into the freezer section of the
refrigerator immediately. Within half an hour, a layer of frost will form on the
surface of the teapot. Put the frosty teapot back into a pot of boiling water
and boiled it for an hour and then put it into the freezer again for half an hour
before taking out to boil again. Repeat the entire process for 5 times or up to
7 times if time is available.
a new pot of water, add in some tealeaves and bring it to boil for about 10 minutes.
Remove the tealeaves and place the teapot, after being freeze and boiled for 5
times, into the pot and boil for 3 hours. The process is complete once you have
removed the teapot and clean it.
method may seem bizarre or even dangerous for the teapot, but the reasoning behind
it is pretty simply. When the teapot is hot, it expands and breaks the air cavities
within the clay. The freezing process froze the minute clay particles within the
air cavities and the repeated expansion and contraction process forces these clay
particles out of the air cavities, thereby clearing it. The last step of boiling
the pot for 3 hours in tea allows the emptied air cavities to absorbed tea particles
which helps in cultivating the teapot and at the same time removed clay smell.
How much difference this method does in "opening-up" the teapot to absorb tea particles is not proven scientifically, but with its strong following in Taiwan, there may be some truth to it. On the other hand experts from other regions are divided over the effectiveness of this method and the principles behind it.
if you are game enough, why not give it a try?
However, one word of warning - if you treasure your teapots, do not experiment as teapots have been known to crack or break under such extreme measures. TRY AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
For those of you who are interested in trying out this method but afraid of damaging your teapot, here is a true account by Logan who has subjected her teapot to the above treatment and emerged ............................Read on:
"Well, the process as described in your page on preparing a pot in the Taiwanese manner has been completed right through to the final rinsing after the 3-hour boiling and both the teapot and lid appear to be still sound. Obviously there's no way of telling whether the taste of the tea is improved without comparison to an identical teapot seasoned in a different manner.
There's no scientific reason why the alternative heat and freezing should damage the pot unless it was inherently flawed in the beginning. The usual assumption is that the frost caused by the freezing of the water left from the boiling would crack the pot as ice will break up concrete. This analysis is flawed though as the ice involved in such fractures is usually both thicker and in a crack that was larger at the beginning than should be the case with a teapot.
My experience is that the water on the outside of the teapot evaporates almost instantly as the pot is transported to the freezer simply because the pot itself is so hot when first taken out of the water. As a result, there is just a very bare haze of frost after half an hour of freezing -- certainly not enough to cause damage. On the way back into the boiling water, the pot almost warms up to room temperature on its path back into the water because the teapot has no water inside. This happened even though my freezer is no more than two feet from the burner with the boiling water.
Now, this preparation process has to be making a difference -- if it makes any difference at all -- on the virtually invisible level. If a pot is destroyed by this process, I'd almost prefer that result to spending months getting the pot ready for brewing to find the fault at that point.
The only visible difference that I see is that the teapot's original medium moss color has become somewhat darker. No change in color happened until the final 3-hour boiling. This darkening would occur just as readily with tea poured over the outside regularly as described in your cultivation page. The final boiling just accelerated the process"