Asia Online (TAO)
Billy Mood's Yixing
Teapots, Part 2
ABOUT COLLECTING YIXING TEAPOTS
teapots have been the subject of collection since Ming Dynasty. Each piece of
work by famous masters were treated like treasure and guarded jealously. Such
trends are brought about by the craze over tea drinking, which started in Song
Dynasty. In those days, teapots were bought for use rather than for collecting
in the late 15th century, people begin to appreciate Yixing teapots and hordes
of collectors start to appear. Fueled by the demand for masters' teapots, imitation
teapots flooded the market by early 16th century. Many collectors were fooled
by these copies because they do not know what the actual piece looks like. All
that they can depend on are the dealer, who insisted that it is real. Such problems
are still being faced by collectors in present days especially if you are buying
the works of masters. There are as many as 10 pieces of imitation for each teapot
by a master. You need the skills to authenticate the teapots and determine whether
the teapot is what the dealer claimed to be.
does that mean you should start collecting works of masters also? No. It all depends
on your intention. In fact each and every collectors should set their own goals
and ideals when collecting Yixing teapots. Based on what I know, collectors of
Yixing teapots basically falls into the following categories:
-collects all sorts of teapots irregardless of quality so long as it fancies him.
-collects those that suits his tea drinking habits only. Not really interested in teapots.
SHUI-PING HU ONLY
-collects only a range of commercial teapots knowns as shui-ping teapots.
COMMERCIAL TEAPOTS ONLY
-collects only commercial teapots. Similar to the garbage collector but have better taste.
OLD TEAPOTS ONLY
-collects only old teapots earlier than 1960s. Generally, pots collected tends to be commercial works rather than masters' works although there are exceptions.
MASTERS' WORKS ONLY
-collects only works of masters. Some even collects only teapots from a particular master.
it is good to collect with a purpose in mind, we should not ignore the fact that
each teapot cost us our hard earn cash . Therefore it would be wise to consider
the purchase of a teapot as an investment beside being just a teapot for drinking
tea or a display piece. No matter what teapot you intend to buy, it must be properly
crafted, no visible cracks, the cover should fit snugly and not wobble around
too much (although it may not be possible for commercial teapots) and the tip
of the spout, opening of the teapot and the handle should form a straight line.
Also, the teapot should feel right in your hand and easy to handle when brewing
tea. These are some of the basics you should look out for.
Sad to say, only those collectors in the last 2 categories have opportunities to recoup their costs or maybe made some profit when selling their teapots in future.
grade Yixing teapots are manufactured in large quantities and the source includes
many private factories, located in Yixing, other than the authentic source (Yixing
Zisha Factory 1). The market is flooded with such teapot and each are being sold
for a few tens of a dollars. Such commercial grade teapots are made from low quality
zisha clay and are of poor to average workmanship because it is mass produced
for use rather than display. So, who would want to buy your commercial teapots
unless it is going for a song?
when we consider the case of collecting masters' works, we are generally rewarded
with a teapot made of good quality clay and a design that's may or may not be
unique but crafted with superb workmanship. Furthermore, limited quantities are
produced for each design and the same design will not be repeated again! . The
norm is to made about 3 pieces for each design to allow for unexpected changes
during firing or breakage. If one piece changed shape or cracked during the firing
stage, the master is left with 2 pieces of which is available for sale to interested
collectors. Of course, the price of the teapot will be higher if it is the only
piece in existence. Many times, it is not uncommon to be holding the only piece
available and collectors have been known to snap at such opportunities. I have
also grabbed the opportunity to own such a teapot when the only piece of an award
winning teapot was made available for collecting (the other piece is in Zisha
Pottery Museum of Yixing).
Finally, one word of caution. No matter which category of collectors you are, you should collect only within your means . Budget carefully and do not overspend! That is very important because collecting teapots can be extremely addictive and in Taiwan, some collectors have been known to sell their houses and properties just to acquire some master's teapots (costing over hundreds of thousands of dollars) . Others have given up their jobs and families to pursue some dream teapots. Yixing teapots can be part of our life but we should not let it be all of our life.
DECORATED YIXING WARE
the long history of Yixing ware, the first piece to be recorded in texts is a
teapot by Gong Chun. Such pieces are popularly known as hua huo, which, in the
context of Yixing ware and for want of a better equivalent, may be translated
as "decorated ware". Current among Yixing potters, the term hua huo
denotes pieces whose forms are derived from nature, as well as pieces with naturalistic
or stylized decoration on the surface, as opposed to guang huo, "undecorated
ware" of vessel shapes with plain surfaces. Modeled entirely by hand, the
teapot by Gong Chun simulates the form of a knar of an old gingko tree, with the
spout and handle rendered as branches growing naturally from the body. The surface
of the teapot is not smooth, but depressed here and there with the thumb to convey
the rough texture of the knar. The effect is one of simplicity and refinement.
The teapot is at once an affirmation of the charm of a handmade object. Many and
glowing are the praises that have been heaped on it by connoisseurs of the past.
Because hua huo or decorated ware came into being early in the history of Yixing ware, and because the material of purple clay lends itself admirably to being modeled by hand, there are many outstanding examples of this type of Yixing ware. Decorated ware can be classified on the basis of form into the following categories;
(1) forms derived from nature;
(2) forms geometric;
(3) forms closely modeled on natural objects; and
forms derived from bronzes, jades, lacquer ware and articles in daily life.
derived from nature refer to those, which are inspired by entities in the vegetable
kingdom, such as pine, peach, fruit and nut, and those in the animal kingdom such
as birds, insects and fish. From close observation of these entities the potter
arrives at an apprehension of their existence in space and he transforms his concept
into the form of a vessel or object. The manner in which he effects this transformation
ranges from faithful to spontaneous, resulting in various degrees of naturalism
Geometric forms refer to those vessels which are of basic geometric shape, embellished with naturalistically modeled appendages (spout, handle, cover and knob) or ornamented with simple naturalistic or geometric motifs. This category of decorated ware retains its essentially geometric character when viewed from above or from the side.
Forms closely modeled on natural objects refer to those pieces which are copied directly from plant forms such as melons, fruit, nuts, lotus and lotus roots, or from animate objects such as insects and fish; they are further embellished with incised or carved details to enhance the illusion of reality. The aim is to achieve absolute or near absolute similitude. Such a degree of life-likeness is possible because the potter has at his disposal a range of colors of clay---the umbrella term purple clay connotes many shades of red, brown, buff, reddish-brown and brownish-red---from which to choose one that approximates most closely to the real object. It is no wonder that many examples of this category of Yixing ware are a tour de force of naturalism.
The fourth category of decorated Yixing ware consists of those objects, which take their form after, and base their decorative motifs on bronze vessels, jade carvings, lacquer ware and articles in daily life. These include censer, ding tripod, zun vase, basin, tray, leather pouch, bundle tied with cloth wrapper, and large square seal tied with wrapper and so on.
As with undecorated Yixing vessels, the basic form of decorated vessels is constructed by either the xiang shentong method, whereby square or hexagonal teapots are fashioned by luting together flat sheets of clay which have been beaten to the desired thickness, or the da shenton method, whereby round teapots are fashioned from a half-beaten piece of clay formed into a cylinder and further beaten with a spatula into the desired shape. The teapot is then embellished with incised, carved openwork or appliqued decoration. The plasticity of purple clay is such that the material is particularly suited to being modeled into fine decorated pieces. But dexterity in modeling forms is not the only prerequisite. To produce good decorated pieces, the potter musts be alert to certain technical matters in the steps subsequent to the fashioning of the vessels.
First, purple clay of different colors shrink at different rates in drying and require different firing temperatures. If the potter is not aware of these characteristics and does not take appropriate measures to accommodate them, technical problems would arise to detract from the quality of the pieces.
Second, teapots of unusual shape, such as those with a long spout and handle, are prone to becoming misshapen during firing. To prevent this from happening, it is essential not only to predict the points of stress in a piece, but also to correct any tendency to disequilibrium in the course of drying the biscuit. The drying should take place not in the open, but in a sheltered spot away from direct sunlight. The popular saying that a piece is "30 per cent making and 70 per cent drying" amply demonstrates the importance of the drying process in making Yixing ware.
Third, good kiln implements are an important element in the ultimate success of Yixing pieces. Large teapots should be placed on a plaque or a stand in the kiln to ensure that their base is flat and level, the draught thus created would prevent the base from cracking. Some pieces require specially fitted stands. Take, for example, a peach cup. Because its lower portion is covered with applied foliage, the cup cannot be placed upright in the seggar; neither can it be inverted because the stalk that supports the cup and from which the leaves grow rises well above the level of the mouth rim. The cup can only be fired on a specially designed stand, which would protect the shape of the mouth and ensure that the cup emerges from the firing with its equilibrium unimpaired.
Nature provides an inexhaustible fund of motifs to the Yixing potter. To create a decorated piece, the potter extracts and distills the essence of a plant or creature in the natural world and, through his creativity, transforms it into a work of art. Such a work has the power to enlarge and enrich the viewer's perception. A successful piece is one that embodies originality without contravening the canons of unity, vitality without violating the sense of harmony, and visual appeal without diminishing practicability. The potter S purpose is to achieve an overall aesthetic appeal through each aspect of the work: form, configuration, energy, movement, rhythm, resonance and spirit. A piece with the bamboo motif should express refinement and uprightness, conveying the aura of otherworldliness; the prunus motif should express inner strength, conveying a pride, almost a haughtiness that is undaunted by the harshest of physical surrounds. In using the pine motif, the potter should, through the hardiness inherent in its lasting greenness, convey energy, expansiveness and maturity. And by the peach motif, he should convey not only the enduring quality of the trunk, but the ever-renewing spring of life that brings into being and nourishes the spreading branches, the myriad leaves and the succulent fruit.
In concrete terms, the potter must pay attention to the object's overall effect and the relation of its parts. By overall effect is meant its physical presence and flavor; the parts refer to the spout, the handle, the cover and the decoration, all of which must blend harmoniously into a unified whole so that it is impossible to tell where likeness ends and flavor begins. In composition, the potter must consider the object's focus and the proportion of its parts, which must not take precedence over, but must serve to enhance the overall effect. Major decorative elements must be judiciously placed at locations, which command the viewer's attention. If the elements are well placed, they can be numerous without overburdening the object.
they can be crowded on one portion of the object and be sparse on the other, so
that the two portions neutralize each other. An example of this treatment is the
peach cup by Xiang Shengsi: half the cup is densely covered with stalks, tendrils,
leaves, buds and fruit, contrasting in a telling way with the other portion which
is spare of decoration. The effect is extremely painterly, the design giving the
impression of a finely executed painting in the gongbi manner. As a general rule,
designs composed of stalks and foliage, vines and melons, and flowers and fruit
should have a clarity of outline and give a coherent account of their intertwining
Nature endows decorated Yixing ware with an incomparably rich repertoire of forms. In addition, decorated Yixing ware has had in its service a steady procession of fine potters from the very beginning of its history, potters who not only raised technical standards but also made many outstanding stylistic contributions. Given such a splendid tradition, it would be possible for decorated ware to maintain its unique position in the general context of Yixing ware and to sustain its long-standing trend of development and innovation.
VEIN LINE YIXING WARE
The vein effect in the shape and decoration of ceramics dates back to the Tang Dynasty, or even earlier times. People made pottery by imitating the natural shape of plums, lotus, flowers, vegetables and fruits, as well as the form of bronze and jade wares.
combination of points and lines, originating from nature, was much appreciated
as early as the period when ceramics first appeared. For centuries, artists and
pottery lovers have shared the same pleasure and admiration pursuit of the vein
effect. Artisans continuously strive for new forms, while admirers cherished their
products as rare work of art. This enhanced the vein effect and perfected the
skills for creating it. Viewing the old and new works of the art of zisha pottery,
one feels that the effect is rigorous as precipitous mountains, graceful as floating
clouds and flowing water, and lovable as flowers. Its symmetry and variation give
an impetus to the development of the art of zisha pottery. The manifestation of
the vein effect can be divided into two kinds: vein ware and vein decoration.
Vein Ware - The exceptional advantage that zisha pottery enjoys include unique raw material which is fine and plastic like.
features provide condition for creating the light and shade of veins, and facilitate
the expression of vein effect on a zisha ware. Therefore, artists of successive
dynasties took advantage of the wonderful vein lines and the harmonious cutting
method to symbolize the structure of zisha pottery. As a result, vein ware stands
out among the numerous products of zisha pottery with its unique forms. Vein ware
comes in a number of forms. The pleasure derived from this kind of admiration
can only be sensed it cannot be explained in words.
Vein Decoration - If the vein ware is a spring in the long river of zisha pottery art, then the vein decoration will be the numerous ripples of this river because as a method of detail treatment, vein, decoration is widely used on pots and basins. Teapots can be shaped round, square or simply decorated.
decorating round and square vessels, the vein lines can form various and lively
geometric shapes, such as the circle, square, trapezium and triangle. Combined
with geometric ware, vein lines show curves and stronger individuality. They are
moving up down, fast and slow and full of melodies and rhythms. Borrowed from
many images in nature, they vividly depict and express floating clouds, running
water, swaying pines as well as rain, bamboo, birds and animals.
sum up, the vein line technique is actually the application to zisha pottery of
concave, convex, soft and hard lines used in the designing of ceramic shapes.
The unique property of zisha pottery leave much leeway for these lines to play
their roles. They can flame the whole vessel or decorate a specific part of the
designing of zisha pottery requires the width of lines to be appropriate, and
the lines themselves lively Only when angles and lines are made explicit and the
concave-convex relation symmetrical can the admirers feel a perfect combination
of substance and space. For example, when molding a teapot, potters should see
to it that the lid fits the body tightly and also turns around smoothly, which
means that if you turn the lid at wills, it always dovetails with the body. When
used for decoration, vein lines are required to suit the theme of the teapot.
How they are treated, whether made bright or dark, wide or narrow, concave or
protruding, reserved or unrestrained, dynamic or static is closely related to
theme. Appropriate decorations will make a zisha pottery ware look rich, forceful
and vigorous. They will give the work more artistic appeal by making it bright
but not dull, gaudy but not vulgar.
For hundred of years since its first appearance, the art of zisha pottery has been perfecting its shaping and decoration techniques. As a set of notes can create splendid music through different combination, the art of zisha pottery can also create elegant and beautiful works by arranging angles and faces in different ways. With the development of zisha pottery, the vein line technique will certainly be further improved.
CREATION OF THE QU TEAPOT
The purple clay "Qu Teapot" was design in early 1988 by Professor Zhang Shouzhi of the Central Arts and Crafts Institute and Wang Yinxian. At the time, professor Zhang came to the factory with some drawings of designs and wanted various craftsmen to work on them together. At the time, Wang was planning to make a streamlined type of teapot, and so they decided to work together. After some discussion and in depth study of the matter, professor Zhang and Wang decided to choose the snail's organic structure as the basic shape of the whole teapot.
Based on this concept, how to create a design that will achieve the ideal effect? The first step was to understand the snail's organic make-up and how it can be organically combined with the art of teapot making; how can one fully use the imagination to instill the essence of a living snail into a piece of art, to create a complete artistic effect? The second step was to choose the right purple clay: which one will give the ideal result? The finer type of purple clay would be more suitable because it has a mild and smooth tone; it is simple and elegant and can express the beauty of the snail's outline. Also, to have a lively shape, the tone must not be too light; it must have certain intensity and therefore presence. Third, what molding methods and crafting techniques should be used to achieve the effect of the design? This is the most important step (which includes creating specific tools and the methods for using these tools). Mounting the pieces together basically makes the Qu Teapot. Many of the pieces, once mounted, are shaped and blended into the whole piece. What is unique about this teapot is the shape of the handle, which breaks all traditional rules of purple clay pottery; it is entirely original in design. The handle has the same thickness as the opening; its outline is fluid and moving; the lines on the sides of the handle are connected to the lines of the opening to form a curved stick; the shape of the stick is full and distinct as if in the stillness, there is movement, and in the movement, there is strength.
thickness of the handle is irregular, depending on where it is attached to the
body. The top of the handle curve must not be too thick so that it can be picked
up easily. In general, the thickness of the handle must be just right in order
to add to the effect on either side of the teapot. The height of the handle must
coordinate with the weight and size of the teapot. To be able to balance the handle
and the body perfectly is an important part of the design, and it is also the
part that shows how experienced the craftsman is in his craft. Other than the
original handle shape, other special features rest in the detail parts which were
made with extra artistic touches, so that the points, lines and surfaces all blend
together perfectly. An example is the lid whose lines flow into the lines of the
opening; the shape is natural and the top part of the lid is shaped in response
to the handle which adds further balance to the entire piece and to the beauty
of the handle.
handle extends naturally from the opening and then comes down to unite harmoniously
with the body. From the mouth to the end of the handle is one continuous line.
The mouth extends from the middle of the body and expresses the life-like quality
of the climbing motion of the snail. The artistic design is natural and the whole
teapot best expresses the union of nature's beauty and the beauty of shapes. Another
special feature of the Qu teapot is the ratio of the space it takes up and the
empty space around it. Its body is round and its surface lines curve cleanly in
a clear-cut fashion so that its outline is clear, simple and pure, and displays
fully the beauty of the empty space around; this creates a wholly intriguing effect.
success of a perfect purple clay teapot is in reality, a combination of artistic
elements: the design, the materials, the process of making it, and also, the use
of clay and fire. If a craftsman of purple clay pottery only knows how to design
and make the pieces but does not understand the nature of his materials and the
changes they go through during firing, he cannot bring about the effect of the
The overall body shape of the Qu teapot has its source in the snail as a living organism. The whole body has only one line that runs through all its parts. The body and handle of the teapot together form the snail's shape. The lines and parts are continuously connected with one changing into the next, blending into each other perfectly and harmoniously. The outline is clear and simple, as if in the stillness, there is movement, and in the movement, there is strength. The empty space created by the shape of the mouth and handle is in proportion to the space taken up by the teapot, which emphasizes even more the beauty of its rhythmic outline. The creation of the purple clay Qu teapot broke all the traditional rules of purple clay pottery. It is a reflection and trial of today's art of purple clay pottery.
CRAFTSMEN OF YIXING
great many master potters emerged after the middle of the Ming Dynasty The best
known of them was Gongchun of the Zhengde reign. He was recognized as "Founder
of the Trade" by potters of subsequent ages. Works from Gongchun are of all
kinds and all so lovely. His fame even spread to Taiwan. Zhou Shu ever wrote:
"People in Taiwan were all brew their own tea. They would always pick up
a small amount of tea leaves and smell them before brewing, and they deemed the
Gongchun teapot as the very best" After Gongchun, there were the "four
masters": Dong Han, Yuan Chang, Zhao Liang and Shi Peng, and the "three
experts": Shi Dabin and his two students Li Zhongfang and Xu Youquan. In
the Qing Dynasty, we have famous potters like Chen Mingyuan, Yang Pengnian, Shao
Daheng, Chen Mansheng and Meng Huichen, etc. They were not only potters with superb
skill themselves. They also strove to bring up the next generation of zisha potters.
Shi Dabin one of the three greatest potters' after Gongchun, made outstanding
achievements in the history of zisha pottery also contributed a lot to the design
of typeform, pottery techniques and clay mixing. His work varied in form and was
noted for its elegant simplicity, right proportion and workmanship.
The Ming and Qing Dynasties were the golden age for the development of zisha ware with applied decoration. Talented potters in this period were numerous and brilliant works emerged in large numbers. Famous potters include Chen Ziqi, Chen Zhongmei, Chen Hanwen, Shao Daheng and Huang Yulin. Their works ranged from pots, basins, bottles, tripods and the "four treasures of the study' (writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper) to vegetables and fruits, each with its own style and artistic features. The galaxy of works of this period laid a solid foundation for the growth of zisha ware with applied decoration.
of zisha pottery, especially, the ware with applied decoration, owes greatly to
the top quality clay that Yixing exclusively produces and the valuable experiences
accumulated by the artists of successive dynasties. A perfect zisha work needs
a perfect conception, high quality clay, superb skills and also a rich knowledge
about firing. This what a zisha potter has to grasp. Nature contains inexhaustible
resources of artistic creation, especially for the creation of zisha ware with
applied decoration. In imitating natural objects, artists have to select the essential
and through artistic processing, create artistic works to enrich the spiritual
life of mankind. Therefore, artists should pay more attention to artistic variation
and unity, liveliness and harmony, practicability and aesthetics. When conceiving
a work, artists should see, to it that the best artistic effect is achieved with
its form, spirit, momentum and rhythm.
Chen Mingyuan of the Qing Dynasty was another outstanding potter who creates zisha ware with applied decoration. He was known for his superb skill and ability to make innovations. His masterpiece is a teapot in shape of trunk section with crooked handle) was vivid, unconventional and wonderful beyond description'. It brought to life the lovely plant braving frost and snow in winter. The excellent workmanship with which the pot was made reflected the level of designing and manufacturing techniques achieved at the time. With a. large number of wares with applied decoration to his credit, Chen Mingyuan is recognized as a great master in this field. Shi Dabin's works, it is said; only enjoyed royal favors while Chen's teapots were famous all over the world. Chen owed his achievements to the influence and enlightenment of his predecessors, such as Shi Dabin, Li Zhongfang, and Xu Youquan. In addition, under the reigns of Kangxi and Qianlong, people led a stable life, and culture and economy flourished. These conditions encouraged people to seek a life of higher calibre of a life enhanced by arts.
The reigns of Jiaqing and Daoguang of Qing Dynasty, is also known as the "Mansheng period" (a period named after the great potter Chen Mansheng). Being a calligrapher, painter, and seal engraver in his own right, Chen Mansheng was immersed in the art of zisha pottery. He often designed his own teapots which were then hand-made by master potters like Yang Pengnian and engraved with poems, calligraphy and paintings by his friends and colleagues, Jiang Tingxing, Guo Pinjiao Shuangquan and Tha Meishi, etc. Teapots thus made were generally known as the Mansheng teapot. Chen's long involvement had resulted in huge quantities of Mansheng teapots which demonstrated an extremely high artistic level, as evidenced by the numerous relevant historical references and the Mansheng teapot (to be distinguished from the many faked works) that have remained to date. Chen and his masterpieces, especially his artistic style, shall be subjected to further in-depth research. Subsequently Qu Ziye, Thu Shimei and Mei Tiaoding had all tried their hands on zisha teapots, with certain specimens of their work left till this day.
The involvement by the literate was bound to evoke widespread repercussions in society. The teapots they produced in cooperation with the potters were mainly for their own enjoyment. And of course, there were also those who were completely denied this enjoyment by their non-involvement. It was solely for this reason that coming to the late Qing Dynasty, zisha teapot shops began to employ noted artists, such as calligraphers, painters, seal engravers, to freelance in pottery engraving. They included names like Chen Maosheng, Chen Yanqing, Shen Ruitian, Lu Lanfang (artists whose calligraphy and paintings were circulating in large numbers in Yixing before 1966) and Han Tai a former stone tablet engraver.
The first professional pottery engraver in Yixing should be, perhaps, Shao Jinru, who was both a famous calligrapher, painter and a pottery shop operator. With him engraving became a separate process within the industry of zisha pottery. The participants were called "The Venerable Script Engravers" and were of a comparatively high social status in Yixing. The trade of pottery engraving was thus carried on to this day.
In recent years, based on traditional heritage, Yixing potters have opened up an entirely new field for zisha pottery. This contingent of potters is formed by 15 senior craft masters and over 30 craft masters and deputy craft masters. The most prominent of them, however, are Gu Jingzhou and Jiang Rong. Gu Jingzhou is already in his seventies, when this article was written (he has since passed away). He took up zisha pottery design, creation and research when he was 17. He is recognized as the "most distinctive artist in zisha pottery'; and "master of his generation". Skilled and experienced, Gu excels in imitation, innovation and 'potting. He maintains a consistent artistic style of his own and is knowledgeable on the history and masterpieces of zisha pottery. Jiang Rong, now 70, is the first woman master potter in Yixing. Her best works are those imitating fruit's and other natural objects with clay colour composition and application of her own. Her masterpieces, such as the "lotus flower teapot", "lotus's seedpod teapot" and "water melon teapot" are full of life and rural interest.
A large number of middle-aged and young potters have matured as a result of the training provided by veteran potters. Of the middle-aged group we have Cu Shaopei, Li Changhong, Shen Quhua, Wang Yinxian, Bao Zhiqiang, He Daohong, Tan Quanhai, Li Bifang, Lu Yaochen and others. Young potters include Liu Jianping, Jiang Jianxiang and Xu Weiming, etc. They try to emulate but not copy their predecessors, and strive for innovations on a wide range of themes. They have designed many zisha wares, with elegant style and ingenious conception. The Yixing potters spare no effort in making innovations and restructuring their product line from piecework to full, set oriented, from mid-range to high-end products, and to artistic masterpieces. The artists in Yixing, the pottery capital, are never content with their glorious history and great achievements. They are working harder to assimilate ether art forms and push the development of zisha pottery to a new high.
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THE ZISHA PARTICLES
Traditional zisha clay particles usually ranged from 0.2 to 0.3m/m in size.
with such particles size generally exhibits a beautiful mild rough surface, as
skillful masters are able to treat and mould the clay till they achieved a very
smooth surface. However, due to demand from collectors in Taiwan who crazed after
teapots with very smooth surfaces, the clay was treated to reduce the clay size
which allows others with less skills to produce similar quality teapots. As a
result, we witness the gradual loss of the traditional form of zisha pottery.
The size of the clay particles affect the properties of the zisha clay. Basically, there are 2 methods of processing the zisha clay; manual and machine. From the Ming Dyansty till recent "Mingguo" or Republic period (1600s to 1930) processing of zisha clay have been a manual process, which uses human power on timber tools to crush the clay. From 1931 onwards, the crushing tools were changed to a stone turn-stile push/pull by an ox. After 1958, machines were introduced and the particle size at this period were 0.3m/m. From 1959, new technology in the form of machines with the capability of crushing the clay to less than 0.15m/m were used. Such machines allow the input of raw clay at one end and output processed clay at the other end.
tabularised the clay particles size throughout history:
Mid-Song Dynasty (1500s): 0.7 - 0.5m/m
Early Qing Dynasty (1600-1700): 0.5m/m
Mid-Qing Dynasty (1800s): 0.3m/mCurrent manual-process clay : 0.3m/m
Current machine-process clay: 0.15m/m
By using special tools to hit the manually processed clay, a craftsman is able to force the protruding large particles into the mass thereby creating a smooth but thin layer of skin over the clay. Upon firing, the resulting teapot will have a surface that feels rough like those of a pear.
internal of the teapot which was not treated similarly will have a rough surface
and large pores with a water absorption percentage of 3 to 5%.
machine process changes the clay properties. Despite no changes in the way of
crafting the teapot and firing, the surface of such teapots no longer have the
rough surface, like that of a pear, and the water absorption rate drops to about
1%. The result of less porosity in the clay.
it affects the ability of the teapot to absorb tea particles. The higher the porosity
of the clay, the more tea particles are absorbed which helps to add more fragrance
to the tea that we brew. New teapots are no longer able to achieve that because
it porosity level is only 1% or less.
Ever wonder why old teapots made prior to 1960s are highly sought after? That's the reason. If you have one or more pieces, hold on to it tightly! You are not likely to be able to acquire similar pieces anymore if you let them go.
PROCESSING OF ZISHA CLAY
Raw zisha clay originated from the regions of "Wanglong" mountains near Yixing County. Although machines have already being used for processing of the clay since 1958, mining of raw zisha clay is still being carried out manually, due to the terrain conditions, and shipped to Yixing Zisha Factory for processing.
first step is to crush the raw clay into small particles and remove all the stone
particles with a bamboo sift. It is then placed into a trough of 16 ft square
and mixed with plain water. The mixture is left in the trough for a period of
time and subsequently relocated into another trough of 1 ft depth and left exposed
to the elements of weather. The hardened clay is then cut into pieces and sold
to interested parties.
properties of the above zisha clay however is not uniform. Some pieces have larger
particles while others are more fine. The price, of course fluctuate with the
quality of each individual piece. The going rate is about RM$1 per slab. No, do
not be mistaken, these slab are not yet ready for turning into teapots! The purchaser
needs to use plain water to soften the clay in a specially made trough (cut out
of a tree trunk).
next step is very tedious in which the craftsman have to use a large timber hammer
to hammer the soften clay repeatedly for about a day or two till it is shinny
on the interior when the clay is cut open. The processed clay is then stored in
a large clay container to maintain its softness, ready for use anytime.
last step is known as "yang-tu" or curing process. The clay container
is sealed so that the moisture does not evaporate. After a few days, the organic
matter on top of the clay decomposes and emits a sticky substance. This sticky
substance actually enhances the plasticity of the zisha clay allowing it to be
easily mould and remould into any shape and size. However, it is said that such
curing process does not goes on forever. There is an optimum time for curing after
which the plasticity of the clay actually retards rather than grow further.
Interesting? You bet! Lets now look at how a master goes thru a similar process, but on a smaller scale, to process his own clay.
A master chosing the clay, from the mountain, which he intend to mine.The next step after mining is to crush the clay in small particlesNext, the clay is grind into powder form.The powdered clay is then sifted to remove any large particles.Plain water and other substances are then added to season the clay.The last step is to hammer the clay, for up 2 days, till the you get a shinny interior when the clay is cut open. Most masters would stored the clay away after this stage, to cure it, for future use.
That's how zisha clay was mined and prepared for production. Most, if not all of the entire process is now mechanized. Although it is good for the mass production of teapots, the used of machines have changed the traditional properties of the zisha clay.
MY RESOURCE BOOKS
of you have requested for a list of reference materials on tea art and collecting
Yixing Teapots. To make the task more difficult, all of my books are written in
chinese. So instead of providing each individual with a very difficult to understand
list, I have posted the front covers of my reference books here so that you can
used them to search in bookstores within your country.
I have also compiled a list of books on the subject which I myself have not read before. Many of them are available in English translation:
John: CHINESE CERAMIC TEA VESSELS. The K. S. Lo Collection, Flagstaff House Museum
of Tea Ware. Hong Kong, 1991. 359 pp. 200 colour plates and illustrations. Bibliography,
appendix. 31x24cm. Text in Chinese and English. 200 objects are described and
discussed in far greater detail than in earlier publications. Also includes essays
on tea and tea-making in China, as recorded in texts, paintings and artefacts.
House Museum of Tea Ware: TEAWARES BY HONG KONG POTTERS. Hong Kong, 1989. 107
pp. 92 colour plates. 26x21 cm. Award winners and selected entries to a competition
to design tea wares held by the Museum of Art in 1989. Ranging from the classically
simple to the grotesque, they are ingenious and supposedly functional too. Text
in English and Chinese.
House Museum of Tea Ware: TEAWARES BY HONG KONG POTTERS. Hong Kong, 1993. 107
pp. 93 colour plates. 27x21 cm. Award winners and selected entries to a competition
to design tea wares held by the Museum of Art in 1993. Text in English and Chinese.
K. S: K. S. LO COLLECTION IN THE FLAGSTAFF HOUSE MUSEUM OF TEA WARE. Hong Kong,
1984. 179, 209 pp. English & Chinese text. 413 illustrations, 180 in colour.
2 vols. 25x22 cm. Part 1 contains all items in K. S. Lo's collection of teaware,
except for Yixing ware. Part 2 contains the purple clay or `zisha' of the Yixing
K. S: K. S. LO COLLECTION IN THE FLAGSTAFF HOUSE MUSEUM OF TEA WARE, PART 2. Hong
Kong, 1984. 209 pp. 271 objects illustrated, 90 in colour, numerous potters' marks,
text-figures. 26x22 cm. This volume on the K. S. Lo collection consists entirely
of Yixing ware, with a brief historical introduction.
Gerard C. C. et al: ANCIENT CHINESE TEA WARES. Hong Kong, 1994. 240 pp. 100 colour
illustrations. 29x21 cm. Catalogue in English and Chinese of an exhibition at
the Hong Kong Museum of Art, featuring 100 pieces selected from the collection
of the National Museum of History in Beijing. These tea bowls, ewers, cauldrons,
braziers, tea pots, canisters, etc range in date from 420 to 1911.
Foundation: CHINESE WORKS OF ART - YIXING TEAPOTS. Taipei, 1990. 192 pp. 107 colour
plates and illustrations. 31x22 cm. 108 teapots in Yixing pottery, including some
by the most famous potters. Preface by James Spencer. Text in English and Chinese.
House Museum of Tea Ware: YIXING PURPLE CLAY WARES. The K. S. Lo Collection. Hong
Kong, 1994. 182 pp. 118 objects illustrated in colour, some text illustrations
in colour. 28x21 cm. Catalogue of a travelling exhibition of 118 tea pots and
other implements. Introductory essay by Anita Y.F. Wong on the Yixing wares in
the K. S. Lo collection. Index with potters' names and dates. English and Chinese
Lady de: EXHIBITION OF CHINESE TEA WARE. Yi Xing Purple Clay. London, 1986. 25
pp. 20 b/w illustrations. 30x21 cm. The catalogue of an exhibition held at Hoghton
Tower in Lancashire. The pots illustrated date from the 18th century to the 20th
Peijin et al ed: COLLECTIVE WORKS BY CONTEMPORARY YIXING ZISHA MASTERS. Hong Kong,
1991. 406 pp. Profusely illustrated throughout in colour. 29x28 cm. Luxurious
publication on yixing pottery, based on some of the exhibits displayed at the
Rare Treasures of China Exhibition in Hong Kong. 541 objects by 167 potters are
illustrated and discussed, both in English and Chinese.
K. S: THE STONEWARES OF YIXING. From the Ming Period to the Present Day. London,
1986. 288 pp. 450 illustrations, 63 in colour. 39x19 cm. This is the first monograph
in English by a specialist on Yixing pottery.
K. S. et al: INNOVATIONS IN CONTEMPORARY YIXING POTTERY. Zisha Chunhua : Dangdai
Yixing Taoyi. Hong Kong, 1988. 271 pp. 196 colour plates and illustrations. Numerous
seal reproductions. 29x22 cm. Exhibition catalogue from the Hong Kong Museum of
Art of Yixing pottery and ceramics by contemporary Chinese potters. Includes description
of potting and manufacturing.
Many of the above books were previously sold in Hong Kong and some may be out of print already. I believe a couple are available online, so good luck in your search and happy reading.
GUIDE TO PRICING OF YIXING TEAPOTS
collectors and would be collectors of Yixing teapots are generally not familiar
with how Yixing teapots are priced. Following the market trend is not the answer.
In 1993 to 1994, prices of Yixing teapots reaches its all time high in Taiwan.
Master craftsmen like Luu Yao Chen, whose teapots were worth only a few hundred
dollars in the 80s were speculated till not less than $13,000!. In order to satisfy
the demands for Yixing teapots, Taiwanese dealers scout the regions especially
Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Japan etc. for teapots. Once a cache
is found, these Taiwanese dealers actually buy out the entire stock of a particular
design or in some cases the entire shop's teapots!. Because of this, the prices
of Yixing teapots rocketed almost everywhere.
the market cools down in 1996, many dealers and collectors were stuck with pieces
of teapots that were acquired at a much higher value than their actual worth.
One example is the horizontal handled teapot. 4 years ago, you cannot buy one
for less than $400. Now nobody wants it even at $150! Why? Because it is a commercial
teapot and there is no basis to support its price even at $150.
then are the basis on which the prices of Yixing teapots are decided upon? Personally,
I valued a Yixing teapot (by craftsman or master) based on the following 3 points:
- Workmanship is the heart and soul of a teapot. A poorly crafted teapot does not have life and will not appeal to anyone. However, having good workmanship does not mean that the pot will be highly sought after. No matter how well a teapot have been crafted, it will be worthless if it does not have the spirit.
- Clay quality is another important factor that affects the prices of a teapot. Some collectors are only interest in teapots made from rare and old clays. A typical example would be "zhu ni" clay which is theoritically extinct since the late 60s. Good quality clay makes the teapot comes alive. Lousy clay sinks a teapot. You can never find a teapot that is full of spirit but made from lousy clay.
- There is no denying the fact that every thing we paid for in this modern day society are more or less affected by "reputation". Similarly, master potters also have a reputation in the market. Grand Master Gu Jing Zhou teapot cost more than $10,000 in the market buy do you think it is 100 times better than a $200 teapot by a craftsman? No way! Yes, we would expect better quality clay, better workmanship (maybe), better detailings and better spirit (subjective), but would all of that comes up to 100 times better? Some masters have reputation that exceeds their actual skills others' teapots are priced lower and many but is of their superb workmanship. However, it is a matter of time before the prices for teapots by such masters increased with market demand.
the above, we realized that there are many factors that affect the price of a
teapot. Understanding the above points alone does not help at all if you do not
have some guide prices to compare to. Therefore, I have compile a general price
list of Yixing teapots by masters and craftsmen for you to use as a reference.
All prices are in US$.
RANK -----------------------LOW END ---------MID RANGE -----------HIGH END
Past Masters --------------below $8,000 ---$l2,000 - $18,000 ----above $20,000
Grand Masters ------------below $4,000 ----$6,000 - $10,000 ----above $10,000
Senior Masters ------------below $1,800 ----$2,000 - $4,000 -----above $5,000
Master Craftsmen ---------below $700 ------$800 - $1600 --------above $1600
Asst. Master Craftsmen ---below $400 ------$500 - $1200 --------above $1200
Craftsmen -----------------below $200 ------$400 - $800 ---------above $800
above is only applicable to the range of creative teapots where no more than 4
- 5 pieces were created per design or shape. The more pieces created, the lower
the price of each teapot. Not applicable for mass produced teapots which some
masters did in their early days.
This list should be used intelligently and as a guide only. If a grand master's teapot were to fall into the price range of the master craftsman, that does not signal a must buy. In fact you take double care to examine it because it maybe a fake! Set a price limit for yourself and judge whether a teapot is reasonably priced based on the workmanship, clay quality and reputation of the master. You shouldn't go far wrong with this approach.
ALL ABOUT ZHU NI CLAY
Zisha clay comes in many natural colours such as red, blue, green, yellow, white, black and of course, purple. The most common is purple. All the rest are of extremely limited quantity (other than red clay) and a number are already extinct. Zhu ni originated from a particular type of red clay and used to be in abundance till it went extinct in the 1970s. Now only a few potters are known to hoard some of this clay.
What then is zhu ni clay? Many collectors are confused over the difference between zhu ni and red clay. In chinese, "zhu" means red, therefore zhu ni and red clay means the same thing. The difference came about because the term "zhu" was used for red clay teapots before 1900s. Although they meant the same thing in namesake and even look similar, zhu ni and red clay are 2 completely different type of clay.
Creating The Zhu Ni Teapot
Water is the main component used to produce or segment out the zhu ni clay from the raw clay. Crushed red clay is first mixed in cold water and left in a trough to settle down. Due to the difference in weight of various particles in the clay, those with impurities will sink to the bottom and those with oily particles will float on top of the mixture. The best layer, which we call zhu ni, floats somewhere near the top of the mixture and is siphon off for use. This zhu ni layer has a particle size of between 140mu to 180mu.
Besides the normal contents found in other types of zisha, the most important component found in zhu ni clay is the high iron oxide content of between 14% to 18%. The difference in crystallization temperature and melting temperature of "zhu ni" clay is no more than 20 degrees apart, making it extremely difficult to control, which explains the high failure rate of "zhu ni" pots. Furthermore, zhu ni clay also have a high shrinkage rate of up to 30%. This often results in teapots that are deformed after firing. It does required some skills to produce a good piece of zhu ni pot.
According to teapot connoisseurs, zhu ni clay must be process in a traditional way and left to the elements for years, to cultivate its unique properties and fired in a Dragon kiln. Before 1960s, all pots are fired in Dragon kilns. Since a Dragon kiln takes days at a time to fire teapots, this period actually allows the zhu ni clay time to develop its special color and characteristics. Due to the shape of the kiln and materials used for firing, it is not possible to achieved an even temperature within the entire klin.
With the uneven temperature in the Dragon kiln, locating the zhu ni clay teapots in different locations, higher up or lower down near the floor of the kiln etc. will result in different colors to the pots, that may range from orange to blood red. It takes an experienced firer to stack the pots within the klin. These experts knows exactly where to place each type of pots to achieve the correct firing temperature. Therefore the demise of Dragon kilns also signified the demise of zhu ni teapots.
There is no such thing as a modern day zhu ni teapots. Such teapots are usually made from red clay that have been seived to achieve the finest particle size. Of course that is not the way zhu ni clay is obtained. The only true zhu ni clay teapots available now are those made from stocks of old zhu ni clay. However, a number of collectors refused to recognise that these are zhu ni teapots because it is not made traditionally and fired in a Dragon kiln. Definitely there are differences betweent these zhu ni teapots fired in an electric kiln and those fired in a Dragon kiln, but there are still great similarities in properties between the 2 types since both are of authentic zhu ni clay. To me, zhu ni is zhu ni, no matter when it was made.
Differentiating Zhu Ni From Red Clay
For the untrained eyes, it is extremely difficult or even impossible to tell apart a zhu ni teapot from a red clay teapot. Zhu ni clay has properties or characteristics that are distinctively different from red clay and can only be apparent after the pot has been used for some time. No one is going to let you use a zhu ni teapot for 6 months to confirm that it is indeed of zhu ni clay before paying up.Therefore I have listed below some pointers which you would give you some idea what to look for:
· zhu ni clay is extremely pure and does not contain any impurities because the water method was used to segmentate the layer of finest quality zhu ni from the raw red clay. You will notice that the zhu ni clay is homogenous with little or no foreign particles. It also exhibit have that "wet look" and silky feel. Zhu ni teapots may share the same characteristics despite being few centuries apart in age, but its surface properties maybe different. Pre-1850s zhu ni clay teapots usually have large particles size but those between 1850s to 1940s are extremely fine and under hotwater, the reflections of the surface of the pot is exactly like that of butter.
· Due to the tools used, zhu ni pots tend to have "crawl marks" on its surface. It can be seen when light is reflected off the surface at an angle, but you cannot feel it with your finger. Although such marks are also present in zisha teapots, it is more commonly seen in zhu ni teapots before 1960s.
· All zhu ni teapots are small in size because zhu ni itself does not have strong bonding strength as zisha. If you come across zhu ni teapots that are large in size, then you can be sure that some zisha clay has been added to "borrow" its strength.
The above points only served as a guide and if you think that just based on the above, it would be easy to recognise a zhu ni teapot then you couldn't be further from the truth. It take me 3 solid days to discover what constitue "crawl marks" on my zhu ni pots. To make matter worse, not all zhu ni teapots exhibit these telltale signs.
To a tea connoisseur, zhu ni teapots are a definite bonus because the extremely fine and pure clay has resulted in lower air cavities compared to zisha. This means that zhu ni has less ability to maintain the heat which in turns allow the fragrance of the tea to be more easily released. The result? A more fragrant tea!
How to use a Zhu Ni teapot
Due to its high shrinkage level, a zhu ni teapot when heated up with hotwater during brewing of tea tends to expand rapidly. Therefore, if hotwater were to be poured into the zhu ni teapot directly, without going round the exterior of the pot first, the sudden expansion of the interior clay surface will result in the zhu ni teapot exploding from the inside.
prevent the above from happening, the following steps can be taken prior to using
the teapot for brewing tea:
· Wet the exterior of the teapot and filled it with with cold water.
· Pour away half of the water and filled it up again with warm water (60 to 80 degree celcius), taking care to ensure that the water is pour in by going round the rim of the opening of the teapot so that the warm water also flows over the exterior of the teapot.
· Repeat the previous step but replace the warm water with boiling water. Cover the cup once it is full and rinse the entire pot with the boiling water.
· The pot is now ready for use. Remember, always pour in hot water by going round the rim of the opening of the teapot so that half the water goes into the pot and the other half rinse the exterior of the pot. Never pour hotwater directly into the zhu ni teapot.
collection is complete with at least a piece of zhu ni teapot. That is a common
phrase among collectors of Yixing teapots. Zhu ni clay teapot maybe one of the
most highly sought after teapot but it also happen to be the most difficult to
learn. Therefore, to really understand zhu ni clay you must lay your hands on
a piece of zhu ni teapot. To get a decent piece of zhu ni teapot however is very
difficult or almost impossible unless you live in Taiwan. Unfortunately, the prices
of zhu ni teapots in Taiwan is less than decent.
So, do you still want a zhu ni teapot?
THE DRAGON KILN
heard about Dragon kilns. But what exactly are Dragon kilns? Why are they named
as Dragon? Are such kiln transformation of the DRAGON?
is the combination of clay and fire. Because without firing, the clay wares cannot
be used at all. In fact firing is one of the most important process during the
creation of clay wares but was ignored by most people because the process has
been taken for granted. What most people do not know is that without proper firing,
there can be no good quality clay wares.
The name of the Dragon kiln is derived from the shape of the kiln. Dragon kilns are built along slopes of mountains. Shaped like a tunnel going up the mountain with numerous pot holes along its sides, ancient chinese named it as Dragon as they feel that's what a Dragon look like (refer to the photos on this page). The height of a Dragon kiln ranges from 7 to 7.5m with a length of between 40m to 60m. The numerous pot holes or air vents are used for firing and also observational purposes. The design of a Dragon kiln is just perfect for firing clay because the hot air that rises during firing will keep the top part of the kiln hot and dry. This removed the moisture in the clay and assist in the firing of the teapot.
According the archaeologists, the first kiln discovered in North Song Dynasty was in fact a small Dragon kiln. During the Ming and Qing period, zisha pottery are commonly fired together with other clay wares.
Dragon kilns that are designed specially for firing zisha teapots have 3 to 4 access doors and the height of the "body" is much higher than those designed for firing other clay wares. Teapots are stacked on layers of shelves of different sizes and height all the way to the roof of the kiln. When stack close together, these shelves protect the teapots from direct contact with the naked fire flame, which may result in unexpected color changes. These shelves are made from fire resistant clay and have a layer of fine sand on it to prevent the teapots from sticking on to it during firing. However, the lack of repairs to damaged shelving in the past have often resulted in unexpected changes to the clay known as "yao bian".
of a Dragon kiln commences from the furnace (at the lowest point) which removes
the moisture in the kiln. Next, fire is started, using dry twigs and timber pieces,
from the lowest pair of air vent (on either side of the kiln) and followed by
the next, moving upwards. The fire at each and various air vents are controlled
by whoever's pots is in that sector. The firer in charge will have to take care
to ensure that the temperature of the sector is kept within the limits otherwise
the pots will cracked, deformed or emerged with weird colors (yao bian).
Dragon kiln that have a length of 60 meters have a total of 10 sectors. Each sector
has 4 divisions and each division has 6 parts. Every part has 12 shelves. Therefore,
such a kiln has 2880 shelves. Since each shelf can hold 9 teapots, the entire
kiln can hold about 25920 pieces of teapots. No teapot merchant has the ability
to load a dragon kiln to its capacity for firing each time. Therefore, it is common
for merchants to rent sectors from the owners of Dragon kilns and fired their
pots when all sectors have been rented out. It is a waste of resource and fuel
to fire a kiln that is not completely loaded because all the air vents must be
fired whether there are teapots within or not otherwise the temperature in the
kiln would not be stable and the risk of drastic changes resulting in damages
to the teapots would be very high.
firing session lasts for ten days or so and it is partly because of this long
period of firing time that the teapots within developed certain unique characteristics.
Zhu ni clay teapots is one example. Also, teapots fired in Dragon kilns have some
identifying marks on them which is not difficult to find if you know what to look
for and where to look. Such telltale signs clearly indicates that the teapot is
most likely to made before 1960s, one of the ways to authenticate old pots.
Of all types of kilns used in the olden days, Dragon kiln had been used for the longest period of time. However, with the advances in technology, the last Dragon kiln in Yixing ceases fire in the 1960s and was replaced with electric kiln and tunnel kiln which uses coal and petrol as fuel.
THE SEAL CHOPS OF ZISHA TEAPOTS
ware from Ming period usually has chops or seals indicating the year of manufacture,
based on the reign of Emperors and does not have the seal chop of the maker on
it because each piece required the skills of a few artisans to complete it. Such
seals have either 4 or 6 chinese characters on it and defers in style and color
pigment used according to the era. This make authentication of porcelain wares
straightforward as the variables has been reduced.
Compared to porcelain wares, zisha teapots are usually marked with the initial or seals of the potter because only one person is required to complete a piece.
a result seal chops have been traditionally used to authenticate teapots. But
authentication process has been made complicated by the great variety of seal
chops used and lack of proper records. Also with the huge number of fakes or copies
in circulation, how is one to know whether a piece is fake unless there is an
orginal piece to compare with? Even till today, collectors and experts are still
arguing over the authenticity of the Gong Chun (the founder of modern zisha pots)
teapot, now in the Beiling Arts Museum.
Zisha wares, before it became works of art, was traditionally used for boiling water and cooking. These wares are unlike what we have today and does not have any chop marks.
It was only till Gong Chun, that signature of the maker first appears on the base of the pot. The earliest piece of zisha teapot ever found was from the grave of Wu Jing and it was made in the 12th year of Emperor Jia Jing. There is no signature of what ever form on this teapot. Seal chops are usually found on the base of the pot, base of the handle and the inside of the cap. Seals came into use only in the early Qing period. Before that, potters engraved their names on the bottom of the pot using bamboo knife. Seal chops came in all kinds of variety and shapes including drawings of animals etc. Some seals were chopped on the body of teapots such as those of Chen Ming Yuan. Again, all styles of the traditional Chinese characters were used and almost all pots including commercial pieces have some sort of chops on them.
In the early 1900s companies such "Tie Hua Xuan" and "Jin Ting Shang Biao" in Yixing and Shanghai engaged a number of renown potters, including Gu Jin Zhou & Wang Yan Chun, to make new teapots and copies of works of Ming and Qing masters. If the pot is a copy of past works, the potter would imprint his seal on the inner face of the cap as an indication that it is a copy. Chops of this era include seals that consist of patterns and no words, with English alphabets, mixture of Manchu and Chinese characters including those square seals with the chinese words "zhong guo yi xing" with or without flower patterns all round. Others with the Chinese words "yi xing zi sha" are also commonly found.
the 1940s to 1950s, wooden seals were used by a number of potters, which can be
easily recognized as the imprint of a wooden seal is different from that of a
metal or stone seal. It was also during this period that large production teapots
appeared, chopped with only a timber seal having chinese characters such as "shi
deng", "mei zhuan", "he mei" and "yang tong"
etc. No seals of the potter were present.
In 1955 when the zisha cooperative was formed, a round seal with the cooperative's name came into use. From the 1960s, when zisha teapots were being mass-produced for overseas market, teapots were chopped with nothing else but square seals with the chinese words "zhong guo yi xing". That's why it is generally recognized that teapots with such seals are from the 1960s rather than earlier because of the large number being produced.
course, there is every possibility for a pot bearing this seal to be made in the
early 1900s as such seals was not commonly used then.
this batch of mass produced pots include works of current craftsmen and masters
who also put their seals in the inner face of the cap. Therefore look carefully
the next time you go shopping for commercial Yixing teapots. Who knows, one of
the piece may be by a Master!
During the Cultural Revolution period from 1966 to 1976, potters were not allowed to imprint their personal seals on teapots. To resolve the problem of identifying the works after firing in cases of breakage or deformity, numbers were used to identify each potter.
can find the numbers in the inner face of the cap, which is embossed, and the
reversed on the based of the pot. Other than numbers, certain Chinese words were
used to represent a potter or a group of potters. Example: "tao gong"
was used to represent the entire research group of Zisha Factory, but it can also
represent a potter.
trend of "mingjia" (chinese term for all craftsmen and masters) teapots
commenced in the early 1980s when K.S Lo, of Hongkong, ordered teapots from Yixing
and specified that each and every piece (to be) made by a "mingjia"
must have the seals of these potters on the teapot. From then onwards, craftsmen
and masters gradually resumed the practice of imprinting their own seals on all
their works and prices of teapots no longer commands a standard price (regardless
of who make the piece) as in the case in the 1960s. The price of each and every
teapot is now based on the quality of workmanship and clay, the creativity of
the design, reputation of the maker and of course market demand.
the late 1980s when relationships between Taiwan and China normalized, Taiwanese
merchants decended on Yixing in droves. Fuelled by the demand of Yixing teapots
in homeland, these
merchants also went to other countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and
Hongkong to search for Yixing teapots. Once found, the entire stock of that particular
design or in some cases the entire shop would be wiped clean. Because of that,
prices of Yixing teapots rocketed everywhere, notably Taiwan, to a ridiculous
level. Some collectors are even willing to exchange a Volvo car for 2 pieces of
Master Wang Yin Xian's teapot.
Making copies of the seals of old teapots before 1960s were done using red wax pressed onto the existing seal and then imprinting it on the copy teapot. This results in a seal that is exactly the same as the original but slightly smaller. Modern day duplication of seals is done by computer, which produces an exact duplicate. Such seals have been known to deceive even the experts. That's the reason why authentication of teapots should never be based on the seal alone. Even the certificate of authenticity, first issued by the Zisha Factory in
was made useless almost overnight as fake copies surfaced within a very short
time. If you ever have the chance to tour China, do not be surprised that even
teapots sold by those roadside stalls have certificate of authenticity!
of potters on teapots have long been considered a unqiue characteristics of Yixing
zisha teapots. However, it has also resulted in great headache to collectors worldwide
when it comes to authenticating teapots. As a result of the lack of records of
the numerous works and variations in each piece of teapot done, collectors are
sometimes confused over the authenticity of a teapot especially when the seal
does not matched any of the known seals used by the potter in question. If the
potter is still alive, there is a very high chance that he has created a new seal
or have use a seal that was not recorded before. To complicate matter, not all
potters kept meticulous record of all the seals ever made and used within their
life time. There are even cases where a potter refuses to acknowledge a teapot
as his work even though the teapot display distinct characteristics of his workmanship.
Complicated? You bet it is and what you read above only skims the surface of the story. Although seal chops no longer play the No. 1 role in the authentication process, it still occupies a very important position in the process. Therefore, all serious collectors of Yixing teapots must have some basic understanding of the various kinds of seals used so that he does not have to keeping paying for his lessons.
ABOUT COMMERCIAL YIXING TEAPOTS
of every 1000 yixing teapots, about 90% are commercial grade and the remainder
by master potters. If you remember one of my articles, on the various types of
collector, mentioned that there is a category of collectors who specialised in
collecting only commercial grade Yixing teapots. What properties in these teapots
attracted collectors to it? Why would anyone appreciate teapots which are not
well made and are lacking in spirit? To understand what attract collectors to
commercial grade teapots, we first must understand the various types of commercial
pots in the market.
of the pottery works in Yixing are concentrated in a town called Tingshu. It is
here that the world's supply of yixing teapots are created. If you have been to
the place, you would have noted that the entire town is into pottery production.
Hundred of factories and workshops, large and small, are in the production of
clay wares which include not only teapots, but also many other clay products such
as flower vases, ornamental items, figurines etc. Of all these enterprise, the
Yixing Zisha Factory 1 is the largest of them all and the only one that is government-owned.
All other Zisha factories are privately owned and not recognised as an authentic
source for Yixing teapots, except for Factory 2 which was headed by Xu Han Tang,
Grand Master Craftsman.
the early days after Yixing Zisha Factory 1 was formed in 1954, the Factory produces
the bulk of the commercial grade teapots. There are also other sources of commercial
grade teapots which comes from the other factories and those small independent
workshops which are usually family business. Factory 1 produces commercial grade
teapots based on traditional designs but the others make theirs by copying from
popular pieces of works by past or current masters. Designs such as the "Baochun"
is one of the most popular design found in commercial grade Yixing teapots. The
entire place is open to anyone and you can place order for a batch of teapots
with a specific design with any of the workshops.
collector of commercial grade teapots do not simply goes for any teapots. They
are interested only in those pots that are made of good quality clay and the best
are those make in the 70s to 80s period. Yes, during this period very good quality
clay has been used to make commercial grade teapots. I have mentioned in another
article that "mingjia" pots did not come into the picture till the 80s
when KS Lo ordered batches from renown potters in Yixing. Prior to that, most
of the teapots produced are considered as commercial grade even if it is made
by very well known potters, including Gu Jing Zhou, who was a supervisor in those
days and only become a Master after ranking was introduced in the 80s.
same cannot be said of the other factories and independent workshops. Although
some cache of good quality clay was found on the surface in the early days, most
of the better types are all deep below ground level. With the formation of Yixing
Zisha Factory in 1954, all mining activities came under its control. All independent
miners are recruited to work for the factory and no one is allowed to mine for
their own purposes. In fact, without the machinery, it is not possible to access
the better quality clay below ground level. As a result, everyone has to buy clay
from Factory 1 and naturally, the factory reserved the best for their master potters
and the next grade for their commercial pots and the last grade is sold to outsiders.
I heard that the situation has changed in the last couple of years and Factory
1 do sell top grade clay to whoever can effort it now. Clay property is the basic
difference in quality between commercial grade teapots by Factory 1 and all other
Commercial grade teapots made prior to the late 80s have very poor workmanship. Many pieces cannot even pour water in a straight line while others have caps that are not level. Despite these defects, collectors still sought after them like gems in the early 90s. Those that are of quality clay and made in the 70s and 80s commands as much as 3 times their worth today! Despite the fact that all these are speculations and prices dropped subsquently in the late 90s, many of collectors still hunt for such pots because it is no longer available and compared to modern day versions, the clay quality is very much better.
what attracted collectors to commercial grade teapots are the clay quality though
the quality may be lacking. Although some pieces are of solid workmanship, it
is very rare to find pieces that are made to perfection let alone with the spirit.
Being mass produced, no potter is going to spend the time to carefully finshed
the details of the pot to a high level. More attention is placed on the exterior
finish of the pot than on the interior. The same can also be said of old commercial
pots prior to 1960s though it may be due to the lack of tools rather that the
norm in not finishing the interior of the pot to the same standard as the exterior.
Many tools that allowed potters to carve better or reach those odd corners were
not invented till the late 70s.
Old commercial pots appeal to collectors because these people believe that old pots made a better brew. In my article on zisha particles, I have mentioned that the manual processing of clay has resulted in the clay having a much larger particle size which in turn means bigger air pockets to trap tea particles. These diehards insisted on brewing tea only with old clay teapots and they are not too concern about the quality of the clay, so long as it is old, nor the workmanship of the pot. So, it is up to individuals to select what they like and appreciate.
most commercial pots are of much better quality because moulds have been used
to speed up production and ensure consistent works. Very complexed designs can
be mass produced with the use of moulds which also reduces production costs to
help the factories stay competitive. Although it is difficult to prove outright,
some of the factories or independent workshops have been known to use clays other
than zisha to make teapots and claimed that it is a Yixing zisha teapot. The most
commonly substituted clay is Zhejiang clay which does look a lot like Yixing clay
because it came from the same mountain range where zisha was mined. It is possible
to tell the difference if you are experienced but most people are not, especially
westerners. Some even add just 1% of zisha clay (if they really did add in) and
claim the pots as Yixing zisha teapots. Such teapots are miles apart from the
quality clay commercial teapots mentioned above.
Although I have always preach that only masters' pots are worth collecting, there is no denying that certain commercial grade teapots that are made from high quality zisha clay are worth collecting, if the price is cheap or reasonable. Teapot of good quality clay makes a solid cup of tea regardless of whether it is commercial grade or master grade.
THE ART OF "COPYING" YIXING TEAPOTS
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.
However, other than monetary gains, there are other reasons for copying a work
of art, listed below.
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:
Listen to the master's explanation of variation techniques and his on the spot demonstration of how to do it.
Copy the master's works, who will be on hand to rectify and impart the finer details.
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.
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
A unique situation took place in the 1920s to 1930s. During this period in Shanghai, a group of Yixing dealers grouped together and planned to produce copies of master works. With their ample knowledge about Yixing teapots and financial backings, they are able to organize the production of copies on a large scale and manipulated the mass media to their advantage. A large number of renown potters of that period, including Gu Jing Zhou, Wang Yan Chun, Zhu Ke Xin, Wu Yun Gen etc. were employed to produce copies of pass masters' works. Based on original pieces, the pots that were produced were either direct copies or self creations. These new creations bore the seals of past masters and were later publicized to be actual works of pass masters. These employed potters were offered better terms to encourage them to produce top quality works and as a result the copies produced were excellent pieces of works, though there are fakes.
the late 80s, the increase awareness and appreciation level of tea and teapots
in Taiwan brought about the increase in demand for Yixing teapots. As a result,
groups of undergound potters numbering 2 to 3 in each group appeared in Yixing,
making copies or fake pots. They copies strictly for monetary gain and have sales
outlets in and around Tingshu County, Suzhou and WuXi. There are all sorts of
copies such as:
the unskilled copying the skilled potters' works
students copying the works of their masters, including the seals
potters producing substandard copies of their works
order to maximize their gains, these potters produce substandard copies of pass
masters' works and sell them at a much lower price to attract those who are not
well versed in Yixing teapots. They copied everything, regardless of whether it
is an old or new designs. Some even uses computer scans of masters' seal which
makes authenication more difficult, while others uses timber seal chops to date
teapots. Others specialised in creating old teapots by using a proven set of procedure.
These people have done more harm to the entire industry than they can imagine.
So successful is their venture that almost 80% to 90% of the pots you see in any
teapot shops belong to this cateogory. Many collectors cannot progress in knowledge
because all their life, they are only able to come into contacts with fake pots!
The next category are those copies which are done openly and not for monetary gains. Examples of these are the "shui ping" teapots bearing the name of "Hui Meng Chen". There is no intention here to copy or produce fakes on Meng Chen's works but rather, due to political reasons, Meng Chen's name was chosen for use on such a range of teapot.
Other range of teapots such as the "Longdan" teapots are commonly chopped with a square seal bearing the words "Shi Da Bin". These pots cannot be considered as copies or fakes but rather the seal chop used is more as a brand name rather than indicating who is the maker. In fact, you can normally find the seals of the current maker on the inner face of the cap or below the handle.
presence of copies have created serious problems for authentication of teapots.
The information provided by history and records, on the teapots being described,
are important sources which can assist us in the authentication of old pots. But
such records are still insufficient as viewpoints of the person, who did the recording,
maybe be biased resulting in inaccurate records that may mislead others. Without
a original piece to act as a basis for comparision and the indepth study of a
particular potter's works, it is not possible to produce an accurate authentication
of any pot. How can we authenticate Gu Jing Zhou's pots if we have never even
see a real piece? Due to limitations in recordings of history, gaps in the history
of renown potters have created loopholes which are exploited by some who produces
fakes and created their own stories and history for the fake pots.
old pots which have great historical or artistic values, it is important to determine
the actual period which the potter live. That is when he was born; when he start
producing teapots; when he stopped producing teapots; and when he passed away.
This helps to authenticate a pot that bears his workmanship or seal because fake
pots makers may not know the exact period the potter lives and as a result created
a loophole which assist us in the authentication process. Some people even suggested
that one of the methods of authentication is to base on the opening size of the
hole in the pot. Well, it does helps a little bit since pots made before Mingguo
period (before 1911) mostly have a big hole to the entrance of the spout within
the pot. Those after than period have multiple small holes. In the 70s, a round
globe with multiple holes were introduced to cover the hole, based on a Japanese
technique and commonly known as "golf ball".
Jing Zhou, who carried out a study on copies, produced the following observations:
"Pots that copied Ming period works have far more superior standard of finishings and worksmanship than the original pieces, because science, technology, tools etc are more advance than before, allowing better works to be produced. However, no matter how skillful these copycats are, they are not able to reproduce the spirit of the original pieces of works of masters in the early to mid-Qing period, especially those of Chen Ming Yuan, Shen Shi, Sao Da Hen etc. Despite this, such copies still have their value if you do come across them. They can be consider different from the fakes of modern days which are produced mainly to cheat collectors".
Copies and fakes, they are actually one and the same. Many traditional designs created in the Qing or Ming period has been copied by almost every known potters in history. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that a teapot, so long as it is well crafted, of good quality clay, have the spirit, can be considered worthy of collecting regardless of who made it. Of course, I only say it is worthy of collection, as to whether it has any or much value, that depends upon who made it and the market forces.
UNETHICAL SALE TACTICS OF YIXING TEAPOT MERCHANTS
am sure many of us have come across high end Yixing teapots costing thousands
or even tens of thousands of dollars. Can any teapot worth so much? Where is the
logic in the pricing? Isn't it speculation on par with the share market? In fact,
the most important reason why such teapots cost so much nowadays are the result
of tactics used by teapot merchants. Though collectors and even potters themselves
are equally guilty of similar schemes, it was the teapot merchants who are the
most guilty. As a Yixing teapot collector, understanding the various tactics used
would help us from being the next victim. The following 11 tactics were contributed
by collectors who fall prey to it.
use of the typical collector's (human) urge to own limited edition pots make by
high caliber craftsmen, teapot merchants created demand for the works of a select
number of highly skilled master craftsmen by promoting them. Most collectors stick
to one or two merchants for their supply of teapots and tends to believe much
of what these merchants said. As a result, collectors get the impression that
a particular potter is very famous and his works are highly sought after. He therefore
would not hesitate to hand over his hard earn cash, not realizing that in some
cases the pots are not even consider as the representative work of the potter
and therefore not of excellent workmanship.
Merchants joined forces with potters and make use of the mass media, such as teapot magazines, to promote relatively unknown potters. Such potters are usually described as being young, highly talented and his works were collected by many. This create a false impression that the potter's works are worthy of collection.
merchants got heads over heel with the possibility of making handsome profits
from reknown potters and invest heavily in pots make by relatives or students
of famed potters. They then promote these potters without caring whether the quality
of the pots are up to the required standard. Such merchants caused chaos to the
teapot market as the pots they promoted almost always are generally not as good
as they claimed.
the early 90s onwards where demand for Yixing teapots were at its peak, some (or
a number of) potters forsake the art form and went for monetary gains. If one
member of the family produced pots that are highly sought after in the market,
the entire family goes into production and all pots made were chopped with the
seal of the popular potter. Both the potters and the merchants made handsome profits
from selling such pots. All these are done without consideration of whether the
quality of the pots commensurate with the price and care for the consumers.
a result of the escalating prices of teapots, unethical merchants joined forces
with some sub-standard potters to purchase an authentic piece of work and mass
produce copies of it. Many new collectors or those who lacked the required knowledge
fall prey to such low quality commercial copies, which of course are promoted
as having high standard and quality by the merchants.
demand and speculation for teapots push prices beyond reason and enable potters
to make large profit margins. Imagine that in China where the average income in
the town like Yixing is only about RMB$600 per month, these potters are selling
their pots for thousands of dollars per piece! In fact many pots are made by students
and chop with the seals of their masters to maximise their profits. Therefore
understanding a master's works is the only way to weed out such pots. The situation
came to light after some experienced collectors noticed that pots bearing the
seals of some masters does not conform to their usual styles.
capitalized on rarity of old pots, many merchants engaged potters (usually independant
or of low standard) to produce copies of popular old teapots and treated to look
like old pots. As most people seldom have a chance to handle or even come across
old and rare teapots, it is easy to sell such pots to them so long as the pots
bear seals of famed masters of past and looks "old". That's why I always
say never depend on the seals to determine the maker of the pot! To authenticate
a pot, it should be considered as a whole which means the workmanship, clay properties,
seal and spirit must conform to the known qualities of that particular potter
before a piece can be considered his work.
of demand by teapot merchants is by far the most the most effective way for them
to make handsome profits and clear pots which are not popular. Example, stories
such as a Mr. A who has a lot of masters' teapot but he refuses to sell despite
attractive offers from others, or Mr. B who spends a few hundred dollars to buy
a particular high end pot and then resell it to Mr. C for at an even higher price.........etc.
are cooked up by merchants to create the demand which never existed! Such tactics
played on the greed on human nature who tends to be more interested in pots which
are very popular. This is the main tactic used during the early half of 1990s
which caused the prices of teapots to reach a totally ridiculous level in Taiwan
and even Hongkong.
targeting consumers, merchants even spread rumours about each other and try to
spoil the market for another when he is not able to share a piece of the cake.
Example, when merchant A has connections that let him obtain highly sought after
pots, merchant B gets interested and wants a piece of the action. However, without
the connection, he is not able to get the pots and as a result he started rumours
about merchant A or forked out a sum to buy a piece and then resell it at a much
lower price and cause confusion to the market. However, such tactics only results
in harm to the entire teapot market as collectors loses confidence and at the
end of the day, everyone ends up the loser!
A sells a pot to collector B for $4,000 and then get merchant C to buy the pot
back from collector B for $6,000. Merchant A next sell the same pot to collector
D for $10,000 and split the profit with mechant C. Confused? No, it is a very
simple tactic actually and is commonly use to raise the price of works by a potter
example - collector A & B are good friends and combine their financial power
to speculate on the works of a particular potter C. They made use of the media
and other forms of advertising to publicize the skills of potter C and express
their interest to buy any of his works. As a result, merchants went sourcing for
such pots and the prices of potter C's pots shoot up skyhigh. Many collectors
jumped on the wagon and started hoarding the potter C's works also, in the hope
of making a profit later. With the market scarce of potter C's works, our collectors
A & B start to released their own collection of potter C's pots which by now
would have been speculated to worth many times the price they bought it for. The
losers are of course the other collectors who follow the crowd blindly and paid
high prices for the pots. When the market collapse, many of these collectors disappeared
from the scene, totally dejected with the idea of collecting Yixing teapots.
than masters' works, some merchants started speculating on earlier day teapots
such as those made in the 60s to 70s period. As a number of such pots are meant
for export, it is of commercial standard and hardly considered as worthy of collection,
even though some are made by renown masters of that period.
A markets his 4000 pieces of such EDT (early day teapot) in as many as 20 locations.
He then brats about the quality of such pots to merchant B who buys 3 pieces.
When collector C visits merchant B and get attracted to the EDT and buys a piece
at high price, merchant B gets the impression that the EDT has got a market and
profitable. When he decide to get more stock from merchant A, merchant A tells
him that such pieces are extremely popular and he got to hunt for it to supply
him. A few days later, merchant A contacted B and tells him that he managed to
source 10 pieces for him and because of their good relationship, decides to allocate
a piece for him but only at a price many times the original. Merchant B was also
told that if he does not want it, there are many others waiting for it. Merchant
B gets tempted even when the price level is beyond reason because he is under
the impression that it is rare and highly sought after, and as a result falls
for it! Merchant A distort the entire demand of the market for his own selfish
gains which in turn mislead collectors into collecting pots which are not of good
quality. Some even went to the extend of creating series of teapots and encourage
collectors to get the entire set or series on the misconception that the set would
worth more if sold complete.
tactic used by merchants, collectors and even potters themselves, is to make use
of dealers down the supply line to create demand. A collector who has a piece
of Chen Ming Yuan's (CMY) pot in his collection, had discussions with many collectors
and dealers. During such exchanges, he brats about the superb quality and spirit
of CMY's pot and expressed that he is even willing to sell his entire fortune
in exchange for one of CMY's pot. Since there is only one piece known to exist,
such a remark is not unreasonable. The news spread far and wide. 3 years later,
one of the collectors found the piece of CMY in question and bought it, as he
consider the price reasonable?!. After that the market was flooded with copies
of this CMY pot to the extend that advertisement of the same CMY appeared simultaneously
by different merchants. Who is holding the actual piece then? You tell me.
last but not the least tactic is used by collectors. These collectors had, through
their inexperience in the early years, collected a large number of fake teapots
or early day teapots which are worthless today and to make matter worst, they
paid high prices for them. Making use of certain events or exhibitions, these
collectors band together to offer these worthless pots to the unsuspecting public
who visited such events and exhibitions. As such events are generally publicize
over the mass media, the pots sale get much pubilicity and gives the wrong impression
that the pots are worth buying.
matter which tactics have been used, it mostly prey on the greed of human kind.
Such tactics tend to be very effective since most people, especially collectors,
would not want missed out on a bargain. Some collectors buy because they gamble
that they have a 50/50 chance of getting a real piece! How many real pieces are
available for you to get, by chance? Other tactics prey on inexperience collectors
who tends to be gullible and believe everything the merchants said, especially
when teapots are being snapped up right in front of their eyes.
I have came across a number of the above tactics and even fall into some of them. But that is in the past and I am wiser now because I have already paid for my lessons. How about you? Have you paid for your lessons?
HOW TO STORE TEA LEAVES
For the sake of transporting and storing till it is sold, tea leaves are generally processed to a very low degree of moisture content. As a result, it easily aborbs mositure or other unpleasant flavors. Once it aborbs moisture, the tea leaves will react and turn mouldy especially if the moisture content is high. According to a source, moisture absorb by the tea leaves reaches 10% of it weight within one hour of being left in the open and more if left overnight. In fact, even with an air-tight container, if you open it as often as you drink tea, otherwise the moisture level could approach more than 10%!
the early days when tea production level is low, good quality tea leaves are difficult
to come by. Since tea leaves are harvest (perferably) only once a year, it is
normal for the peasants to buy a large amount of tea leaves in one go to ensure
that they have stock to last till the next harvest. Therefore, if the tea leaves
are not stored carefully, it would turn bad within a short time. That is the reason
why Chinese places such emphasis on the art of storing tea leaves.
of the importance place on storage of tea, Lu Yi (the author of "Cha Jing")
invented a storage container with a special compartment (away from the tea leaves)
for placing some charcoal. In cold and wet weather, charcoal are heated and placed
in these special compartments to keep the tea leaves dry and properties unchanged.
modern day method of storing tea leaves is in metal containers that have double
caps, the same principles apply. Tea leaves should not be kept wrapped in paper
as paper also have moisture contents which can be easily absorbed by the tea leaves.
It is best to separate out a portion of the tea leaves for normal daily consumption
and replenished from the main container when it runs out. This should help lower
the chance of your main stock of tea leaves being exposed frequently to air and
moisture. These containers should be placed on a table in a well ventilated and
cool room such as your living room. Never place it in high humidity areas such
as the kitchen and outdoors or in areas where there are heavy odours such as medicine
or perfumes. Do not put the container on bookshelves or in wardrobes.
Once you have purchase some tea leaves, stored then into a metal container immediately. Never leave it till the next day, by then it is too late already. For 100% protection against exposure to air, seal the edges of the cover with scotch tape.
WHO IS WHO
LIST OF CURRENT MASTERS FROM YIXING ZISHA FACTORY 1
A list of current masters from Yixing Zisha Factory 1, in English!
NATIONAL GRAND MASTER CRAFTSMAN
Jing Zhou (deceased)
Luu Yao Chen
Tang Quan Hai
Xu Han Tang
Xu Xiu Tang
Wang Yin Xian
GRAND MASTER CRAFTSMAN
Gu Shao Pei
He Dao Hong
Li Shou Chai
Zhou Gui Zhen
Gu Zao Pei
Li Chang Hong
Pan Zhi Ping
Xie Man Lun
Xu Cheng Quan
SENIOR MASTER CRAFTSMAN
Chao Wang Fen
Chen Jian Ping
Chu Li Zhi
Fan Hong Quan
Fan Yong Lang
Ge Ming Xian
Gu Dao Long
He Ting Chu
Ju Li Zhi
Li Bi Fang
Lin Xi Chen
Liu Hui Da
Liu Jian Ping
Mao Gu Qiang
Shao Xin He
Shen Han Sheng
Wang Shi Gen
Wu Qun Xiang
Wu Tong Fen
Xia Jun Wei
Xian Zhong Yin
Xu Da Ming
Yang Jin Fang
Zhang Hong Hua
Zhang Qin Chen
Zhou Zun Yen
Chao Zhi Ping
Chen Le Lin
Chen Guo Liang
Chu Ji Quan
Ding Hong Shun
Fan Jian Jun
Fan Qi Hua
Fan You Lan
Fan Yu Lan
Fan Zhao Da
Fan Zhi Zhong
Gao Hong Yin
Gao Jiang Fang
Gao Li Jun
Ge Tao Zhong
Hu Yong Chen
He Liu Yi
Jiang Chun Fang
Jiang Jian Xiang
Li Hui Fan
Li Mei Jin
Li Yi Shun
Liu Feng Yin
Luu Jun Jie
Ni Shun Sheng
Si Siao Ma
Si Siu Chun
Su Dan Sheng
Su Fen Yin
Tang Yong Chai
Wang Zhi Yin
Wang Gui Fen
Wang Shen Di
Wang Zhi Kang
Wang Zhen Guo
Wu Ya Ji
Wu Gou Hua
Xia Juan Qi
Xu Jian Guo
Xu Wei Ming
Xu Xue Quan
Xu Yen Chun
Xu Yuan Ming
Ye Hui Su
Yi Xiang Ming
Zhang Qin Chen
Zhang Saw Kun
Zheng Qiu Chai
Zhou Ding Hua
Zhou Ju Fang
Chuan Yu Lin
Chen Jian Ming
Chao Yan Ping
Don Kai Sheng
Fan Nai Zhi
Fan Li Hua
Fan Long Xian
Fan Ya Di
Fan Ya Qun
Fang Li Ming
Feng Xu Mei
Feng Xin Hua
Feng Hong Zhen
Gao Jian Hua
Gao Shen Sheng
Gao Xiang Jun
Gu Hui Jun
Gu Zhong Nan
Gui Zhi Yun
Hui Yi Ping
Jia Mian Fan
Jiang Chai Yuan
Jiang Hai Ming
Jiang Jian Jun
Jiang Xi Juan J
iang Yen Pin
Jiang Yi Hua
Kong Hui Yin
Lao Wei Sheng
Li Wen Jun
Li Yuan Lin
Liao Ming Long
Liao Xi Jiu
Liu Wei Qing
Liu You Liang
Lu Hong Wei
Lu Wen Xia
Luu Dai Lin
Ma Xin Qun
Qiang De Jun
Qiu Yu Fang
Pang Siao Zhong
Shen Loang Di
Shi Shun Qiang
Shi Siao Ming
Shi Ke Qun
Shi Xue Ming
Shi Ya Qun
Shi Yin Zhi
Shen Ju Fang
Su Hong Jun
Tang Die Wei
Tang Liu Qun
Tang Wen Hua
Teng Yao Niang
Wan Ken Fa
Wang Hong Jiang
Wang Fu Jun
Wang Zhou Feng
Wang Siew Fang
Wu Kai Shi
Wu Sheng Da
Wu Ya Ke
Wu Zi Wan
Xu Rui Ping
Xu Xin Mei
Xu Yong Jun
Xu Siew Wen
Yang Yi Fu
Ya Lin Xiang
Ye Hui Fen
Yong Yao Jun
Yuan Ming Feng
Zhao Hong Sheng
Zhang Jian Sheng
Zhang Shen Long
Zhang Shu Lin
Zhang Yao Jian
Zhang Zhen Zhong
Zhang Zhi Qiang
Zhou Han Qiang
Zhou Qin Da
Zhou Li Hua
Zhou Siao Qun
Zhou Zhi He
Zhao Zheng Jun
Zhu Jian Ping
Zhu Ge Mian Xian
Zhu Qiu Ping
Zhu Qun Wei
Zhu Xin Hong
The above list is by no means complete and meant for your reference only. I would not be responsible for any errors or omissions since it is compiled from other lists. This list will be updated as and when necessary to include those that have been left out or recently promoted.
LIST OF CURRENT CRAFTSMEN FROM YIXING ZISHA FACTORY 1
Finally, after some tough searching and compiling, the list of current craftsmen is more or less completed.
Bao Hong Hua
Bao Lan Fen
Bao Min Xia
Bao Yan Ping
Bao Yu Mei
Bao Wen Jun
Bao Xiao Fen
Bao Zhi Juan
Chai Wei Ya
Chai Yao Juan
Chai Yu Qun
Chai Yun Niang
Chang Hong Ming
Chang Ji Qun
Chang Jian Zhong
Chang Xiao Jian
Chang Ya Jun
Chao Jian Guo
Chao Su Feng
Chao Yan Feng
Chao Ya Fen
Chao Ya Ping
Chen Ai Guo
Chen Feng Xian
Chen Guo Fang
Chen Guo Zhiang
Chen Hua Fen
Chen Hui Fang
Chen Jin Fen
Chen Jian Ya
Chen Ju Hua
Chen Li Yun
Chen Lui Fang
Chen Mei Hua
Chen Mei Zhen
Chen Shun Shen
Chen Wei Ming
Chen Wen Lai
Chen Xi Fang
Chen Xiao Xian
Chen Yi Qun
Chen Yu Fen
Chen Yu Mei
Chen Yuan Fang
Chen Zhi Fang
Chen Zhi Hua
Chin Mu Yun
Chu Ming Xian
Cui Wan Yin
Dai Jin Di
Dai Wen Jun
Dai Yong Zhang
Dong Chai Fen
Dong Rui Ping
Dong Ya Fang
Dong Yi Min
Fan Chui Lian
Fan Gong Mei
Fan Guo Yun
Fan Hong Yin
Fan Jian Fen
Fan Jian Hua
Fan Jian Fang
Fan Jian Rong
Fan Nian Feng
Fan Qiu Gu
Fan Rong Xian
Fan Shun Fen
Fan Shun Xian
Fan Wei Qun
Fan Xiao Fang
Fan Ya Qun
Fan Ya Zhi
Fan Yi Juan
Fan Yue Hong
Fan Zuo Hua
Fan Zhi Chiang
Fang Eu Qun
Fang Hua Ping
Fang Hui Qun
Fang Li Hua
Fang Li Ming
Fang Qun Ping
Fang Rong Xian
Fang Xiao Long
Fang Wei Qun
Fang Wei Xin
Fang Ya Yun
Fang Yi Hua
Fei Yuan Wen
Feng Hong Mei
Feng Hong Zhen
Feng Ji Hua
Feng Jin Mei
Feng Qun Fang
Feng Su Juan
Feng Xi Xian
Feng Xu Me
Feng Yu Lan
Gao Chao Long
Gao Dan Feng
Gao Hong Yun
Gao Jian Zhong
Gao Ke Ren
Gao Lin Yun
Gao Xiang Juan
Gao Xiao Yun
Gao Yong Chang
Gao Zheng Yu
Gao Zhi Juan
Gu Ai Hua
Gu Chun Hong
Gu Feng Juan
Gu Hong Zhen
Gu Hua Fang
Gu Hua Ping
Gu Ji Hua
Gu Jian Mei
Gu Jian Zhong
Gu Li Ping
Gu Lu Dan
Gu Le Jun
Gu Mei Di
Gu Mei Fang
Gu Mei Jun
Gu Mei Ping
Gu Mei Qun
Gu Shui Xian
Gu Shun Di
Gu Shun Chen
Gu Si Xian
Gu Wei Fen
Gu Xiao Yin
Gu Xue Juan
Gu Ya Jun
Gu Ya Nan
Gu Ye Fen
Gu Yu Hua
Gu Yue Hong
Gu Zheng Hua
Gu Zhong Nan
Guo Mei Yun
Guo Li Ping
He Hong Shen
He Yan Ping
He Yu Qun
Hu Hong Fen
Hu Mei Fen
Hu Rui Hua
Hu Siu Qun
Hu Xiao Hong
Hua Xiao Qi
Hui Zhi Pei
Jian Ju Ping
Jiang Ao Shen
Jiang Chuan Wei
Jiang Feng Yin
Jiang Hua Yan
Jiang Hua Xian
Jiang Hui Juan
Jiang Jian Hua
Jiang Jian Ming
Jiang Jian Hong
Jiang Jian Jun (Jiang Zhen)
Jiang Jin Feng
Jiang Ku Fang
Jiang Jin Min
Jiang Li Wen
Jiang Li Jun
Jiang Mei Yin
Jiang Meng Jun
Jiang Qun Fang
Jiang Shen Jun
Jiang Su Wan
Jiang Su Xi
Jiang Xiu Juan
Jiang Xi Juan
Jiang Xiao Hui
Jiang Xiao Qun
Jiang Ya Qun
Jiang Ya Ping
Jiang Yi Ping
Jiang Yun Fang
Jiang Yuan Xian
Jiang Yong Chang
Jiang Yong Mei
Jiang Zhi Chiang
Jiang Zhong Xian
Jin Yin Feng
Kong Hui Yin
Kong Jin Xiang
Kong Xi Fang
Kong Xiao Ming
Kong Xiao Yin
Kong Zhong Fen
Le Yun Lin
Le Zheng hua
Lei Wen Wei
Li Dan Di
Li Hong Xin
Li Ling Fang
Li Lo Xian
Li Jian Guo
Li Jing Xia
Li Mei Jing
Li Ming Long
Li Wei Xiang
Li Ya Fang
Li Ya Xian
Li Yuan Jun
Li Zhi Xian
Liao Jiang Lin
Lin Guo Pei
Liu Chuan Qun
Liu Feng Zhen
Liu Hong Xian
Liu Jian Jun
Liu Jian Fang
Liu Guo Chiang
Liu Guo Ya
Liu Rong Ping
Liu Xi Fen
Liu Xiao Qing
Liu Xiu Di
Liu You Lan
Liu Yuan Xia
Liu Wei Qing
Liu Xi Fen
Lu Ji Nan
Lu Jian Fang
Lu Jiang Hua
Lu Shun Lin
Lu Xiao Ming
Lu Xin Chiang
Lu Xin Da
Lu Xin Hua
Luu Jin Hua
Luu Mei Ping
Ma Qun Dong
Ma Shun Ya
Mao Ah Nan
Mao Chai Ping
Mao Chen Jun
Mao Mei Hong
Mao Shun Hong
Mao Wen Jie
Mao Yin Hong
Mao Ya Fang
Mao Yu Xian
Mao Zhi Zhiang
Mei Bao Yu
Meng Siao Li
Ni Jian Jun
Ni Jian Xue
Ni Jian Yun
Niu Hui Fen
Pang Mai Ji
Pang Jie Fen
Pang Ju Fen
Pang Lan Qi
Pang Qin Qi
Pang Shu Ping
Pang Xi Fen
Pang Xi Juan
Pang Yao Ming
Pan Xiao Zhong
Qian Hong Mei
Qian Jian Hua
Qian Qun Lan
Qian Xiang Fen
Qian Xue Jun
Qian Ya Zhen
Qian Yan Ruan
Qian Yao Qun
Quan Feng Di
Ren Hui Fang
Ren Hui Ping
Ren Miao Yin
Ren Wei Gou
Ren Xi Lin
Ren Yan Ming
Shao Bu Hua
Shao De Hua
Shao Lan Dong
Shao Lan Juan
Shao Mei Fang
Shao Min Fang
Shao Quan Di
Shao Shun Di
Shao Su Fen
Shao Yu Xian
Shao Zheng Fang
Shao Zhi Yin
Shao Zhong Yuan
Shen Chai Er
Shen Hong Xian
Shen Hui Fang
Shen Li Li
Shen Long Di
Shen Ju Fang
Shen Shun Di
Shen Shun Qun
Shen Wei Yin
Shen Xiao Li
Shen You Fang
Shen Yong Juan
Shen Wei Yin
Shen Zhi Yin
Shen Zhong Qun
Shi Ai Ming
Shi Bao Zhi
Shi Ke Qin
Shi Wei Du
Shi Xue Ming
Song Bao Juan
Song Zhi Ping
Su Don Qun
Sun Li Chiang
Sun Xiao Hong
Sun Zhi Qun
Tang Jian Lin
Tang Ju Hui
Tang Lee Hua
Tang Ping Jie
Tang Wei Chen
Tang Xiao Jun
Tang Yao Jun
Tang Zhao Hong
Teng Ya Ya
Tian Hong Fen
Tian Jun Xian
Ting Ai Hua
Ting Feng Xian
Ting Ju Fang
Ting Xiao Qi
Ting Yi Ming
Wan Bao Fa
Wan Jiao Xian
Wang Ai Ping
Wang Dan Feng
Wang Ding Juan
Wang Hong Po
Wang Feng Pang
Wang Feng Xian
Wang Feng Zhong
Wang Gen Lan
Wang Gui Fen
Wang Hui Fen
Wang Hui Zhong
Wang Ji Kun
Wang Jian Fen
Wang Jian Nan
Wang Jian Jun
Wang Jin Yin
Wang Kui Fen
Wang Li Ping
Wang Li Ming
Wang Lian Fang
Wang Mei Fang
Wang Min Dong
Wang Shu Ping
Wang Su Ping
Wang Wan Hua
Wang Wen Yin
Wang Xiao Jian
Wang Xiao Lin
Wang Xiao Qun
Wang Xin Mei
Wang Xiu Fen
Wang Xiu Jun
Wang Xiu Yin
Wang Ya Fang
Wang Ya Jun
Wang Ya Gou
Wang Ya Qun
Wang Yin Fang
Wang Yun Yun
Wang Zhong Yin
Wang Zhi Qun
Wen Ya Ping
Wu Dan Qin
Wu Fang Di
Wu Feng Zhen
Wu Guo Chun
Wu Han Ju
Wu Hong Di
Wu Hong Juan
Wu Hong Xia
Wu Jin Ya
Wu Jian Ye
Wu Jian Hua
Wu Ji Min
Wu Jie Ming
Wu Ju Xian
Wu Ju Xin
Wu Jun Feng
Wu Kai Xu
Wu Li Ping
Wu Liang Ping
Wu Min Min
Wu Shun Hua
Wu Si Juan
Wu Wen Xin
Wu Xiao Hua
Wu Xin Nan
Wu Ya Ping
Wu Ya Zhiang
Wu Yan Qun
Wu Yi Qun
Wu Yu Fen
Wu Yu Lian
Wu Yun Fang
Xia Guo Chiang
Xia Guo Ping
Xia Hua Di
Xia Ji Ping
Xia Xi Qing
Xia Xiao Jun
Xia Ya Qun
Xia Yun Ye
Xie Shun Jun
Xie Jian Ping
Xie Xiu Juan
Xie Xiu Qin
Xu Ai Hua
Xu Fu Zhen
Xu Guo Chiang
Xu Hui Qun
Xu Hui Qing
Xu Hui Zhen
Xu Hua Da
Xu Hua Fang
Xu Jian Xin
Xu Jian Hong
Xu Lan Jun
Xu Li Hua
Xu Lin Yan
Xu Mei Ping
Xu Rong Fang
Xu Shu Hua
Xu Wei Wei
Xu Xin Mei
Xu Xi Ming
Xu Xiao Hua
Xu Xiu Wen
Xu Xue Lan
Xu Xue Chun
Xu Ya Lang
Xu yan Chun
Xu Yan Zhen
Xu Yan Fen
Xu Yong Jun
Xu Ye Zhen
Xu Yu Chiang
Xu Yu Feng
Xu Yue Hua
Xu Zhen Mei
Xu Zhen Zhu
Xu Zhi Qing
Xu Zhi Xue
Yan Feng Zhen
Yan Hui Qun
Yan Hui Yin
Yan Ju Hui
Yan Rou Juan
Yan Yu Qun
Yang Ai Ping
Yang Hong Fang
Yang Jin Hua
Yang Main Wen
Yang Rong Chang
Yang Yue Hua
Yang Yue Jun
Yang Yi Wen
Yao Zhi Quan
Yao Zhi Yuan
Ye Hui Fen
Ye Xiu Ya
Yi Hong Di
Yin Yong Zhong
Yu Lin Mei
Yu Mei Fang
Yu Xiao Fang
Yuan Guo Hua
Yuan Guo Chiang
Yuan Li Xin
Zai Li Ping
Zhang Cai Yin
Zhang Chiu Ping
Zhang Guo Fen
Zhang Guo Hua
Zhang Hong Fen
Zhang Jun Fang
Zhang Li Juan
Zhang Ju Fang
Zhang Quan Lin
Zhang Mei Yun
Zhang Su Fang
Zhang Shun Fa
Zhang Shun Fang
Zhang Shun Rong
Zhang Xiao Xin
Zhang Yao Jian
Zhang Yu Fen
Zhao Bu Hua
Zhao Hong Mei
Zhao Ruo Min
Zhao Pei Fen
Zhao Yi Ping
Zhao Yan Ping
Zhao Zheng Jun
Zhao Zhi Qun
Zhao Min Ming
Zheng Yong Ping
Zhong Xiao Feng
Zhou An Kun
Zhou Chai Jun
Zhou Ding Hua
Zhou Dao Shen
Zhou Ji Ping
Zhou Hong Di
Zhou Hong Juan
Zhou Hou Ping
Zhou Hui Fang
Zhou Hui Jun
Zhou Jie Ping
Zhou Ju Ping
Zhou Ju Qun
Zhou Jun Di
Zhou Ken Di
Zhou Lan Fang
Zhou Li Ming
Zhou Li Ping
Zhou Li Ting
Zhou Liu Mei
Zhou Mei Mei
Zhou Ning Hua
Zhou Rong Jin
Zhou Shun Zhen
Zhou Shun Xian
Zhou Qun Di
Zhou Xi Fang
Zhou Xi Feng
Zhou Xiao Qin
Zhou Ya Gu
Zhou Yu Wei
Zhou Yong Kang
Zhou Wei Guang
Zhou Zheng Hua
Zhou Zhi Hua
Zhou Zhi He
Zhou Zhi Li
Zhou Zhi Juan
Zhu Feng Hua
Zhu Hong Hui
Zhu Jun Feng
Zhu Ju Hua
Zhu Ju Yin
Zhu Mei Fen
Zhu Qin Wei
Zhu Quan Xian
Zhu Siao Dong
Zhu Xi Qun
Zhu Xiao Dong
Zhu Xiao Wei
Zhu Xiu Hua
Zhu Wen Ping
Zhu Zhi Yan
Zhuan Jian Yin
Zhuan Pian Guo
Zhuan Yu Fang
Zhuan Yong Zhong
Zhuan Yu Lin
Zhuan Yu Fang
(HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CUP OF TEA)
Water is considered as the second most important item after the teapot, because the quality of water affects the taste of your tea. If you happen to have a flowing stream near your house, chances are that tea brewed in such water are more tasty and sweeter than the plain tap water. Most of us city dwellers however do not have such luxury and will have to depend on the tap water.
ways of improving the quality of the water includes storing a pail of it and leaving
it overnight to allow all impurities and the chlorine to sink to the bottom. You
can then remove just the top half to brew your tea. How much difference does it
make? Not much to make a noticeable difference in taste to the less experienced
fact, the appliance used to boil the water makes a bigger impact on the quality
of tap water. If you use a metal kettle, at boiling temperature, the water reacts
with the metal surfaces and absorbs something which changes the taste of the tea.
I am not able to explain the chemical reaction that takes place but if you compare
tea brewed with a glass kettle and a metal kettle, the difference is noticeable,
even to the less experienced.
my tip for this session is not to use any of the above boiling appliances but
instead use a Yixing Zisha teapot to boil the water. The difference or improvement
is just plain fantastic! Your tea taste sweeter and have more substance than before.
Alternatively, instead of using a teapot, buy a zisha clay kettle to boil water.
Your tea is guaranteed to taste different, but how much different will depend
on the water used. I recommmend using normal chlorinated tap water for best results.
spring water had been processed and different brands will have different taste.
From my experience, bottle spring water totally changed my tea so that 2 different
kind of tea actually taste the same. You may have different opinions or experience,
so carry out your own tests.
course, some of you may asked how about those Taiwan ceramic kettles? I tried
once and I did not any difference in the quality of the water boiled in it compared
to that boiled in a glass kettle. I believe the difference came from the zisha
clay. The unique properties of the zisha clay has dramatically add substance to
the water that results in a drink that is at least 2 times better than before,
and you get the improvement without leaving your home!
it out today and let me know your results. Maybe I can even include some of your
comments here for others to learn.
a period of further testing using various types of Yixing teapots, the best results
are obtained using good quality Yixing teapots. Yes, normal zisha teapots do give
you a markedly improved tea drink but it is still not comparable to that produced
by using a good quality (clay) Yixing teapot. Don't believe me? Test it for yourself.
do not ask me where to get a good quality commercial teapot because good quality
commercial teapots, those of the 80s, are no longer available. Modern day commercial
teapots is good enough for our purpose but the problem is that most of the commercial
teapots being sold in US are not of real zisha or of extremely low grade zisha.
Water brewed in such pots may or may not made a difference to your tea. If it
doesn't then forget the whole thing and continue as before. If it does, at least
you know I am not bluffing.
(HOW TO TREAT OLD TEAPOTS)
Old teapots refer to those that are 1970s and beyond. Such teapots generally have been used for a long period which is evident from the high patina growth on the surface and layer of dark tea stains on the internal walls of the pot. Do not mistaken such tea stains with those pots which have been treated to look old.
you use the pot, soak it in a pail of warmwater for about 48 hours. Next, pour
3 table spoons of bleach, those that you used tobleachthe floor, into the pot,
fill it full with water and leave it for 2 hours. At the end of the period,pour
awaythe bleach water and you will notice that the interior of the pot is now very
clean,cleared of all the stains and we can see clearly the color of the original
clay. This method only cleans the interior of the pot.
remove the exterior stains (and interior stains at the same time), just dilute
some bleach into a container and put the whole pot into it, ensuring that the
water covers the rim otherwise, there maybe a indeligible water line later on.
The patina will be bleached away together with whatever stains that are on the
surface. After that, wash the pot in dishwashing detergent and soak it in water
for 3 hours and followed by a boiling process for another 3 hours, to remove any
residue particles and bleaches.
your old pot is ready for brewing tea!
long as you do not use concentrated bleach, bleaching will not damaged the pot.
Bleach is used because no other deteregent are capable of removing all the rubbish
and possibly poisonous stains that are left on the surface of old teapots. Besides
being treated to urine (yes!), shoe shine brush, dirt, soil etc., some old pots
may have been buried with debris or even corpse for long period of time. It is
healthier to bleach the entire pot of all its unpleasant elements and start all
over again to develop the patina.
Lots of things are revealed once you bleached a pot. Cracks, fake clay, even broken parts that has been rejoined back are just some of the defects that will be reveal. Do not be dishearten if the pot looks lifeless after bleaching. If the pot is of good quality clay, the patina will be back in no time!