Friday, 7 July 2017

Characteristics of a good teapot

Set of mangosteen teapots
Teapot is used to brew tea, it is an essential equipment to have if you are interested in the art of tea drinking. If you possess a good teapot, it certainly brings you a lot of pleasure in your pursue of tea art culture and enrich your life through endless sessions of tea drinking. It is life time passion.

If you want a teapot just for tea drinking purpose, you need not spend a lot of money to look for the special one. A good teapot can fulfill this function. You can make tea from it, enjoy your tea and at the same time admire the artistic aspects associated with it; such as its shape, clay, colour and texture. But how to select a good teapot? Generally, there are a few things to look for in selecting a good teapot to make tea.

First on the list is the workmanship. A good teapot is professionally made and every detail (from the lid to the handle) is accurately/ proportionately executed by the potter. When you look at the teapot, it pleases you, all your senses come alive. This is the magic of good workmanship.

Second is the clay, an important factor for good teapots. A good potter is very particular about the clay he uses to make the teapot. Good clay will enhance the beauty of the teapot. Not only it is pleasing to the eye, the clay has to be clean and not tarnished after use. If the teapot is covered with muddy stuff, most likely it has been treated to make it look old and valuable. As teapots are used to brew tea, cleanliness is of paramount importance.

Third is form which can be subjective as it depends on individual's taste and preference. Form means the shape of teapots which can be round, square segmented or any shape that mimic things of nature. If workmanship is good, the form can further be enhanced through the skills and artistic talents of the potters.  Very rarely one will find a teapot with good clay and form but lousy workmanship. A good teapot coming out from a renown potter often possesses these qualities.

If you want a teapot that is worth collecting and at the same time functional (means brewing tea occasionally), then you may consider a teapot made by some known potter. It need not be a grand master in the trade. A potter who has a bit of fame is sufficient. He may be a trainee or a assistant craft-master or even a craftsman. As long as you know the person who made the teapot, it is something to treasure as it is his creation. In this case, the bigger the name, the more costly is the teapot. Also beware of fakes as there are a lot of people making a fortune of selling fake teapots. Here I means the potters are not the ones who made the teapots. Rather, people are using big names to enhance the value of the teapots.

Collecting good teapots is no easy task. It needs years of experience and costs lots of money and obviously plenty of frustrations.

Below are some examples of good teapots.

By a renown potter
By a granf master
Potter unknown
Supposedly by Shao Dahen

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Zisha clay

Two old teapots, one was given by a colleague and the other bought in a shop in Marina Square. I really like the zisha clay of the early years. It was of such high quality and purity that reflected on the teapots it produced.

The zisha clay was of the finest quality, noticeable from the shine produced on the body of the pots. Undoubtedly, teapots from the early years were all made from good yixing zisha clay. There was no concern of buying teapots made from fake clay or chemical-tainted materials. There was plenty of good clay around and authority did not bother to impose any ban on mining the zisha clay.

Raw zisha clay
With the ever increasing production of zisha ware for export, the authority in the Yixing County eventually imposed a ban on mining zisha clay from the famous Yellow Dragon Mountain which supposedly produced the finest zisha clay in the region. The rationale behind this ban was to preserve the precious resources for the future generations. However, most potters had already started hoarding the clay long before the ban was imposed. Some potters when interviewed, revealed that they had stored enough clay to last them a lifetime. There was even someone who had 3000 tonnes of clay in his ware house.
Yellow Dragon Mountain, now 1/3 its original height

Yellow Dragon Mountain site
In those early days, no body paid attention to the clay used to make teapots. The potters also didn't bother to emphasize the clay they used. It was understood that all the clay used must have come from the Yellow Dragon Mountain. Today, you will find potters and promoters alike would always highlight the premium clay used in their teapots. They used terms that described the clay and these terms were unheard of during those years.

Hoarding of zisha clay by potter's family

Monday, 5 June 2017

Globular pot and wild puerh

I uploaded this video to Youtube quite some time ago.

This is a classic ball-filtered teapot made in the 1970s. The zisha clay was of fine quality, made for export to the Japanese market. Some appeared in markets of South East Asia. I managed to get two from a shop and sold one to a Taiwanese friend.

The tea bricks were from the Menghai factory, made in March 2004. The tea was harvested from Yiwu tea mountain, from tea trees grew in the wild. These tea trees grew on mountain where no artificial fertilisers were used. Today, puerh processed from wild tea trees is in short supply, pushing the price skyrocket high. For instance, tea from the Mun Song region can comman a price of over 10k rmb per kg due to scarcity. Tea from Bin Daou or Lao Banzhang also command very high price in the tea market. This is evident from the fact that tea farmers in those tea producing regions all live in huge brick houses that are mordern and elegantly built. It is rather irony to see so many beautiful houses in the miidle of tea plantation on mountains.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Simple yet elegant

Some teapot designs are simple yet elegant. These simple teapots are like evergreen trees, you won't get tired with such simple shapes.

These teapots won't cost collectors a lot of money during those early years. They are fantastic for brewing green tea due to a broad body. As you know, green tea consists of tea leaves that rolled into small little lumps. These small lumps need space to expand when they are put in the pot with hot water. A big belly in the pot is essential for the tea leaves to expand and release the frsgrance. Inevtably, you need a broad base teapot to brew a pot of good green tea.

Another simple teapot is the humble MengChen Hu, the one people often use to brew kungfu tea. These are the evergreen treees of teapots that will forever be tea drinkers' favourite choice when brewing tea.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Unusual dragon head pot

The dragon head teapot was the brain child of Shao Dahen, a reknown potter even the teapot master Gu Jingzhou himself admired. Gu once said Shao was the greatest potter ever lived.
Teapot made by Shao Dahen
The dragon heat teapot featured a movable head where the tonge can stick out from its mouth when the pot is tilted to pour tea out. One side of the body featured a half dragon partially immersed in the rough seas while the the other side featured a fish turning in waves. The teapot has a traditional name of 'fish turning into dragon'.

This teapot was mass produced in the early years. But there are some good pieces made during the early Republic era, post 1911. Many great potters of that perood also like to make this teapot. The notable one was Huang Yulin whose dragon head teapot became the standard for others to imitate. Such an adorable design, a teapot with movable parts.

The above teapot was brought over from China and displayed in an exhibition in the 1990s. The asking price of $11999 was just too high for the collectors then. As i knew the exhibitors, i got it for a much lower price after the exhition. I believed this was a piece made in the later years of the Republic era. I stiill could not figured out who thr potter was.

My twin plum blossoms teapots

These plum blossoms teapots are lovely, good for their worth. When i bought them, they cost little money. But over the many years of using them to brew tea, a glossy shine developed on the pots.

All Yixing teapots have this characteristic. As the pots are not glazed on the outside, years of using them will develop the shine on the teapots. You need to wipe the teapots constantly after the tea making sessions. There is no short cut. It is hard work but i enjoy taking good care of them.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The special one

When i first saw this teapot, it was like love at first sight. I got attracted by the gold that was used to wrap around the edge of the lid and the rim of the body. Later i found out that these were the teapots polished to a brilliant shine. Most of them were exported to the Thai market, for the king. But this one was for the imperial court of the Qing dynasty.

The owner asked for a high price. As i liked it so much, i had to buy it.

It was good to brew kungfu tea. But nowadays i seldom use it to brew tea for fear that i might break it accidentally. You know, it is not easy to find another similar teapot, not to mention the years of history behind it.