Topic: Take a time and read it..
I've translated from Korean who supposedly translated from Chinese.
I pretty much agree with what he said except his analysis 'dull sound=good clay', sounds like his antique yixing collector cos most of antique yixings sound dull, that is due to not enabling to contral the right temperature(from what I heard)
There are some raw Chinese unromanicized, I've only did it which I thought important, or some I just couldn't.
It may not seem so helpful to read those for modern day Yixing purchase, but who knows..someday these articles could be little help...someday..
Discerning and choosing Yixing teapot
<History of Yixing teapot>
According to archaelogical research, 5000 years ago, neolith ceramics were produced in Yixing, reaching Han dynasty started producing as a mass.
Yixing claywares were started since Song dynasty and flourished during Ming-Qing and still used until today. After mid-Ming, shape, poem, caligraphy, painting, scrupture, total yixing arts were formed. According to northern Song's 梅堯臣 Mei Yao Chen and 歐陽修 Ge Yang Xiu's poems, yixing wares were used since northern Song dynasty. In 1976, in Yixing 鼎蜀鎭 羊角山, site of Song's 龍窯 Long Yao was discovered, many pieces of Yixing wares were found. But who created Yixing wares, still unknown.
Yixing teapot was created during Ming's Zheng De period. Ming's 朱高起 Zhou Gao Qi's <陽羨茗壺錄 Yang Xian Ming Hu Lu> 創始篇 tells creator of Yixing teapot was Yixing Jin Sha temple's nameless buddhist monk. And according to 正始篇, Ming's Jia Jing and Wan Li period there was a talented Yixing potter named Gong Chun and his 樹纓壺 Shu Ying Hu is at Beijing Historical musem, but some dispute its originality.
From Wan Li to late-Ming, it was Yixing creation's prime and appeared "four famous family-四名家 Si Ming Jia" and "pot family three big-壺家三大 Hu Jia San Da". 四名家 are 董翰, 趙梁, 元暢 and 時朋 Shi Peng. 董翰 was famous its literary style and the rest were known for their simplicity. 壺家三大 were Shi Da Bin 時大彬 and his students 李仲芳 Li Chong Fang, 徐友泉 Xu You Quan. And Li Yang Xin 李養心 was Wan Li period's man and was very good at making small pots and was called 名玩 Ming Wan. Li Yang Xin invented 匣鉢裝燒法 when firing. And 歐正春, 邵氏兄弟, 蔣時英 etc as well famous and studied historical ceramics, bronze or jade's shape and style and made many beautiful works. 項聖思 aka 桃聖 was as well very famous and his 桃杯 is thrilling.
Reaching Qing dynasty, famous potters came around and their works continued to be created. From Kangxi period, Yixing teapot was cared by Royal so in Yixing made pots and Royal drew 琺瑯彩 at 造瓣處 then fire or produced 彫漆茗壺. During Yong Zheng period, made protokoll and let Jingdezhen make porcelains in Yixing teapot style. Qian Long 7 year, Royal directly ordered Yixing wares from Yixing, and since then Yixing teapot became sought-after royal product. Famous masters during these period are Chen Ming Yuan 陳鳴遠 and Shao Da Heng 邵大亨. Chen Ming Yuan-made pots have Ming Yuan 鳴遠 letters inside the lid. Other famous masters were 虔榮, 王南林, 邵元祥, 邵旭茂, 陳觀候 etc..
From late-Qian Long to Jia Jing and Dao Guang period, Yixing teapot came to a new stage. Styles of Yixing ware varied. Carving 鳥花 Niao Hua-flower-bird, 山水 Shan Shui-mountain-water, many caligraphy methods started from late-Ming and flourished after Jia Jing and become unique decoration of art. Not few famous poets and artists carved poems on yixing teapots by themselves. 鄭板橋 as well self-made yixing teapot and carved poems. The most famous master was 陳鴻壽 (aka Chen Man Sheng. 1768~1822) and came to Yixing and collaborated with Yang Peng Nian 楊彭年 and created famous Man Sheng Shi Ba Shi 曼生十八式 - Man Sheng 18 styles. Yang Peng Nian's pots were gracious and didn't use a template and made himself, his works were so incredible. Chen Man Sheng-designed and Yang Peng Nian-produced and Chen Man Sheng-carved works were called Man Sheng Hu 曼生壺 and very sought-after. Shapes of produced pots were mostly geometric style, simple and bold, created new style of Yixing teapot. Man Sheng Hu focused on greatness of letter, poem-caligraphy-picture became harmony so style was completed coming to Man Sheng Hu.
From Xian Li to late-Guang Xu, art of Yixing teapot saw no evolution, famous masters were Huang Yu Lin 黃玉麟 and Shao Da Heng. Shao Da Heng created Yu Hua Long, trait of this pot is head of dragon pops out when brewing.
In early 20C, capitalism developed in China and numerous personal studios were born in Yixing and among them, Feng Gui Zhen, Yu Guo Liang, Wu Yun Gen, Pei Shi Min, Gu Jing Zhou, Wang Yin Chun, Cheng Shou Zhen, Zhu Ke Xin, Jiang Rong were the most famous.
Recently Yixing wares developed more and has produced new products continously. Recent Yixing wares kind increased from 4~50 to 600. For example, 紫砂雙層保溫杯 Zi Sha Shang Ceng Bao Wen Bei- Yixing clay double layer heat retaining cup is widely welcomed new product. Yixing clay's elaborate and plasticitical nature makes osmosis so good, so fired Shang Ceng Bao Wen Bei brewed tea keeps color, aroma and taste and doesn't go rotten in summer. Double layer composition makes finger not feel heat even pouring hot water and thermal conductivity is low so that longers the time of heat-retention. Styles as well varied such as 瓜輪型, 蝶紋型, 梅花型, 鵝蛋型, 流線型 etc..
<Condition of discerning the originality of Yixing teapot>
1) Knowing the trait of antique Yixing teapots.
Antique Yixing teapot's clay is thick but not tacky, simple but precise, patina is glossy but not sparkling, feel of touch is comfortable and grave, famous master's stamp is equitable not conventional. And poem or picture carved teapot as well has period's works of master, composition is natural and reasonable and skill is simple but skillful that cannot be imitated by normal potters. So method of manufactering Yixing teapot is total art of pottery, caligraphy, dimention, carving etc..not simple ceramic craft.
2) Taking a look at stamp
Is the most direct way to discern. For example. Ming-Qing's famous masters' works must have stamp so should know the names of famous masters, first name, calling name, style of stamp, shape of letters and use when discerning. For example, periods' famous caligrapher and potter such Shi Da Bin, Li Chong Fang, Xu You Quan, Chen Man Sheng etc..always left a stamp. If no stamp or different stamp, it could be imitation so should consider in judging.
3) Guessing the period by shape and quality
Every teapots has period's charactertics. Early Yixing teapot focused on efficiency and decoration was left behind so shapes were simple and bold, not skillful, body and spout's joint spot has one big hole. Later decorativeness of Yixing teapot increased so shape of pot became more sophiscated. Early pots mostly had big sand but after Qing dynasty became delicate and the surface became sleeky.
Those traits makes products guessed for relative period of time.
4) Discerning by the gloss of surface
Reason why famous masters pots still leave up to today is because people cherished so much, so those pots surfaces are glossy and makes one want to touch. New product's Huo Qi 火氣 so strong and sometimes polished with a beeswax, those are discerned by scatching with finger.
5) Be warned for imitations
Some imitators use a beeswax or shoe polish or others and change it as antique teapot so should be warned when discerning
<Method to discern antique Yixing teapot>
Discerning Yixing teapot requires delicate parts such as shape, method of making, content of caligraphy, location of decorations etc..
1) Taking a look at shapes
Shape is one of components that reflects the spirit of the times of pottery. Yixing teapot saw many famous master from early period such as Zheng De period to late-Qing, about 400 years, and has its characteritics per period. Ming's pots only focused on shape and method of manufactering or quality of clay, so pattern is simple and elegant, mostly has no carving or paint. Ming's pot patterns are mostly square, circle, 筋囊式 and the lines are simple, body of pot relatively big, solid, simple, grave not sumptuous having no pattern. Early-Qing's Yixing teapot's shape, like porcelain, were produced for royal and imperial family and mostly geometrical or nature-style. Or some commoner's efficient pots, those are small, short-spout, small handle but precise. From late-Qing to early ROC, shapes of yixing teapot varied and additional decoration increased. Mostly imitated early master's works and little creativity in shape.
Chen Ming Yuan (Kangxi-Yongzheng period) first used a stamp inside the lid so if lid of pot has a stamp it's after Chen Ming Yuan's time. Early-Qing shapes are variable, use decoration, adding dyes, 堆塑 etc, many methods were used.
During Dao Guang period (1821-1851) Zhou Jian 朱堅 first used a method that decorates with metal and made spout and handle using a jade. So if body of pots is decorated with tin or copper then it's after Dao Guang period.
After late-Qing saw a trend of becoming simplistic, cared carving poems or pictures on pots so cultural part in decoration increased. The trait of these period is based on these period's famous masters' representive works.
When observing a shape, pot's outer shape's delicated part 'specially body's joint part and outer lines changing spot's unique sense of asthetic should be observed. If understanding basic knowledge of shape, it helps to some point when discerning. Talking about Yixing teapot's pouring hole, before ROC period (1912-1949) had one-hole only, many-hole was made after. Ball-type holes were started since 1970's. If having a stamp of Chen Ming Yuan and pouring hole is several holes then without considering a stamp it can be discerned as modern day's imitation. And modern day's Ti Bi Hu 提璧壺, grand master Gu Jing Zhou 顧景舟 absorbed the style of early Ti Liang Hu 提梁壺 and started from 1950, completed in 1978, the shape of composed of delicated curved line, the line of 雲肩 is very thin and narrow, space made between Ti Liang and body poses a contrast of body and emptiness 虛實 so abundant in modern sense. If someone insist Ti Bi Hu is made during Ming-Qing then no need to even mention.
Early-Ming pots were molded by hand so sometimes left a finger print. Late-Ming's Si Da Bin created wood-templete used pot has no finger print but marks of bamboo knife, and handle, body, spout, body joined part each other relatively rough sometimes to erase joined marks, attached a shape of persimmon knob, that became the first additional decoration in Yixing teapot. Joined part of lid and button as well used this way. In Ming dynasty, pots weren't fired alone but put inside jar so has a glaze leftover on the surface. Most of time, temperature wasn't enough so didn't crystallized perfectly and the quality of clay is not smooth. Qing dynasty's Yixing teapot, generally beating pieces of clay and joined so the thickness of pot is similar and manufecturing is precise. Masters such as Chen Ming Yuan or Yang Peng Nian still used a method of hand-molding so reached to some level that normal potters couldn't be compaed.
Contemperary-modern days took a wheel-thrown method, so if revise little bit on body of pot it becomes extremely sleeky, clay is so small and dry like a lime, easily breaks and not glossy, in and out of pot very certain, and feel of touch very light. Wheel-thrown Yixing teapot should go thru mixing with lots of mud-like clay and Yixing clay, actually ratio of composition of Yixing clay becomes so small. Strictly speaking it is basically not Yixing clay but a mixture of clay and Yixing clay and no need to mention artistic value.
2) Observing the quality of clay
Basic element of Yixing clay is clay. Per periods have different quality of clay, and different quality of clay has different principle of appearing color. Ming dynasty's Yixing clay and Qing dynasty's Yixing clay, differentiation in clay is same as porcelain. The surface of Ming's Yixing teapot has no gloss and mostly found from dooms so clay absorbed the moisture of underground that disappears the gloss of surface. Ming's material refined the material used for making huge jars so relatively has many grits and the surface is very rough.
Qing's clay saw a development in making clay so emerged delicate Yixing clay. This situation goes the same way as development of history of crafts and arts. Qing's clay is delicate and glossy and shines itself. Always touching so as time goes by, sparkling patina appeared and is called 包裝 Bao Zhuang. Nature shaped pot such as flower, fruit or insect as well shows a weak gloss. Discerning the clay is very important part in judging the period of teapot.
Famous master's pot has a special design, sophiscated manufactering, long time of making so quantit is few, so they must use high-quality clay. And good clay not onlyl has a value as clay itself but also occures additional function that enables master's idea and skill to fully used. And famous masters are backed by economic condition and market assurance that enable to use good clay. But imitators are lack of basic talent and go for profit so they don't spend money to buy good clay, so imitations are ok in shape but show inferiority in quality of clay that effect a total appreciation of works. Rough and inferior quality of clay, a clue of imitation can be found.
And a kind of clay as well enables for discerning. For example, "天靑泥 Tian Qing Ni" emerged in late-Qing, and is certainly different from other clays. If someone insist before mid-Qing's pot "Tian Qing Ni" that has a problem. Imitators use many ways to imitate Ming and Qing's pots, but buyers can discern by observing the quality of clay. In past time, clay was made by hand so size of particle thick, but modern day uses a machine so quality of clay is delicate. Yixing clay is mined from only Yixing's Ding Shan and antique Yixing teapots used clay mined from earth surface, but modern days clay is mined from deep inside the ore bed so of course the clay is different. So depends on quality of clay, color, size, gloss, nature of surface is different.
3) Observing 包裝 Bao Zhuang
Long-time used old pot's surface appears a natural patina, due to long-time tea oil and human's hand stain. Older pots have deeper Bao Zhuang.
Imitators use a way to change as antique Yixing teapot. New product's method is using a gauze for the surface, then dipped in tea water that absorbs tea stain or se a oil and beeswax that intentionally makes a Bao Zhuang. Experienced one immidiately discerns the unnatural patina. So these pots mostly have evenly Bao Zhuang and messy sometimes makes one want to puke. Observing with magnifying glass, can be discerned the scratching marks, sometimes foul odor that enable to know the originality. When rubbing with hands, feels rough and not sleeky and good like real one's Bao Zhuang. Made-up Bao Zhuang can be erased after washing off but real one is mixed with clay so stickness very strong.
4) Observing stamps
Per period has different method and location of stamp. Generally Si Da Bin, mostly has around foot. Poems are carved on the belly and that location was trendy during Kangxi period and after Qianlong became a main decoration style.
Early Yixing teapots mostly don't have a stamp, and emerged after late-Ming. Yixing teapot is mostly a creation of folk art and method of stamp is very different depending on potter. Most of potters show difference by time, almost none of em use one or two stamp in life. Scripts mentioning stamps are very few and is so complicated, that made a chaos in discerning early Yixing teapots.
If early Yixing teapot has a carved stamp, the problem gets deeper. Ming's carved stamp, 楷書體 Kai Shu Ti was popular and most of time used a bamboo knife. Bamboo knife and metal knife used stamps are different each other, rather easily identified. Carved with a bamboo knife, sides of stamp gets marked as surface of pot higher than horizental, 刀縫 and 刀法 are identified. Carved with metal knife doesn't have these traits. Problem was potter's cultural level was low so they couldn't carve good by themselves, so invited another persons to do carving for them, or sometimes done by themseles, that made even more complicated discerning. Sometimes carving was inferior and letter was wrong. So if purchasing modern master's work, if wrong carving was stamp that could make one doubt the originality but that couldn't be applied for early pots.
If stamp is stamping, then depends on power of pressing, different result. Yixing teapot's stamping is mostly 陰刻 Yin Ke, so if pressed on the surface of pot became 陽刻 Yang Ke. Yin Ke stamp is pressed on half-dried belly of pot, if power is too weak the shape of letter is blurred so should be strong. If using the same stamp, even though power pressed is different, stamped letter itself is the same, but the stroke could appear differently. These obscurity as well makes a chaos in discerning Yixing teapot. But during Ming dynasty, carving was more popular.
In mid-Ming, Yixing teapot saw a change from rough ceramic to art-craft ceramic. But unfortunately, these period saw an increase as a market of arts and imitation trend as well got deeper. After mid-Qing, with wrong trend, imitators earned lots of profit, and empty-minded folks purchased imitations. For example, publication of books, the most flourished time of imitating and faking was that time. Mostly Song scripts were faked that gave descendants many Ming-made Song scripts. Even literature, Wanli 47 year (1619)'s 張泰階 borrowed the name of famous caligrapher 柯九思 Ke Jiu Si (1290-1343), and wrote in mass. In painting, as well saw the imitations and imitators than any other period, method of imitating widened and numerous imitations flowed.
There are 3 ways imitating famous master's stamp.
First, is way to put a old stamp on new product, letting students or others make then put a stamp of his own or using old stamp that's been handed over time.
Second, carving a stamp of masters on antique Yixing teapot of no stamp. Old stamps are mostly 陽文 Yang Wen and letters balanced, but imitated stamps are unbalanced and the width or length different. If carving a new stamp on antique pot then it becomes 陰文 Yin Wen so easily identified.
Third, carving a new stamp on new product, method is variable. Modern imitators produce or carve a fake stamp using method of photoengraving or copper script publicating, some imitators fake stamps.
<5 characteristics of YIxing teapot>
1) Long-time using earns better patina. That's due to automatically 養壺 Yang Hu with tea oil while brewing.
2) Yixing teapot is superior against radical temperature change, so doesn't break even on the fire or in a microwave.
3) Has slow thermal conductivity that enables finger not burned.
4) Absorbs aroma of tea, if brewing old pot without tea leaves, still brews an aromatic cup.
5) Color of teapot has to do with tea leaves used for brewing. If brewing Hong Cha long time, changes from red-palm to red-brown, if brewing green tea changes from red-palm to palm-brown.
<Discerning Yixing teapot>
Since Ming dynasty's brewing tea tradition, many teapots were made of silver, stone, copper, porcelain but Yixing teapot was the greatest. Yixing teapot is made in Yixing, Jiangsu province, color is basically purple-brown, orange, clay-yellow 3 color, and has a elegance due to unglazing. Even fired at 1200C, still porous to some degree, superior against radical temperature change, doesn't change brewed tea taste, long-time using causes patina that is as beautiful as old jade. Choosing good Yixing teapot is as below.
1) Observing shape
2) Observing color. Yixing clay is a gift from great nature. Yixing clay is a mixture of clay-quartz-mica, fire-endurable clay, fired about 1100C to 1180C, causes left-overs of quartz, particles of mica, 莫來石, cyrstal phase, hematite etc.. Especially while firing, forms a formula of double-absortiveness.
Ancient people depicted Yixing clay as 五色土 Wu Se Tu-five-color clay, 岩中泥 Yan Zhong Ni-clay of rock, 天靑 sky-blue, 暗肝 dark-liver, 海棠紅, 朱砂紫 red-clay-purple, 水碧,葵黃梨皮 sunflower-brown pear-skinned, 墨綠, 黛黑, 栗色, 桐綠, 沈香色 etc..Among them, 朱 Zhu-red, 紫 Zi-purple, 米黃 Mi-Huang rice-yellow 3 color is basic, classified as Hongni(Zhuni), Zini(Di Cao Qing), Duanni(Luni that is rice-yellow). These 3 basic color, depending on location of ore bed, depth of mining, temperature of firing makes a little change that eventually varies of color of clay.
The most outseen trait of Yixing clay is contained sand. Yixing clay is high absorptivness, superior plasticity, follows traditional hand-making. Except of Yixing clay, Liaoning, Kezuo, Henan, Fufeng, Guizhou, Guiyang, Guangdong Chaozhou as well get mined Yixing clay-like clay but strictly speaking that are not Yixing clay but a kind of Hongni, fired color isn't pretty as Yixing clay. So these Hongni doesn't molded by hand but use a wheel-thrown or slip-cast.
Color of Yixing clay is so various and how to treat the original clay is as well various. During a procedure of making, go through natural-exposure - grinding - rid of grit by filtering on a sieve - grading - 練制 - storing. Method of manufacturing can be classified as hand-made clay and machine-made clay. Mixing original clays can be classified as Yuan Se Ni Yun Pei original-color clay originally-mixed and Hu Pei each other-mixed. But no matter what kind of clay is used, completed clay is called Shu Ni (cooked clay), after storing enables for crafting. Historically so many mixed clays have existed, and has a different characteritics of color and mixing. This fact gives a basis for discerning. Pure Yixing clay's color is purple, yellow, red or even mixed 2 still gives a jade-like feeling and patina is hidden gloss that gets more vivid after wiping. Beeswaxed or artiricially made gloss is no good.
Yixing clay is hidden purple color with a hint of green and red, Hongni is red but not vivid. Antique Yixing teapot's color has to do with a firing condition of 龍窯 Long Yao (wood-fired). Long Yao-fired teapots generally appeared black-ish in section.
3) Observing efficiency of funtionality.
To brew green tea, flatten and huge-mouthed teapot enables for spreading heat that doesn't change a color of green tea. To brew Hong Cha, tall and small-spout teapot enables to brew strong aroma with boiling water. Should be adequate in size, easy to handle, enables to control amount of pouring and smooth texture.
4) Observing color and patina of pattern.
Yixing clay appears variable color and pattern after firing. Yixing clay's range of crystallization is relatively wide so concentration of color changes due to temperature of firing. Good if strong purple-red, high temeperature-fired, no grit and no dot. If appears too red, no gloss then it's fired at low temperature. Guangxi, Zhejiang, Shandong, Anhui, northern Sanxi-mined Yixing teapots are, based on 奬紅 colored ceramic, have a delicate gloss, less crystallized particle, took a slip-cast method so appears marks of template.
5) Hearing a tapping sound.
Good Yixing teapot has a dull sound when tapping like ceramic. After brewing, should sound dull and low, should not be high as metal or porcelain. Sounding dull means clay has high absorptiveness that keeps aroma and not change the taste. And if tapping sound simple and clear, but dull sound then it has a crack so it's low-quality. None-Yixing teapots sound clear when tapping, that's due to high amount of kaolin so sound like porcelain.
6) Observing a precision of manufacturing and rationality of composition of each part.
Yixing teapot is made entirely by hand, template is assistant tool for unified shape. Generally has no lump, the line is elegant, foot is balanced, each part has harmoney, trimming has few joint marks, scrupture is precise that gives a refinement.
7) Feeling with a hand.
Yixing teapot's feeling of touch is sleeky and confortable, even contained with grits. Yixing clay particles generally are adequate filtering in a 32-hole to 60-hole sieve, and has a different feeling of touch of mortar-used traditional filtered particle and machine-used particle. Yixing clay, when ore is exposed to air,rain,wind then grind it, then pours water and fumble. These primitive method of manufacturing clay yet preserves absorptiveness that enhaces the efficiency.
8) Observing stamps.
Yixing teapots have stamps and have a long history. Famous pots are usually sold at professional stores. Famous pots usually have stamps on belly, handle and lid, size is balanced. To protect imitations, adds certification or password each potters have their own anti-imitation methods. On the market, so many ways are used for imitating. One way is copying a stamp and press using a template, but comparing to original one, easily identified. Or original stamp is copied using a plastic, but that as well can be identified. Original stamps are about 10% bigger than imitations'. That's due to shrinkage while firing, that copied stamp as well gets shrunk.
Famous stamps have 6 traits.
First, stamp is made complicated. Famous stamp is either carved by himself or stamp-carving experts so certain level of artistic value. But imitated stamps don't reach to this level so lack of craftsmanship.
Second, use of stamp is rational. Some potters use more than 2 different stamps and location as well deeply considered that balances with pot.
Third, carved location is right. Yixing teapot's stamp generally is inside the lid, centor of belly, handle and surface of foot. Lid stamp is pressed one side of lid hole. Food stamp is generally on centor of foot. Handle stamp is pressed downward of belly, near the handle. Belly stamp is pressed with poem or at last. Stamped location is balanced that functions as decoration. If pot has a stamp only on belly then it's not famous pot.
Third, size of stamp is right. Carved content and size of stamp are balanced with pot itself. Stamp size makes harmony is size of pot, so if pot is big then stamp is big, if pot is small then stamp is small. Size of stamp and location of stamp as well are balanced. Foot stamp usually is bigger than lid stamp or handle stamp, vice verca could be imitation.
Fifth, degree of carved or pressed is right. Famous pot's stamp or carved picture are balanced with pot, power of carving is right so depth is adequate.
Sixth, balances with pot's feeling. Famous pot's feeling of stamp usually balances with pot. That's due to potter's astheticism and state of mind are unified. Generally delicate work has delicate stamp, simple work has bald stamp.
Knowing these traits of stamp, could be helpful discerning Yixing teapot.
Sometimes people imitate Ming and Qing's Yixing teapot. Generally experienced people judge by quaity of clay. Past time's Yixing clay is made by hand so clay is very delicate. Modern day uses machine so the clay is smooth. Yixing clay is only mined from Yixing Ding Shan, so antique Yixing teapot's clays were mined from earth surface and modern day clays are mined from deep inside so the quality of clay is different. Imitators disguide the pot with artificial way for antique. Real antique Yixing teapot, except for stamp, level of manufacturing wasn't as high as modern day, but imitators ignore that and they don't understand historical evidence and situation. Good Yixing teapot is made by famous master's hand, and famous pot is what reflects famous master's state of mind.
<Trait of inferior Yixing teapot and discerning>
Inferior Yixing teapot, has 3 inferior traits that show evidence.
1) Color of Yixing teapot is red and light and sparkle strangely.
Observing Yixing teapot starts from color. Reason why pot is red and sparkling is due to using inferior sand clay, bad clay shows uneven color while making, so to hide this evidence, adds chemical dyes that makes bright and sparkling after firing.
Real Yixing teapot is made from Yixing clay, material used to make is very delicate and fired pot has high plasticity, good absorptiveness that doesn't crack to radical temperature change or boil tea on the fire. Real Yixing teapot isn't glazed in and out. Long-time used Yixing teapot, color is comfortable sometimes smells aromatic.
Pouring on the body of pot and observe. Good clay-used Yixing teapot has good absorptiveness of air and water so water vaporates slowly and absorbs to the surface. Inferior Yixing teapot, when pouring water quickly fall down like a bead. Some good dried Yixing teapot even sound "Shi-Shi" when pouring boiling water.
2) When tapping lid with body, sound is light and echoing.
Some sellers claim that high tapping sound means high quality of clay, but truth is high echoing sound rather means inferiority.
Now of the markets of 茶葉城 Cha Ye Cheng, 古玩城 Gu Wan Cheng, 花鳥工藝品市場 Hua Zao Gong Yu Pin Shi Chang's most pots are sloppy-made, inferior-quality "trash pot", among cheap pots most of them are loam mixed with industrial chemical that is rather hazardous to health. Now among Beijing's Yixing teapots, under 80 rmb(12 usd) has no real Yixing teapot. Back then, Yixing clay wasn't scarce but mass production drove good clay scarcing, 1 Jin(apprx. 500g) of Yixing clay from RMB 3-4 to 1-200 variable. So to consider buying these clays and make a pot transfer and sell, it's to say pots under RMB 80 in Beijing has no real Yixing teapot.
3) When touching the body of pot, sleeky, delicate and shines brightly.
When touching the pot with hand, inferior pots are very sleeky sometimes sparkling gloss. That is due to polishing with machine or even corn oil or shoe polish done on the surface.
<保養 Bao Yang of Yixing teapot>
1) When purchsing new Yixing teapot, should wiped with smooth silk towel then wash with clear water, dip in tea water and boil, if cooled off then again boils, 2~3 times repeat then take out and dry and use. When start using Yixing teapot, prepare to have cotton towel. When brewing, pot's heated rub the pot with wet or clean towel repeadly. When the pot's cooled off, it's ok to rub with hand. That's due to finger oil lets the pot glossing. Like this way, after 3 to 4 month even new pot will show patina.
2) Everyday wash off the tea leaves, never use detergent, dry it in dark and dried place.
3) Based on experience, Tea for Yang Hu 養壺 is as followed. First, Taiwan Gao Shan Oolong, second Fujian Anxi Oolong and Tie Guan Yin, third is Hong Cha. When caring, water from mountain is best, that's due to natural water has no taste that doesn't affect the aroma of tea leaves. Never use tap water, that's due to tap water contains bleach that destroys tea aroma. At the same time, should not use flower-scented tea, that's due to flower-scented tea, aroma is too strong that could destory other tea aroma.
4) When not using teapot for a long time, immediately washing off tea stain that avoids a mold or other odor to cause.
5) Greatest taboo is when teapot earns oil blot.
<Choosing teapot depending on tea leaves>
Green tea, especially Bi Luo Chun-like small and young leaves chooses flatten pot. Hong Cha chooses somewhat tall pot, all Oolongs choose small pot.
Small and young leaves brewing, uses relatively flatten pot, that's due to if pot's tall tea leaves will melt down, when brewing green tea lid should be open.
Modern teahouses generally offer Shui Ping Hu or Dao Pa Xi Shi (upside-down handle Xi Shi)-like very small pot when customers order Oolong.
<Method of choosing Yixing teapot>
1) Efficiency of Yixing teapot
Yixing teapot is a tool that brews and pours tea. So efficiency should be considered when choosing. Good efficiency is size and length should be met, easy to hold a handle, water should be poured straight from spout, and easy to use. So when choosing Yixing teapot, should consider size, time of pouring, condition of handle depending on personal habit.
2) Level of crafts and arts of Yixing teapot
Level of crafting means level of making Yixing teapot and is basis for judjing artistic value. Good Yixing teapot should balance spout, handle, button, lid, shoulder, belly, food with body, and change of dot and line or surface is clear and bright. Artistic value should be judged within 泥 Ni-clay, 形 Xing-shape, 款 Kuan-stamp, 功 Gong-functionality.
*泥 Ni-clay : trait of Yixing teapot is superiority of Yixing clay. So when discerining Yixing teapot, should know the quality of Yixing clay. Change of clay has a difference by sense but no relation to functionality. Good clay is "color is not tacky, quality is not oily". So the quality of clay should be considered when choosing Yixing teapot.
*形 Xing-shape : Means a shape of pot. Shape of Yixing teapot is so numerous and hides its true meaning and is result of old man's wisdom and effort so since old times "square-shaped but not just one style, circular-shaped but not just one pattern". It's difficult to say what kind of shape is good, because each one's opinion is different. But Yixing teapot is one part of tea culture so what Yixing teapot seeks for is of course what Cha Dao seeks "forgetting none-useful memories, make up mind simple and over-cross man's world". And "simple and elegance" is what fits Cha Dao so that shape of Yixing teapot could consider simple mood for the first.
*款 Kuan-stamp : Yixing teapot's stamp always was considered very importantly. Stamping is different from normal works way of stamping. Balancing the mood of pot, caligraphy and art of painting, sometimes stampe on teapot are done by famous scripture-artist. There are 2 points appreciating stamp. First is to discerning the potter second is to appreciate art and stamp. So appreciating one Yixing teapot could offer not only quality of clay, shape, skill of making but also literature, caligraphy, painting, gold-stone script etc..more beautiful artstic reminiscence to collector.
*功 Gong-functionality : Points out functionality not efficiency. After China's market opening so the Taiwanese involved in the market that saw developement of YIxing teapot market, new products are still being made. When new work by potter, only discuss the shape and ignore the functionality. Most of potters themselves don't drink much of tea so shows lack of knowledge about tea drinking, and that affects directly to functionality of YIxing teapot. While brewing tea, some Yixing teapot looks good but not good to use that is a defect. The functionality of YIxing teapot mostly adequate size, adequate height, precise joint of lid and body, good pouring etc..4 ways. Modern day's home in Taiwan, generally 2 to 5 persons gather and drink tea so 350ml is enough, holding with hand or raise or raise arm to brew so this kind of teapot is called "一手壺 Yi Shou Hu-one hand pot".
3. Artistic value of Yixing teapot
Art of Yixing teapot is derived from activity but more refine than activity. Great Yixing teapot has perfect style and precise skill of making and adequate pattern and material of decoration or method of manufacturing all balanced. Appreciating artistic Yixing teapot directly connects to emotion, relatively perfect work always interpret with artistic language. Easy to use and should offer artistic remininscence.
<Procedure of Yixing teapot making>
Prepare the material implies original clay, making clay, choosing clay. Mined solid ore gets broken, filtered by a sieve, mixing with water then earns delicate clay and store that is called 養土 Yang Tu.
Making Yixing teapot, main method is molding by hand. First, makes body then carves and trim the surface then attaches handle, spout, lid etc..Since Ming to Kangxi period, mostly took this method, and Yongzheng, Qian Long appeared mass produced ones. In Jiajing and Dao Guang period, Chen Man Sheng reinvented old method, so hand-molding again saw the trend.
Early time's tool was mostly bamboo knife then after wood, horn, stone, metal etc..used tools increased also used wheel to shape and trim. Reaching Qing dynasty, tools went over some 10 kinds.
Completed pot undergo delicate revision, some adds decoration. Method of decoration has 貼花 Tie Hua(attaching mountain-water, flower-grass, portrait etc), drawing pattern(writing pattern or letter using aluminum oxide, iron oxide, magnesium oxide etc..dyes), scrulpture(carving picture or letter with 陰刻 Yin Ke). Yixing teapot generally isn't glazed but few has done glazing. Huge pot uses 撥釉法 Fa You Fa-spraying dyes and small pot uses 沈釉法 Shen You Fa-dipping in dyes. Generally single color oil uses one tme and 彩繪 Cai Hui method uses two times.
After making body then fired. Traditionally, Yixing teapot fired kiln is 龍窯 Long Yao-dragon kiln. Long Yao generally is long as 40m and has a part per 1m, wood is fired from head, material is wood and dried grass. Side of kiln has 50 firing-eye for each, so fuel from there. Body of kiln's side, every 4-5m has a exit that enables to lead to a kiln. Temeperature of firing is 1100~1200C, fired for about 40 hrs, takes out pot after a day, after firing is done.
Modern Yixing teapot mostly uses heavy oil from a modern kiln.
Yixing teapot, after firing, go through polishing procedure. Painted pot should undergo second firing.
Sometimes decoration is done on pot. Forbidden City's museum has a Si Da Bin pot that is lacqured on the surface, and carved that balances Yixing crafts and arts and 彫漆 crafts and arts. During Dao Guang period, coating with tin was trendy but was complicated so hard at continuining. And there is way to polish and coating with copper, that is usually done on spout or rim of lid. Decorating with gold-silver-thread is a new decorating method that absorbed wood and lacquer decoration method, first carved as drawing then fire then gold-silver-thread is painted then trims.
Way of molding of Yixing teapot, after Ming's Zheng De period, with many effort and advantion became variable. To say that has 手工 Shou Gong-hand-making, 注裝 Zhu Zhuang-slip-cast, 施杯 Shi Bei, 印湃成形 Yin Bei Cheng Xing etc..