Yixing, Purple Clay For The Tea Drinker and Connoisseur
Among true tea aficionados around the world the only type of pot that should ever be used are ones made from clay found originally in the Yixing region of China. Also known as Zisha or "Purple Clay" .
The material was first discovered during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th Century. Soon after the material was being made into a wide variety of vessels from bowls, to vases to plates. By the early 16th C. it's believed the first teapots were specifically made.
Today, Yixing wares are among the most popular of all Asian ceramics. They can be found in virtually every form imaginable but are overwhelmingly most commonly encountered as teapots. Despite this, the varieties of pots seem to have no apparent limitation when it comes to form, size and decorative combinations. While most are under 6" or 7" tall, on occasion they can be encountered in much larger sizes as seen above. Its a whopping 11" tall, though it might not sound all that unusual, it is..
The unique characteristics of the clay itself when fired results in an ideally suited environment for making tea. The resulting material is highly insulative allowing it to retain heat, essential to brewing. The clay is also naturally quite porous resulting the in the clay being able to absorb naturally the oils released during the brewing process. This resulting "seasoning" of the pot's interior improves the flavor year after year.
Its important however as a general rule to only use one type of tea per pot. Most fans of Yixing prefer to "season" their pots before using for the first time by placing a new pot in boiling water with a cup full of used tea leaves and let it simmer for half an hour.
Interestingly for decades these types of tea wares could be found in antique shops throughout here in New England by the dozens for under $25 each up until the 1990's. Many were brought over between 1880 and the 1930's as curiosity's and used as inexpensive shelf pieces and decorations. Today, they have all been bought up pretty much, and are now cherished and appreciated for what they are, which has caused a huge leap in prices of anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 % in the last 20 years. In some cases even more.
RARE, Yixing Lined Chinese Pewter TeapotsBelow you'll notice a number of pewter teapots, many with incised inscriptions or landscape scenes or both. Some, like regular pure Yixing examples have very interesting shapes. Whats most interesting about these is that they have been neatly fitted Yixing liners, while pewter has always been a popular metal in China it is not an ideal environment in which to "steep" tea. When you encounter these check the interior for a potter's stamp, usually found (if present) straight down on the bottom.
If you should decide to start collecting them, get out your wallet, they typically range in price anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000 each. Also be patient, they do not turn up very often, less than 2% of all pewter pots have Yixing liners. When you find one, carefully check the liner for damage, they are often cracked which can radically affect value.
What Kind of Yixing Pot is Right For You?To learn more about picking a pot for your own use and enjoyment visit YeYong Tea website...Its an interesting site with lots of good information. You can also visit YouTube and type in "Rare Yixing Teapot"..their are some excellent video's there from China. Below is just one of many...its quite good!
A Yixing Zisha Collection
During the last eight months I've had the pleasure of getting to know a family who inherited a large collection of Chinese porcelains numbering in the thousands of pieces. Most of which has been in storage for decades and we are now in the process of selling this collection for them over the next year of so. One piece at a time.
Within this collection is a vast number of Yixing items. Ranging from teapots to vases, ink wells, tea caddies, bowls and rare pewter clad Yixing pots with inscriptions. As a consequence I thought it might be useful to post a few examples found within the collection. Many more will appear in the months ahead.
We do hope collectors and folks interested in these unique items will enjoy the images presented here and will add to their knowledge.
Below is an array of some the examples (out of hundreds) we've had the pleasure of handling...email us with any questions or comments. If you have any porcelains you would like to sell or have appraised we would be happy to hear from you.