Clay utensils are the main invention of the Neolithic era. Initially, those were primitive items made of unprocessed clay, which later turned into rather durable objects of hardened clay. Further development has led to emergence of glazed clay utensils.

Yixing tea ware made of purple clay or lilac sand appeared as far back as the days of the Song Dynasty (960-1127) and soon after became the standard of original tableware of the highest quality. During Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), having kept its individuality, it became widespread and turned into fashionable paraphernalia. According to the legend, a teapot of purple clay was first created by a famous monk from Yixing Golden Sand Temple, who lived in the days of Ming Dynasty. He chose fine-grained clay containing lilac-colored sand, made a round-shaped work piece out of it, added a spout, a handle, a lid and fired it in the potter’s oven.

 

 

Tea pots of lilac sand are not quite like regular ceramics: the vessels are glazed neither on the inside nor on the outside. They are produced of purple and red mountain clay extracted not far from the city of Yixing. The clay is kneaded, shaped, and then fired. Since the firing temperature for ceramics is relatively high, the resulting item turns out rather solid, while the surface of the work piece (unfired wares) – delicate and smooth. The walls of the vessel don’t let the moisture in, yet the pores they contain are visible to the eye. If the item has been used for a long time the very walls of the pot absorb tea liquor and accumulate its fragrance. Moreover, the surface of Yixing pots is not a good conductor of heat, and, therefore, getting a burn by holding the pot is not possible. The vessel is not susceptible to sudden changes of temperature, which prevents it from cracking and breaking.

Yixing ceramics is distinguished for its pure colors, classical simplicity and grace. The traditional shape of clay tea ware resembles bamboo nodes, roots of a lotus plant, a stump of a pine tree or are an imitation of ancient bronze vessels produced during Shang (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou (1122 BC-249 ВС) Dynasties.

 

 

Craftsmen decorate the surface of ceramic items using traditional methods of stamp engraving in the style of zhuan and decorative painting, as well as using calligraphy of the styles of Kai Shu, Cao Shu, Li Shu and Zhuan. This way the items of Chinese tableware are not just of practical, but also of artistic value. Many famous poets and artists are known to have personally written poems on these objects of tea ware. The work “Study of vermillion teapots and illustrations to them” tells about the poet, artist and calligrapher Zhen Banqiao (1693-1765) who himself made a teapot and then wrote the following poem on it: “A sharp spout, a big belly and handles lifted up, barely had the time to leave behind hunger and cold, when became prideful at once. The teapot of a small size, not much will fit into it, you pour a little inside – and huge waves arise”.

Each teapot is produced manually and has no duplicates. The craftsman endows it with a part of his own soul as well as the age-old history of his ancestors.

 

 

The criteria for an ideal teapot are as follows: the size and the volume should be proportionate to the overall weight; the pot should be convenient for carrying it holding it at the handle; the lid should fit the top opening of the pot precisely, i.e. without clefts between the pot; the flow of water through the spout should be uninhibited; the background and the picture on the pot should tastefully complement each other; the pot’s outward appearance should be combined with the comfort of use and practical usability.

At some point, when it has been used for brewing for a while, the tea pot will acquire an oily and shiny surface. This is when the spirit hidden inside the item will begin to reveal itself, which adds a special value to the pot.

The tea ware made of lilac sand is very highly esteemed, not just in China, but over the entire world.

 

 

 

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