宜兴壶 Yixing Pot
One allure to Chinese gong fu cha is the teaware. Often, for those unfamiliar with gong fu cha, the list of items needed seem endless and puzzling. The truth is, you don’t need all the tools to drink gong fu cha. Gong fu cha is about appreciating tea by sharing. As long as you have a tea vessel for brewing, a few cups, you can do gong fu cha. That being said, it’s worth mentioning why certain people choose certain tea vessel. Today, let’s look to this little clay teapot.
Yixing pots, as the name suggests, are made from the town of Yixing, from Jiangsu Province in China. With a history of over 7000 years of pottery making, their clay pots have transformed from merely a tool for everyday tea drinking, to a well sought-out piece for art collectors.
Yixing clay teapots are made using natural purple clay. There are many variations to this craft, making some teapots appear in colors other than purple. It’s done usually by mixing with sand, or other natural materials.
There are many stages to the completion of one Yixing teapot. Till this day, masters from Yixing have still use traditional techniques. Technique of beating, patting, decorating and affixing are done all by hand. Then they go through the polishing stage by shaving, to smoothen the surface and refine the final shape. Depending on the design, some masters would engrave patterns, decals, and enlace.
What makes a good Yixing pot? Of course, the prerequisite is of it’s functionality as a vessel for tea. Yixing purple clay is rich in iron and silicon. Hard in texture, thus it holds form during the firing in the kiln in 1000 degree Celsius.
When choosing to use a Yixing teapot, you are choosing the tea that best pair with it. Since it holds temperature well, Yixing pots are more suited for more oxidized teas like darker wu long, and pu-er teas. Functionality aside, one is to appreciate each Yixing pot how well it reflects Chinese cultural traditions, how well it responds to current trends, and last but not least, how well it expresses its own distinctive personality.
Clay teapots are of various shapes, for various functional purposes. This provides a canvas for well-seasons clay masters. Ancient Chinese poetry, calligraphy, traditional paintings and sculptures are often presented on claypot. Yixing clay pot masters differ not only in their rigorous training and skills perfected over the years, but also the refinement of their artistic expression and creativity.
The wealth of knowledge is infinite. I could go on, but for now, I will attend to my favorite yixing pot, waiting to be seasoned.