Appreciation of Purple Clay tea pot (2)

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Purple clay (Zisha)

Purple clay / red clay / purple sand / red sand / "zisha" are generic terms for the clay material found indigenous to the region of Yixing, China. Purple clay is in fact midway between earthenware and porcelain. Clays similar to Yixing clay in color and general appearance can be found in many parts of China and Europe too, but they lack the sandy consistency that makes Yixing clay unique. Its unique quality makes it excellent for delicate hand-crafted creations. Therefore, purple clay can be produced into teapots, tea wares and other handicraft articles.Purple clay ware completely made by hand is not only excellent in brewing tea but also beautiful. Its aesthetical beauty derives from the variety of colors, its texture, the exceptional artistic design in form and shape, the exquisite free hand forming skills and superb workmanship of the artisan. Only a perfect and harmonious combination of all these leads to the paramount status of a purple clay ware.


Unique quality in brewing tea

Teapots made from Yixing purple clay are extolled by aficionados as superior to all other types of teapots for brewing tea. This is attributed to the unglazed nature of the teapot after firing which retains its porous nature, which is excellent at absorbing the flavor and aroma of tea. After prolonged use, a patina will gradually develop on the interior of the teapot which enhances the taste, color and aroma of the tea. Legend has it that if a purple clay teapot has been used for a long time, one can simply pour hot water into the teapot to brew a cup of tea.Externally, the unglazed surface absorbs oils from the tea so the appearance of the teapot will become more and more lustrous with age and use.Collectors and aficionados are always looking for rich patina as this is one of the unique characteristics required for a good old and antique teapot.he taste and aroma of the tea can be enhanced if a teapot is matched with the right type of tea.


Variety of colors

According to Xu Xiu Tang (Contemporary National Grade Craft and Art Master of China), purple clay occurs naturally in three colors: purple, red and buff yellow. These clays can be used independently or mixed together or adding mineral pigments or artificial pigments so as to form a variety of colors.Among the different kinds of clay, pure red clay and buff yellow are short in supply and some of them are even already exhausted.


Aesthetical beauty

The designs and shapes of clay wares can be classified into three main types: natural, geometric shapes or artistic style. Another way of classification is simply to define them as plain teapots or decorated teapots.In addition, calligraphy, painting, intricate carvings and sculptures are also incorporated into the teapot, making this art form a unique expression of the Chinese art. Modern craftsmen or artisans not only produce replicas of old pots, but constantly create new and innovative designs which contribute to the individual character of each teapot. It is through the medium of these valuable works of art that many aspects of Chinese culture are embodied in the teapots and are therefore preserved.


Superb craftsmanship

Each purple clay ware is a handmade work of art and it may take years for artisans to develop and mature their skills and techniques. With different levels of forming or potting techniques, the same design can be found in several quality levels. For instance, the art of making plain geometric ware is the easiest to learn but hardest to master. The plain geometric ware is completely exposed because of its simplicity and plainness. The slightest deviation will become more glaring than with products of greater intricacy. Therefore, a high quality purple clay ware will normally be the best work of the highest caliber.


The appraisal of a teapot

The connoisseur appraises a purple clay ware basically according to the following criteria:

whether the clay is natural or artificial;

whether the clay is processed or refined by hand or by machine;

its form and design, i.e. whether it is beautiful;

the degree of craftsmanship, i.e. whether it is formed by hand or by molding;

the popularity of the craftsman and

its ability to brew a cup of tasty tea or better still, to upgrade the quality of tea.

The tea culture and teapot art have been blooming since the last decade. However, high quality clay wares with superb craftsmanship are in limited supply and cannot keep up with the increasing demand. Especially rare are the delicately handcrafted works by famous artisans. Therefore, any pieces made by a master artisan are sought after everywhere, and are worth their weight in gold.


One teapot for one type of tea only

The absorbent nature of purple clay teapots will enrich the taste and flavor of tea after a long period of usage. To avoid a mixture of various tea fragrances, it's essential to stick to the same kind of tea for the same teapot.


Teapot treatment / curing before use

There are a number of ways to remove the sandy residue that may be left behind after manufacture as well as remove the taste of clay from the new teapot before use. Experts and connoisseurs will use complicated, specific, private and undisclosed ways for each teapot to obtain the best result. Nevertheless, some aficionados will simply boil the teapot with hot water. From our point of view, this method is not desirable. Another method requires many extended infusions of the same type of tea that is intended for use in the pot. Brew at least three or four separate pots of tea, allowing the curing infusion to remain in the pot for no more than one-half hour before discarding the infusion. This is a method that can be adopted as it is simple for everyone.


Matching tea and teapot

To the aficionados, to find the right match between the kind of tea and the teapot is an unfathomable and abstruse study. As over time, the right match means the maximization of the following: the enhancement of the taste, aroma and purity of the tea, i.e. to upgrade the quality of the tea leaves,the luster of the surface of the teapot, and the growth in value of the teapot.


Nurturing/Cultivating Yixing clay teapot

The more you use the teapot, the richer the interior patina and the more lustrous the surface will grow. Therefore, just make frequent and correct (as mentioned above) uses of the teapot. Then the quality of the tea brewed by the nurtured teapot and the beauty of the teapot will be enhanced with use, and hence the value of the teapot.