Sunday, October 29, 2006, 12:10 AM
I dug out several interesting Nei Zi (inner Zi Sha) Wai Hong (outer Hong Ni) pieces and one very old and lovely "Er Pu"-sealed Shan Tou teapot 75cc. Let's discuss the unique "Nei Zi Wai Hong" method to decorate yixing teapots and a Guangdong-system teapots: ShanTou Teapots.
The picture below shows (A) 80's Nei Zi Wai Hong "Chung Guo Yi Xing"-sealed, (B) 70's Nei Zi Wai Hong "Chung Guo Yi Xing"-sealed, and (C) the old Shan Tou teapot (the knob on the lid was broken, and repaired by plastic clay so not usable anymore but it's a great learning material).
Nei Zi Wai Hong belongs to the group of decoration method for yixings: Make-up Clay, which mean a different type of clay, usually of finer quality of more interesting color, is applied onto the outer surface of the teapot's body. Anoter example is the early R.O.C. "Pumpkin" of Jing-Ding Trademark. This decoration method has long existed in yixing production. But not until 70's has it started been used in large scale for mass production of yixing teapots. The main purpose of using this method in the mass production was to eliminate the time and labor consuming burnishing work that can refine the surface texture. Another important reason is that it enables the use of lower grade clays as the Hong-Ni make-up clay on the surface would render them nice-looking red teapots anyway.
The picture below shows the inside clays. Note the difference in clay colors of A and B.
The clay of B, apparently paler in looking than A, is typical of 70's zi sha that were used for making Nei Zi Wai Hong teapots. The color of A, more purplish, is closer to what we normally see in massively produced yixings nowadays.
Detailed look at the underside of the lids for A and B.
The arrow pointing to the knob's hole of B highlights the "leaked" hong ni during the application step. Two ways to apply thick liquor of Hong Ni onto the surface: Paiting and Showering. If the thick liquor was showered onto the surface, very often some liquor would leak through the knob's hole. So from the inspection of the underside of the lid, we can learn what method was used to apply the Hong Ni liquor.
Onto the interesting ShanTou teapots. Below is a picture of the ShanTou teapot I have, "Er Pu"-sealed.
ShanTou Teapots has a younger history than Yixing Teapots. In fact, they were made as "Yixing Wannabe" initially, as yixings were too expensive for daily use for general public of GuangDong province. So the potters used the local terra cotta-like red clay and hand-thrown on wheels to make the body. Because the color/texture of the local clays were not as attractive as the yixings, they used the "make-up(cosmetic) clay" skill to decorate those teapots.
To identify if a teapot is of the Yixing system or the ShanTou system, the first clue is to find if there are circular hand-thrown lines inside the teapot. If yes, it is most likely of ShanTou. If not, we then need to inspect the clay carefully. ShanTou clays are different from Yixing clays.
If the above discussion of YiXing vs. ShanTou is not complicated enough, several ShanTou teapot producers were so successful that later they went to YiXing to set up companies/studios to produce real yixing teapots. Among them, "Er Pu" is one of the most famous ShanTou teapot producers.
Although the Nei Zi Wai Hong yixings are usually of mass-produced kind, this producing method was soon out of fashion entering 90's as modern clay-preparing skills and analytical chemistry dominate the production method. So for this reason, I still prefer a humble and genuine "nostalgic" yixing Nei Zi Wai Hong than those modern mass-produced kinds.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 11:55 AM3 men with guns rushed into a pu-erh store in TaiChung, Taiwan around 12:15pm yesterday(Oct/24). They tied up the store owner, Mr. Chen, and took away more than 10 pieces of antique (Hao and Yin)-grade pu-erhs and 30+ mushrooms on the shelves. The store owner offered to give them money, but the men said,
"No money, just want pu-erhs!"
Oh my Oh my... isn't it a sign that pu-erh market is over-heated!
Click to see the news (Chinese)
When we used to have a store in Montrose area/Houston, we had thought to buy insurance for all the goods. But later we decided it was the safest store anywhere in Houston: how can you imagine a gun-robbery in Houston:
"Don't move! I just want all your pu-erhs and yixings... Oh... that is a great Zhu Ni, oh man, that shrinkage lines. Woowww... Chi Tsi Xiao Huan Yin!"
Monday, October 16, 2006, 02:26 PM ( 65 views )
We often hear people saying that you should use only one yixing for one specific tea. While in no way I am a polygamist, I never follow the "one yxing - one tea" theory ^__^ Sure, I dedicate one yixing to one "kind" of teas, but never "one tea". For example, I love the fragrance and delicacy of High-mountain oolongs that a Zhu Ni teapot can smartly expresses. But for aged oolongs I use an Early R.O.C. no-seal wood-fired Zi Sha, which brings out the roundness and warmth of aged oolongs nicely and the appearance of the old little Zi Sha is just a right match to the impression of aged oolongs.
If the "one yixing - one tea" theory is true, those yixing collectors who pursue old/antique/seasoned yixings are out of their mind! Often, when you buy an old/seasoned yixing, the teapot comes with an old odor and plenty of old tea stains. I never worry about this, as several cleaning methods can get rid of those. In the ultimate case or for fine wares like Zhu Ni, I bring them to a local jewelry store to have them clean in the ultrasound device.
In the very important 17th century literature of yixing, "Yang Xian Ming Hu Si" (Yan Xian is the old name of "Yi Xing") by scholar Zhou Gao-Chi, it said, "If there is old odor in the teapot, fill the teapot with boiling water, pour out the water and immediately soak the teapot in a cool water bath, and pour out the cool water also immediately. The condition of the teapot is restored." (Note - I **don't** recommend this method on zhu ni wares, due to their large shringake/expansion rate).
So free yourself from the marketing agenda of "one yixing - one tea"! I would rather to have three good yixings for 10 different teas, instead of having 10 mediocre ones for 10 teas.
Friday, October 13, 2006, 04:47 PMEver since the established of Yixing #1 Factory in 1954, headed by Masters such as Gu Jing-Zhou, Jiang Ron, etc., potters that worked for the factory only supposed to produce for the factory. Private productions were not allowed. However, the following 10-year Cultural Revolution (1966~76) created havoc in the yixing industry and production was mostly halted. Tomakematter worse, they could not receive enough orders to keep every body busy as well. Towards the end of the Revolution, some famous potters tried to produce from their own home to earn additional income to support the living of their family. The factory knew the "illegitimate" activities, but understood it was inevitable as everybody just barely tried to survive.
Into the 80's, China started adapting the western-style Market Economy. It further encouraged the establishment of private studios. Fueled by the strong Asian economy since the 80's, pieces made of famous yixing artists can be easily worth over thousands US$. However, not everybody can afford the cost-you-an-arm-and-a-leg Master-made yixings, so from their studios they re-produce those Master pieces. The studios also serve the purpose for apprentices to learn directly from their masters.
Now, what are the differences between Master-made pieces and Studio pieces? I found some pictures from the Asian forum, http://www.potsart.com/forum/index.php, that give us great ideas:
Piece: 1985 National Grand Master Gu Shao-Pei, "Tian Long Din Zhu" (A Ball-chasing Dragon)
The Zi Sha one on the left is the genuine Gu's work, and the Hong Ni (red clay) one on the right is from his studio. Try to feel the difference in the "feeling" they give you. Feel it?
The Gu's work (price... no less than US$3,000) Note the vivid and dynamic feeling this piece expresses:
The studio piece. It feels not so "dynamic" as the piece above, right? Also note how the surface burnishing is different:
Detailed comparison of the craftsmanship of the "foot":
Studio pieces are often made following (okey... you can say "copying) the Master pieces by his/her apprentices. The Masters themselves oversee the productions and sometimes participate in some more tricky parts.
Buying Master-made pieces are extremely high-stake. In an everything-can-be-faked place like China, I have heard from several cases people find the "certificates" and "signatures" and "photos" that came with their Master-made pieces were all faked!
So we should appreciate the beauty of yixings using our eyes and hearts - if a piece is so pleasing to our sense, so what if it does not come with a "certificate"?
You can usully find studio pieces that are of great clay/craftsmanship (of coz, the above Hong Ni one I would not say "great craftsmanship"). Please don't confused them with "faked" pieces. Pieces like Zhou Quei-Zheng "Shi Piao" and Ho Yan-Ping "Yuan Gu" bear such high aesthetic quality that only Master's studios can achieve.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006, 01:19 PM ( 46 views )We just like to hear the knocking sounds of yixings and cannot get enough of them! I recorded several more for you:
Now we have heard quite a few different sounds from different yixings. Except being pleasing to our ears, what do they really reveal to us?
I will discuss my 2 cents in the next How to Select Yixings to Match Your Teas blog : )