The Rare Chinese Teapot That Is Made From A Mountain –- Really!
There is much interest in teapots from China and their effect on making tea taste its best. The best of these are Yixing teapots made from a special rock clay from the Yixing area of China. The best Yixing teapots are called Zisha (Purple Sand Clay, even though they may not necessarily be purple in colour). Zisha teapots are at the heart of the Chinese method of tea-making called Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill).
Unlike western pottery teapots which are made from mud clay and turned on a wheel, Yixing Chinese teapots are assembled piece by piece, either by hand or machine or both. These teapots have excellent porosity and heat handling properties for tea making and as they age, they improve the taste of the teas made with them.
The most rare and special of the Yixing Zisha teapots are known as Zhuni. These teapots are made from clay that comes from a rare rock vein found on some mountain sides and are actually made oversized. They are then fired at a low temperature and for a much longer period than other Zisha teapots. During firing, they shrink to size leaving subtle wrinkles on the clay. This process makes the clay almost glass-like. Most of the teapots break during firing, making the survivors rare and expensive.
Today the markets abound with “Genuine Zhuni Teapots” but it’s all in the definition. During the Ching Dynasty (1644 – 1912 CE), the rare rock was found in a single mountain and Zhuni teapots were exported to Europe. By the mid ‘70’s the rare rock began to run out and since then, three more regions have been used. The clays from each region give the teapots distinctive properties and all can be said to be Zhuni. But amongst serious collectors, only those from the Ching Dynasty period are the real ones. Getting one of those though is almost impossible.
When it comes to Zhuni, buyer beware!
A complete guide to Chinese teapots can be found here, along with information on all types of Chinese tea (including pu-erh tea, oolong tea, and white tea).