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Appreciating The Four Major Zisha Teapot Forms

Author/photo Lin YiJun

To derive true pleasure from collection and appreciation of art, it is not enough to simply subjectively like something or see only its utility or price, For true fulfillment, it is more important to understand the reason behind this appreciation.

This "reason" refers to understanding the evolutionary process of this art or craft and its unique artistic characteristics. It also refers to further learning to appreciate the inner meaning expressed by each piece. Every type of artistic culture is the result of the accumulated energy and hard work of countless artists. It is inevitably rich and varied, a combination of ancient and modern, an expression of culture, a reflection of life, or an embodiment of craft. Its development may span hundreds of years or more than a thousand. As spectators passing by, collectors capable of understand how to appreciate art and antiquities must cherish and respect history and culture. It is thus difficult not to be saddened when we come upon those who comment on the usefulness of a zisha teapot as only an article for daily use or prefer only a specific type of pot. Art is fundamentally unrestricted by domain. We should not narrowly appreciate that which we see while closing off appreciation of deeper meaning. Only by gradually learning the fundamentals, can we achieve enjoyment of art through understanding.

Since antiquity, the form of zisha pottery has changed countless times with the skill level of artisans and the accumulation of culture. To understand the reason and attraction of these pots, we must extract a systematic framework.

Zisha clay is the result of millions of years of change to the earth's surface, which has provided Yixing with this unique treasure. Found nowhere else on earth, it has inspired generations of potters. The various colors in the clay found here provide even greater space for creativity. Like a canvas with many surfaces, this material allows those who master it to create a profusion of forms with the abundance of the natural world. Tea brewed in this clay benefits from its warm character, which gives rise to endless, life-like changes and inspires the devotion of tea lovers everywhere.

We generally classify the forms of zisha pots into four major types: round square, decorated, and segmented. Below we briefly describe these four types of zishi pottery:

Round Teapots

Round zisha pots are a classic form. They are both bold and simple. We can appreciate this form largely through its lines. Lines are the most basic elements of appearance, and all change starts from the lines. The lines of these round pots strive for simplicity and refined spirit. I believe this is similar to appreciating a beautiful woman wearing no makeup. Sparkling and crystal clear, the lines are exquisitely wrought. Neither too thin nor two fat, their proportions are just right.

The name of the Xi Shi teapot comes from its resemblance to the breasts of a beautiful woman. Xi Shi was one of the four historical beauties of China. In the past, these pots were even more directly called "Xi Shi Breasts." The pots are semi-circular in shape with a bead on The spout is short and turned upward, resembling a small pouting cherry, They may be slightly squashed but do not collapse. They arc ideally not made with tiao sha or pu sha clay, which cause the pot to resemble smooth skin covered with acne.

Stone Gourd pots are not square but are extremely particular about body shape. They are not round but are perfectly squashed. The teapot bodies are plump, and the handles are prominent. The spouts are well-pro-portioned, and the three-legged form expresses the spirit and beauty of these pots.

Shut Ping pots present many aspects for appreciation. Some enjoy them for their clay material. Some enjoy analyzing their age. Me ? I have always appreciated Shut Ping pots for their consummate level of craft. Why, if not creative, are repeatedly duplicated styles considered classic? I believe the answer lies in the exquisite level of craft needed to reproduce classic aesthetics.

Square Teapots

The beauty of square pots is not only in their points, lines, and suralways appreciated Shui Ping pots for their consummate level of craft. Why, if not creative, are repeatedly duplicated styles considered classic? I believe the answer lies in the exquisite level of craft needed to reproduce classic aesthetics.

Square Teapots

The beauty of square pots is not only in their points, lines, and surfaces. The first dimension refers to lines joining two points. The second dimension refers to the various aspects of a plane. The third dimension refers to the concept of solid bodies. The fourth dimension adds the ever-changing aspect of time. When we perceive different external objects, we naturally attempt to distinguish Teapot them. Our eyes and knowledge serve different functions. When an image flashes by, we are not limited by only what we see. Our minds are in continuous motion, so, upon seeing this type of classic teapot, our perception continuously jumps across each line, surface, and body. In an instant, my perception is reduced to only seeing without the ability to differentiate. It lingers on the points, lines, and surfaces^ but spends even more time within my own hold.

In the field of square teapots, there is a saying that: "The external square shape should not rigidly restrict the shape of the structure. The square shape should not lose its rounded character. The roundness retains regularity." Well-made square pots contain another type of energy and power, with firm lines and manifestcd strength. A quality square teapot displays strong, straight lines and is not unstable or unclear. Its spirit unfolds in straight lines and surfaces fully developing its firm and forceful bearing. Winding lines and surfaces extend throughout the square structure flexibly expressing this craft. With the addition of several other factors, the unyielding personality adds a gentle and mild quality. These lines provide the entire pot with a type of fluidity like an endlessly multiplying cycle.

Decorated Teapots

The natural world provides rich subject matter for these pots. These multicolored pots are extremely captivating, The meaning and art of these teapots can be found beyond the decorations. Quality is not only in the flowery decoration, but decorations both simple and complex allow this piece to clearly express why the squirrel climbing up the tree to eat grapes means this year will be a bumper harvest.

Decorated zisha teapots are dominated by molded, relief, and appliqué decorative techniques. New modern techniques include inlaid gold, inlaid silver, inlaid clay, and twisted clay. Bao Zhongmei decorated this pot with inlaid silver and clay. His wife, Shi Xiuchun, created the teapot.

Segmented Teapots

Segmented utensils have a long history in China. In ancient times, there were chestnut flower bronze mirrors as well as numerous gold, silver, and lacquered rhombus and chrysanthemum petal shaped utensils.

Among the four major zishsi types, segmented teapots must have been the last to appear. They also represent the most difficult form to produce. Even if created from a semi-finished mold, positioning each surface and line requires great effort. Fully handmade teapots require even greater skill. The straight lines are much like the lines of square pots, while the surfaces between the lines require the smooth detail of round pots. Every rise and fall expresses strong the opposing forces of change. These segmented pots began as an evolution of round zisha pots, later introducing the segmented decorative form from ocher teapot types.

segmented teapots must have been the last to appear. They also represent the most difficult form to produce. Even if created from a semi-finished mold, positioning each surface and line requires great effort. Fully handmade teapots require even greater skill. The straight lines are much like the lines of square pots. while the surfaces between the lines require the smooth detail of round pots. Every rise and fall expresses strong the opposing forces of change. These segmented pots began as an evolution of round zisha pots, later introducing the segmented decorative form from other teapot types.

Concluding Remarks

The development of artistic craft is not only expressed in external form. Each piece is a combination of its creator's life, craft, and creative ideas. However, when an artistic creation flows into the mainstream of art, its creative meaning is no longer restricted to the original intent of its creator, much like a child who may grow up to be completely unlike his or her parents. The birth of an artistic creation often transcends its craft, and these creations trigger unexpected feelings in viewers and collectors. Only when art reaches this level, can we say it is priceless.