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The Decoration of Purple Clay Teapots

The decoration of purple clay teapot

The decorative crafts is the extreme important method of raising the traditional porcelain quality and art values. Especially for the Yixing Zisha teapots, it do need the higher level of manufacture and decorations, because of its unglaze, this could be fit for the requirements of users in different levels. On the other side, the decoration should have the characteristics of its times, and could reflects the society, politics, economics, cultures,etc.

In the past five hundred years, the crafts of purple clay techniques changed with the developing times, and saved the traces of different periods more or less. In the developments and evolutions of decoration it always represented the parallel development of varieties of styles, as the contents of cultures which advocated by the scholars and. On the other side, the flowery style pay much attention on the appearances which favoured by common people. But ultimately, they all manufactured by practitioners.

The participation of scholars and literators was an inspiration for the practitioners in a sense, to made the practitioners more self-confident and brave, left their name in the inscriptions seriously. After having the name of inscription, purple clay teapot became prevalent.

Five hundred years,, the developments of purple clay crafts included lots of categories except for the main aspect of smooth ware, such as sculpting, printing, applique, piercing, anaglyph, cut decoration, golden drawing, pottery carving, twistable glaze, clay painted, enamel color, Fencai (femille rose) painting, Jun muffle stove glaze, tin coat, enchase with copper and tin, enchase with copper and compound materials adding sand in paste, polishing, decals, etc.

1. Sculpting

The sculpture arts in ceramics had started long time ago ii China, it began to prevalent in Shang Dynasty, the excavated of the Terra Cotta Soldier Figures of the first emperor Qin Shihuang's mausoleum (Terracotta Army), it means that the sculpture art has had mature at that time.

As one decorative method in purple clay pottery, the sculpture is crude both its clay materials and workmanship, according to the unearthed "Dragonhead shape teapot" in some broken vessels which discored in Yangjiaoshan , Yixing, in July,1976. It should be an early work of purple clay teapots. This kind of decorative method play an important role in the later of the flowery style of purple clay teapots. By static sculpture articles could evolve into the parts of activities pot, now the most common includes dragon head, phenix mouth, lotus feeds, tree without blossoms, branches of plum tree, fruits teapots,etc.

* Fruits teapots, in the book of "CHINESE ART" pressed by Commercial Press in early time of the Republic of China Period which was written by British person named Bossier, he praised on the Yixing purple clay vessels,called them as "miracle teapots". There was a picture of fruits teapots with its color was primrose yellow, and decorating different fruits arounding, it was an inverted guava shape, the mouth was nodus nelumbinis rhizomatis style, the cover was the shape of stipe, the handle was the shape of water caltrop, three feet as lotus seed I pot, litchi fruit, walnut, an inscription sealed on the other side, the modling was nature, vivid and Interesting. Besides these, it also included best wishes of have many sons and grandsons, as well as the meanings of health and longevity.

* Lotus teapot with soft loop handle, total height is 8cm, Chen Mingyuan inscripted, collected by Suzhou Antique & Curio Store. The shape is shower head, composed by 8 pieces of lotus petals, convergent underlly. The mouth is a curl lotus leave, the body is lotus shape. There are 6 lotus feeds setting around the rotundity, the button and lotus feeds are movable. There is a silver accessory used as loop handle put on the shoulder, this kinds of decorative methods adds some dynamic feelings based on the original decoration as well as the interests.

* Fish incarnated in dragon form teapot, its height is 10cm and caliber is 7.5cm, made by Shao Daheng. this teapot is sphere, waves pattern decorated the whole body, bright, clear and pnooth contour line. A dragon head is extending out of the waves, opening its mouth and eyes, spitting a rare Pearl naturelv arid vividlv.as the sma style as the cover decoration, the dragon head on the cover is movable. The handle is the tail of dragon, with affecting spice. This model has been passed down now.

According to the Series Records of Yangxian Famous Teapots written by Zhou Gaoqi, it said,"Chcn Zhongmei was born in Wuyuan, itarted making porcelain in Jingdezhen, so many people worked at there, so he came to Yixing for paking interesting teapots". Since we can know that Chen brought the techniques of making porcelain and molding methods to Yixing, as well as extending the manifest range of purple clay pottery with lots of vessels which imitating the nature.

2. Printing

Early in the neolithic age, ancestors used the pressing and clapping prints and carving methods to decorated the pottery for beautify potteries. The conventional rope figure was printed by ropes. Some other printings were pressed on the unseasoned paste by definite objects moulds which had the pattern. In Xia and Shang Dynasties, the pattern of printing had increased, included the gluttonous grain, rhombus dragon grain, zig-zag and words grain, petals grain, cloud lines grain, swirl grain, whirly grain, serial grain,etc.

It was not too much in using the printing pattern in the purple clay teapots in fact, just printed a few geometric designs and whirly grain on the neck, shoulder, roundish feet, cover rim edges of some parts of teapots.

There is another analogous method only different on the convex and concave, we called as stamping back. The methods of pottery stamping back existed in Shang Dynasty, and it became a prevalent and common craft in Sui Dynasty. The porcelain in Sui Dynasty painted the glaze after stamped the pattern, fired and appeared the decortive design.

3. Applique

The method is stick the moulding or hand kneading model flower pattern or decorative parts on the teapot body by slurry. The applique craft had already used in the pottery modeling in Qin Han Dynasties, For example, the great numbers of pottery horse and warriors in the Mausoleum of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and Terracotta Warriors and Horses, this method occupied a large proportion. It developed and became prevalent in Tang Dynasty, the emblazonry became more exquisite and refined, elegant, new and unique, such as "phenix head and dragon tail teapot", etc.

A purple clay teapot in Jiajing Period of Ming Dynasty was unearthed at Majiashan which is outside of Zhonghua Gate in Nanjing City, its height was 17.9cm, the width is 19cm, collected by Nanjing Museum. There are four persimmon branches and leaf pattern which are 0.2cm thick sticking on the joint where connects the root of flow-mouth and belly. It got an effect of metal vessels, not only for the mote firmly glue function, but also for the decorative results. Since this method became the major decorative methods of purple day teapots, and they almost used on the applique and transfer decoration of leaf and flowers. It was prevalent in Qianlong Period.

The early applique used single color of clay mostly, as well as the simple pattern, then developed into using the mixed multi-color clay.

4. Piercing

As early as the period of Dawenkou culture and the period of Liangzhu Culture, it was prevalent using the hollow-out decoration m making black pottery such as square hole, roundish hole, compressed hole, delthyrium, diamond hole and varieties of hollow-out holes, with multitudinous orientation.

The piercing decoration in purple clay teapots appeared in late-Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, and became prevalent in Qianlong Period, In order to cater to the taste of the townsfolks' interests, all petty designs appeared gradually. Detailed and exquisite eight bamboo joints teapot without inscription, 13cm H and 9.1cm W,collected by Luo Guixiang in flagstaff House Museum of Teaware, HK - This teapot belonged to the works of early time in Qianlong Period, the body was composed by eight big bamboo sections, the flow-mouth, button and handle are all bamboo joints, the big bamboo sections was hollow-out as bamboo pole and bamboo leaf, the total look and the managements are elegant only excepts the inconvenient when using.

Now, the piercing decoration in purple clay teapots almost be used on the covers and buttons, it is rare of this kind of moulding and decoration.

5. Anaglyph

Buddhism came into China in Han Dynasty, and also the buddhist art effected the ceramic decoration. Lotus is one of the themes of buddhist art, lotus decorative pattern in ceramics was prominent, it always be decorated with sticking and anaglyph techniques to form various of expressions and other decorative pattern. In fact, there were so many analogous effects on anaglyph and applique methods.

According to the records of West Winding of Yixing Pottery Arts which written by Le Binna, "a few collections in Europe can traced back to the early time of 17th or 18th century, in the middle of these, the most important one is twin flow-mouth teapot which collected by Denmark National Museums, relief sculpture of pine, plum flower and other pattern, the rim of cover was decorated by the kylin and golden edging." this teapot can be confirmed recorded in 1656(Shunzhi next 13 years Qing Dynasty). The Yixing teapots which exported to Europe had some common characteristics. Most of them were made by red clay, seldom wares with inscriptions. The generally exported teapots had the relief sculpture as making decoration, the decorative style was squareness, but usually the relief mold of pitcher body was a magnificent decoration.

The historical records about Yixing pottery export to Europe and the influence on West were not enough, but the great number of imitated Yixing potteries confirmed the different levels of European potters' reaction on Chinese flintless stoneware. Early in 1667(Kangxi next 6 years), Delft in Holland had appeared the Yixing imitations. Through reading, we know that Yixing pottery has small amounts of works exported during Shunzhi Period in Qing Dynasty and most of works were applique and anaglyph. Today, the decorative anaglyph teapots are very rare, mostly be taken place by appliques.

6. Cut decoration

Cut decoration is a technique of making lacquer, It also called as "carved lacquer" ,the technique involves applying natural lacquer, either red or black, on a wooden surface, then engraving delicate designs on the lacquer. The red lacquer (ti-hung), so well known and justly appreciated, was coloured with cinnabar (red mercuric sulfide). After preparation and polishing, it is coated with several dozen of layers of lacquer, reaching a total thickness of 8 to 200 layers. Engravers have to wait for the lacquer to dry naturally so it crack in the future.

The carved lacquer purple clay base landscape and people painting handed pot was made by Shi Dabin in Ming Dynasty, 13cm caliber is 7.8cm, collected by Palace Museum in Beijing, This pot is a precious and the most important handicraft article, and its base bone is the purple clay vessels in Ming Dynasty.

The pot is squareness, roundish mouth has a cover,similar to the Shi Dabin teapot which unearthed at Yangzhou, The belly is designed in the tapestry-like ground and reserved panel both sides, carved pine, red-crowned crane, an elder was sitting under the pine tree, a little boy was waiting by, tea furnace setting on the left, mountain and cloud far away; as well as carved the scene of two elders travelling mountain, one was holding his crutch, the other was pointing a glossy ganoderma in the middle of rocks. The mouth was carved fret pattern, cover button carved lotus pattern, with the tapestry-like ground pattern carved eight precious ware such as musical stone,conch,bell, dappers, drum,coral, sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) and gamet(a legendary luminous pearl).the handle, flow-mouth and body had carved pattern, but still different with the royal carved method of Wanli Period in Ming Dynasty. The round and moisten of pattern surface was also different with ways of cutting in Qing Dynasty, Since it is believable that the Palace Museum Collections of Lacquer rated as Late-Ming Dynasty work.

In Qing Dynasty, there still had several pieces of carved lacquer purple clay base teapots, but according to the shape and decoration, they were inferior to this one. Now, there is no any carved lacquer decorations used in purple clay teapots.

7. Golden drawing

The golden drawing colored melon teapot, 11.3cm H, 13cm W, without inscription, belongs to the late 18th century, collected by Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware in HK. This teapot is lacquer covered, painted flower pattern, drew golden limbs, this was common decoration method used in lacquer, sticked the golden powder or gold foil on the patterns before it completely dried.

Bullion color-painting landscape purple clay teapot, 10.2cm H, caliber is 8.4cm, the length of feet is 6.9cm, collected by Palace Museum in Beijing. The mouth ,feet, belly, cover and button are all squareness, the curl flow-mouth and handle are as same. The confront of belly was painted color landscape by bullion, a poem which written by Emperor Qianlong carved on the back, and an inscription of "Made in Qianlong Period" sealed on the bottom. The shape of teapot is beauty, technique is exquisite and refined, belongs to the royal court teawares.

These two pieces all above used the common lacquer decoration methods, maybe for representing the differences between gorgeous of royal court teawares and common teawares which used by common people. In the late-Qing Dynasty, this kind of decoration method was rare using for making works.

8. Pottery carving

Pottery carving is the most far-ranging decoration method be used in purple clay teapots. It used for inscribing on the half-dried body, carved by bambbo knife, metal knife, then it developed into a decoration.

Carving characters on the pieces of pottery existed for four thousand years in Chinese history. In the early 1990s, Chinese archeologists discovered a piece of pottery which was carved 11 characters at least, suddenly it promoted the Chinese calligraphy history texts up to nearly a thousand years in China, and it is earlier than oracle, since now it was a first words we can discover within China borders.

The characteristic decoration in purple clay teapots is developed increasingly in Jianqing/Daoguang Period in Qing Dynasty. The participation of Chen Mansheng made the teapot change the verbose details in the past into a clean and simple, new and fine looking style, showing the unification of the design functions and forms, with the blank areas for making the poems and paintings, thus, the calligraphy and painting, poem and inscription were perfect unity, and still effect pottery of nowadays.

Today, the subjects of pottery carving arts is far-ranging,not only pay attention to the forms, contents, skills, pottery carving techniques and the educational qualities of potters, but also care about the pottery engraving should have independent form of its own, not merely moved the calligraphy and paintings onto the pot pattern.

9. Twistable glaze

The twistable glaze existed in Tang Dynasty, This kind of crafts art is putting the different clay of colouring matters beforehand, and mixing together in a certain order, then throwing and forming, to make the appearance of different textures decoration after firing. The twistable glaze appeared on the surface of purple clay pottery in middle-Qing Dynasty.

Wood veins with colored purple clay tureen, 6.7cm H, caliber is 11.3cm, collected by Changzhou City Antique & Curio Store. This tureen was mixed with black and yellow clay together into the natural veins which was similar to wood texture, and then painted with decorative pattern. The rim of roundish feet was decorated by the white and blue fret pattern, lotus pattern painted on the bottom, the decorative pattern on the cover is similar to the body's.

Twistable glaze techniques in purple clay teapots appeared late. In the late of 1970s, Mr.Lu Yaochen and some other people first successfully trial-producedin Yixing Zisha Craft Factory. In I979, Yixing Porcelain Factory held art exhibitions in Beijing the Imperial Palace Museum. The two pieces of Lu Yaochen's works which named" green wave pot"and "reach the clouds pot" got the widespread praise from home and abroad people.

The characters of purple clay twistable glaze got the uncontemplated texture was only because the differences of color clay. Some of them looked like wood and stone veins, some of them looked like cloud and stream. Different clay could show the simple and nature quality of purple clay materials.

In these years, a new passel of pottery produced the imitation of "tiger skin lacquer texture clay teapot", the tiger skin lacquer texture is gorgeous in color and lustre, with rich variety.

10. Clay painted

The clay painted is painting on the half-dried base using brush with the washiness slurry, are single color, some are two or more colors. The subjects are landscape, flowers and so on mostly, it seems having rich layering feelings. And became prevalent in middle-Qing Dynasty, most of all were literal style, some works used the clay paintings, contact molding and carving,etc.

Ji Yishun cooperates with Ge Jun to design and produce a set of clay painting works, with rich color, literal style and manners, reason-interesting and combining lowbrows and refined scholars.

11. Color enamels

I The enamel color porcelain wares were only used in royal court in Qing Dynasty, it was created in Kangxi Period, fired as the base of porcelain or the pure white porcelin in Jingdezhen at first, then handed to Ministry of Internal Order for producing the enamel color wares. Enamel color painted with four seasons flowers pattern square teapot, 11.2cm H, caliber is 6.5cm, 18cm Wide, belongs to the Kangxi Period works, collected by Taipei's National Palace Museum. There is an inscription on the bottom as "imperial made in Period", and painted decorative enamel rose pattern outside, with a single apopore, the cover is inlay, it should be pay more attention to the figures and ornaments, it still kept the style and feeling of primitive simplicity and solemn of late-Ming Dynasty.

12. Fencai(famille rose) painting

Famille rose painting is a name of porcelain glaze, it is a new category over-glaze decoration which made out under the influence of colour enamels based on the Kangxi polychromes style, and the most famous is Yongzheng famille rose jointing. It took the place of Kangxi polychromes and became the main aspect of under-glaze porcelain after it was in fashion.

The famille rose decoration in purple clay teapots influenced by the decorativer porcelain obviously, in the early time, most of them were flower pattern and flamboyance, tidy and neat working. They were used for exporting to cater for the requirements of foreigners. Maybe the time was during the Yongzheng to Qianlong Periods.

In the home, the most decorative painting are landscapes,painted with green, bluish, yellow. red, white and black on the teapots, elegant realm with the water, village and boats,it is a beautiful scenery for reading books and study.

In previous years, some new imitational decorative products always appeared on the market, the shape and decoration were all imitated the past.

13. Jun muffle stove glaze

Jun muffle stove glaze works were the imitation of Jun glaze which made in Jingdezhen during Yongzheng to Qianlong Periods in Qing Dynasty.

The Ming and Qing Dynasty, Yixing also produced a kind of pottery with glaze in local. Because of this kind of production got some resemblances with Jun kilns in Song Dynasty, so called it as "Yi In the Late-Ming Dynatsy, the most successful people in Yixing was On Ziming, so people called this kind of wares as "Ou kilns wares11. The base of Yi Jun ware were white clay and purple clay. The glaze based on the principle of celeste blue glaze, sky blue glaze, ash glaze, cloudy glaze, as well as the grap purple glaze, moon white glaze,etc. Qianlong to Jiajing Periods in Qing Dynasty, Ge Mingxiang and Ge Yuanxiang still porduced Yi Jun wares, most of them were fire palm bowl, flowerpots and water pans, the color of glaze was rich and unique, got big improvement rather than Ou kilns wares, called as "Ge kilns".

At this time, the purple clay teapot influenced by Yi jun wares, painted glaze again on finished wares, then fired twice, than it became the Jun muffle stove glaze wares, Also, it divided into two kinds of muffle stove glaze one was no golden red stains, the other was within the red stains. According to the extant pressures, the Jun muffle stove glaze in Yongzheng Period got big glaze surface, the major color was red, the Jun muffle stove glaze in Qianlong Period got small glaze surface, the major stains were blue.

According to the Ruan Kuisheng's Words on Tea Leisure, "recently, Yixing added the gilding onto the clay teapots, they are bright but lost their original appearance." This meaned the Jun muffle stove glaze.

We know that the Jun muffle stove glaze porcelain had records during the Qianlong Period in Qing Dynasty, but it could be much earlier according to the Ruan Kuisheng's life time.

14. Tin coat

This copper and tin alloy texture is a peculiar decorative method of Yixing purple clay teapots.

Due to the records of Photographs of Clay Teapots in Yangxian, "Jian, named Shimei, who was bom in Shaoxing of Zhejiang Province. He was good at paintings such as people, flower, and he abated the tin coat clay base pots."

Another records in New Chant in Paintings, it said, "Zhu Shimei imitated ancient exquisite teapots and carved flowers and people on the surface, people always compared his with Maosheng's wares."

Since we know this kind of decorative fashion was created by Zhu Shimei, carved characters on the tin coats, then used jade to make handle, flow-mouth and button, most of this kind of teapot w?e made by Yang Pengnian.because the bottom was covered with tin, it could not be carved name,so he added a piece of clay with carving his name. This method was famous at that time, but it deduced the simple and light original feature of teapot,it did not develop. It still influenced the later potters and opened a new world to the purple clay mixed with compound materials for decorating. This is also Zhu Shimei's contribution for purple clay teapots in early time of 19th century.

This kind of works were spread widely. There are several pieces of this kind of teapots collected by Museum of Natural History in Chicago, United States. As well as the major museums in China.

The purple clay base tin coat carved calligraphy and painting teapot made in Daoguang/Xianfeng Periods in Qing Dynasty, 8.4cm H, Square body and tunrover belly. Tin coating outside of purple clay base, quadrangle short straight flow-mouth, inserted the tiger green jade circle handle, the quare cover inserted square white jade button. It carved peony pattern on one side, and carved clerical script"moisten by dewdrop, tip out before raining. Small spring mouth in Yichou, Shimei. " Yichou means 1829.

15. Enchase with copper and tin

This crafts is enchased copper and tin alloy. Only differences with Zhu Shimei was that, the former covered all the head of teapot, the latter used the hollow-out pattern covered the teapot included the mouth, cover and ties. Purple clay base were uncovered mostly, the comparison of metal and purple clay was unitive, and produced a new view effects.

This craft mostly made by potters in Weihan, Shangdong Province in late-Qing Dynasty, finished firing in Jingdezhen and deliver to Weihai for further processing.

Enchase with copper and tin dragon pattern teapot is 9.5cm height, 18.4cm wide, written in English and Chinese seals as" Wei Tongqing made in Weihai", collected by the Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware in HK.

16. Enchase with copper and compound materials

This kind of decorative craft so different with above-mentioned,the decoration should be carved out before purple clay teapots were fired, the did the fuirther processing after fired out.

Purl inlaid is created by Mr. Bao Zhongmei and some other people first successfully trial-produced in Yixing Zisha Craft Factory at the early of 1970s. The processing is painted the designed pattern on the half-dried base and carved the groove, inlaid the purl onto the teapot after fired, then compressed and polished, the points, lines and sides are all could be processed. Using this method adds some gas of a riches and honour on the pristine purple clay teapots.

Mother-of-pearl inlay is trial-produced successful in late of 1980s, using the adhesive enchases craft, carved the designed patterns on the half-dried base, then put it into the kiln for firing, further processing after fired. This way made the purple clay teapots with great expressive force. The tea sets also innoxious, hard wearing, stand fire, nondiscolouring, fall off not easily advantages more.

Besides these, there is a similar inlaid technique. The used materials are different colors of kludge Carved some grooves casual and free on the body of semi-finished teapots, then inlaid some sludge which is different with the color of body, then processing to neat and in order. If also can use several sludge at a time, or add some other decorative impacts.

17. Adding sand in base

Adding sand in base means put the greensand or fireclay which had been processed granular size and equal quantities onto the different color bodies of teapots. After it has been fired, the color of stains are sparse and dense, using this decorative method the fired products are nature, simple and unadorned.

18. Polishing

This kind of method is polishing and buffing the fired finished purple clay teapots, the processed works are shining and smooth- These works are made for export, we can find some imitations once in a while, most of them were selled to abroad such as Thailand in late Qing Dynasty.

According to the records of West Winding of Yixiug pottery Aits which written by Le Binna," in the early time of 18th century, there is a Emperor Augustus who liked collections of China and Japan ceramic, he really wanted to produced the true porcelain for the first in Europe from the two aspects of economic and national prestige eyes, since he hired an odd warlock named Pogger, so as to achieve his ideals. He cooperated with Jezierhous and created a hard base and refined red clay vessels as called as "logger vessels".

In commemorative ceremony on March 28th,1709, logger announced six inventions to the emperor, including the imitation of Yixing "red porcelain ceramics" is kind of cheap pottery seem like the East Indian pottery (means Yixing pottery), unique implicit appearance is sui generis. And it is sturdy and durable, if added some decoration and polish as same beauty as the East Indian pottery.

What pointed out the cheap vessels in the report to make us knew that the burnished Yixing Zisha teapot had been transported to Europe at that time. 171Dis the Kangxi next 49 years. Since it could prove the polishing technique had appeared in middle and later times in Kangxi Period.

19. Decals

This decorative methods appeared in the Cultural Revolution Period, 1960s. They all used the Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong as decoration in the daily life. Because the purple clay teapots is the extreme common vessels, with big sales volume, they used the decorative decals pattern, smart and solemn in color. Because of the political requirements, so no decoration materials can be treatised, just left the trace of era deeply.

All of above decorative methods and techniques,the moulding and decoration is improving with the evolution of times, increased knowledge and experience and advancement of science and technology. The new creations to a greater extent depended by our cognition to our native culture and knowledges, as well as our current actions.