Friday, October 3, 2008


The zun or yi is an ancient type of bronze wine vessel with a vase-like form, dating from the Shang Dynasty.

Used in religious ceremonies to hold wine, the zun has a wide lip to facilitate pouring.

Yixing clay teapot

Yixing clay teapots (also called ''Purple Sand'' are a traditional pots made from Yixing clay and commonly used to brew tea. They originated in China, dating back to the 15th century, and are made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu.


According to literature, the first YiXing teapot was created during the Song Dynasty that a monk from Jinsha Temple in YiXing handcrafted a teapot from local clay, but it did not flourish until Ming Dynasty .

20th century

Yíxīng teapots are not actually made in the regional city of Yíxīng, but rather in nearby Dīngshān, also known as Dingshu, which falls within the administrative area of Yixing. Hundreds of teapot shops line the edges of the town's crowded streets and it is a popular tourist destination for many Chinese. While Dīngshān is home to dozens of ceramics factories, Yíxīng Zǐshā Factory Number 1, which opened in 1958, processes a large part of the clay used in the region, produces fine pottery ware, and has a large commercial showroom. In addition to the better known teapots, frescoes, oil and grain jars, flower vases, figurines, glazed tiling, tables, ornamental rocks, and even ornamental garbage bins are all manufactured in the community.

Judging the Quality of Yíxīng

when judging the quality of Yíxīng teapots the following can be done:
*Tap the pots lightly together: the ceramic should make a distinctly metallic sound.
*Look at the fit of the lid into the pot, it should be flush and appear seamless.
*Fill the pot with water, place the lid on, and begin pouring the water. it should pour smoothly
*While pouring, place your finger over the hole on the lid, this action should stop the flow of water immediately and completely if the lid is well fitted.


Prices can vary from US$20 to over US$100 per teapot. The more expensive pots are shaped by hand on a potter’s wheel and fired in kilns. The growing popularity and high demand has lead to some YiXing teapots being mass produced. Lower cost pots may be made with predefined moulds as opposed to a potter’s wheel. All YiXing teapots have the artist's chop on the bottom.

Characteristics and use with tea

Yixing teapots are meant for use with and oolong teas, as well as aged tea. They can also be used for or white tea, but the water must be allowed to cool to around 85 degrees before pouring the water into the pot.

These fine teapots are small by western standards because they are generally designed for a single drinker and the Chinese historically drank the tea directly from the spout. It is somewhat different now by pouring the tea into a cup first.

Yixing clay

Yixing clay is a type of clay from the region near the city of Yixing in Jiangsu province, China. Its use dates back to the Song Dynasty when purple clay was first mined around Lake Taihu in China. From the 17th century on, the ware was to Europe. The finished stoneware, which is used for teaware and other small items, are usually red or brown in colour. They are known as Purple Sand ware, and are typically unglazed. The clays used for the ''yixing''-wares are very cohesive and can be formed by slip molding, coil forming, or most commonly, slab forming. The clays can also be formed by throwing. The most famous wares made for ''yixing'' clay are Yixing clay teapots .


The term "''yixing clay''", and also "''zisha clay''", is often used as an umbrella term to describe three distinct types of stoneware:
*''Zisha'' or ''zini'' : dark brownish stoneware that gives its name to the type of stoneware usually related to yixing.
*''Zhuni'' : reddish brown stoneware that is made from clay with a very high iron content. The name only refers to the sometimes bright red hue of cinnabar . There are currently 10 mines still producing zhuni . However, due to the increasing demand for Yixing stoneware, zhuni is now in very limited quantities. Zhuni clay is not to be confused with hongni (红泥, literally, "red clay", another red clay.
*''Duanni'' : stoneware that was formulated using various stones and minerals in addition to zini or zhuni clay. This results in various textures and colours, ranging from beige, blue, and green , to black.

Minerals Compositions

See Clay minerals


The raw materials for yixing clay are buried deep underground, sometimes under heavy sedimentary rock formations. When excavated, it is usually located within stratified layers of other clays. The seam of yixing zisha can be as thick as a several decimeters, up to a meter. Yixing clays consist of fine iron-containing silt, with mica, kaolinite and varying quantities of quartz and iron ores as its main mineral constituents.

Processing of raw zisha yixing clay involves removing the clay from the underlaying strata, drying it under the sun in open stalls, and then pulverizing the dried clay pieces into fine particles. The clay powder then undergoes air screening to isolate clay particles of the finest grit size. The screened clay is then mixed with water in a cement mixer to a thick paste, piled into heaps, and vacuum processed to remove air bubbles, in addition to some moisture from the clay mixture. The quality and quantity of water in yixing clay is critical in that it determines the quality of the stoneware products produced. After this processing, the resulting clay is then ready to be used.

The appearance of yixing products, such as its colour or texture, can be enriched and altered through the addition of various metal oxides into the yixing clay, through the manipulation of firing temperatures, and also from regulating the kiln atmosphere .


Sancai is a type of using three intermingled colors for decoration.


The Sancai technique dates back to the Tang Dynasty. However, the colors of the glazes used to decorate the wares of the Tang Dynasty generally were not limited to three in number. In the West, Tang sancai wares were sometimes referred to as ''egg-and-spinach'' by dealers, for their use of green, yellow, and white .

Sancai wares were northern wares made using white and buff-firing secondary kaolins and fire clays . At kiln sites located at , Neiqui county in Hebei and Gongxian in Henan , the clays used for burial wares were similar to those used by Tang potters. The burial wares were fired at a lower temperature than contemporaneous whitewares. Burial wares, such as the well-known representations of camels and horses, were cast in sections, in moulds with the parts luted together using clay slip. In some cases, a degree of individuality was imparted to the assembled figurines by hand-carving.


Sancai travelled along the Silk Road, to be later extensively used in , , and then pottery from the 13th to the middle of the 15th century. Sancai also became a popular style in Japanese and other East Asian ceramic arts.

Jun ware

Chinese Jun ware can be considered a variety of celadon. The use of straw ash in the glaze bestows on this ware its unique blue glaze suffused with white. The ware was created near Linru County in the province of Henan at the Jun kilns of Yuxian County during the Northern Song dynasty to the and Yuan dynasty . The Chinese character for Jun became incorporated in local place names only as late as 1368. There is no mention of the kilns of Jun ware in any Song to Yuan dynasty written sources. A black ware with spots was produced at the Xiaobai Valley in the Tang Dynasty and can be considered the precursor of Jun ware. Jun celadon closely resembles Ju official celadon with its multiple layers of blue glaze. The kiln sites of both wares were geographically near one another as well. The Jun glaze included blue-gray, sky-blue, moon-white, red and purple, the most prized have crimson or purple splashes. Varying the temperature of the kilns changed color tints, a technique known as ''yaobian''. The foot of the later period ware is usually unglazed and brown; the rim of bowls can also be brown or greenish where the glaze is thinner. Song period examples display a careful finishing with glaze inside the foot. Naturally Song shapes are crisp and thinner than later Jin and Yuan examples. There is a great variety of shapes such as bowls, dishes and flowerpots. Narcissus bowls were often numbered and whose refinement suggests a connection with Ju official ware. Other extant examples of Jun ware display inscriptions on their bases that resemble other palace wares of the period. The numbers from one to ten are perhaps indications of size. The ware experiences a fall in quality into the Jin period. Later, in the Yuan dynasty, Jun ware production spread to other kiln sites in Henan, Hebei and Shanxi provinces, although Yuxian County was the prime area for Jun ware production. Investigations of Jun ware kiln sites began in 1951 under Chen Wanli of the Palace Museum. Over a hundred kiln sites have been subsequently discovered. A major report appeared in the journal ''Wenwu'' in 1964. Excellent examples of Jun ware appear in many Chinese, European and American collections. In Japan Jun ware has traditionally received little of the attention and praise usually reserved for Zhejiang celadon and Temmoku ware.

Guang (vessel)

A guang is an ritual wine pitcher, made of bronze. They were used during the and dynasties, from around 1700 to 900 . Guangs have a vertical handle at one end and a spout at the other, both zoomorphic, and were often highly decorated with taotie. The handle of the guang is of often in the shape of the neck and head of an animal with stylized horns, and the spout of the vessel is in the form of the head of a creature whose mouth constitutes the end of the spout.

Ding (vessel)

A ding or ting is an ancient vessel with legs and a lid.

Dings can be made of ceramic or bronze in various shapes. The older dings are dated back to Shang Dynasty. Inscriptions on dings and are studied for bronzeware script.

In Chinese history and culture, possession of an ancient ding is often associated with power and dominion over the land. Therefore, the ding is often used as an implicit symbolism for power. The term "inquiring ding" is often used interchangeably with conquest for power.

Perhaps the most famous ancient ding were the Nine Ding. This set of nine vessels was said to have been made by of the Xia Dynasty when he divided his territory into nine provinces, and possession of all nine was considered a sign of rightful authority over . The whereabouts of the nine ding are presently unknown, but they were said to have been lost sometime during the Qin dynasty, after having been passed among various royal dynasties and feudal states.

The architecture of the Shanghai Museum is intended to resemble a bronze ding.