Jan 5, 2014

another teapot

Last time on the "most hated teapots", Emmett of Cha & Kung Fu said, "is there an opposite version (to the breast teapot)?" And I recalled seeing a teapot with "combination of male and female spirit." Last night, when sorting out my book shelf, I randomly glanced through some books and saw this picture again. So here you go, Emmett :-D

It's called Fu Xi. Fu Xi (male) and Nv Wa (female) were the parents of all humans in ancient Chinese myths. So they were supposed to be "source of life" :-D This teapot was made by Lv Yaochen, one of the few living gurus of yixing arts. It's included on many yixing picture books. This picture is from a book called Palace Museum Collection: The 200 Pieces of Yixing Works that You Should Know of (《故宫收藏•你应该知道的200件宜兴紫砂》), and this Fu Xi teapot was collected by Palace Museum (although the main purpose of the museum is to curate antiques from the Ming and Qing emperors living in the Forbidden City, it also collects small amount of contemporary arts). 

I think this this Fu Xi teapot is more bearable than the very much "naturalism" "life of source" teapot that I hated. But I can't help wondering if it was only made in one copy, and whether anybody tries to brew tea with it ;-)

The above-mentioned book, by the way, is a pretty good one. It's mainly composed of pictures of yixing arts, so there won't be much of language barrier for anybody. Compared with numerous other yixing picture, this book is unique in a way that all the pieces presented are from the royal palace, so the overall styles are quite different from private collections that dominate most yixing picture books.

This book was published in 2007, by Forbidden City Publishing House, which specializes in Palace Museum pictures and literature. This publisher is one of those that have the highest publication quality in China, in terms of paper, printing, photography and literature of antiques. Even now, this book is sold at amazon.cn for ¥60. That is so cheap!

Jan 1, 2014

blog sale - yixing teapots and some tea

Similar to the previous blog sales - 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before January 14, 2014.  I will try to get all packages prepared before Jan. 20.

Shipping is $4 (tea only) or $7 (teapots) flat for US, shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders. 

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. Some of the items may be offered in Life in Teacup web store in the future, and the prices will be higher.

1. Purple clay teapot, made by Yixing Factory #1, in 1992 or 1993, by Chen Huifen. $. There are 5 available for this blog sale. There will be some more available in future in our web store.

The volume is 80-85ml. It has single-hole strainer. The shape of spout is a type of fast and fluent pouring. In early 1990s, oolong was trendy in Korea (and puerh started getting trendy). So I would guess that's how this teapot shape was selected for the Ceramic Arts Festival.

I don't remember seeing this style in the Factory #1 catalogs (I only have a few incomplete versions that I plan to show in future blogs). It's probably modified from some gourd style teapots. I've been calling these teapot "mantou 馒头 (bun)" style, unofficially, but it does share some similarities with some mantou style teapots in history :-D

These teapots were custom order by some Korean tea merchant for the third Yixing Ceramic Arts Festival (which took place in 1993 1992 correction: it's 1992, not 1993). The clay and firing are great. Craftsmanship is pretty good - better than the average level of craftsmanship for regular styles (such as shui ping) in Factory #1 at that period, I think. Water seal is not good. Lid fit looks fine from the appearance. I've selected all these teapots that have relatively good lid fit and don't have major flaws.

I've found these teapots interesting because I think their current price is pretty good (and I believe they are more affordable now than future). Besides, I sort of like teapots made for special events. The bottom seal says "The Third Ceramic Arts Festival Souvenir" and there is a lovely Korean character. It seems one of the characters in Korean word "teapot" (not sure of it, I just did a google translation).

More pictures are available here. The stainless steel strainer showed in the Please doesn't come with each teapot. Please let me know if you need one and I will manage to send one along with the teapot. But if you are in a big city, it's possible to get better strainers than this one.

2. Black clay teapot. Same shape as the previous one, by the same author, from Yixing Factory #1 during the same period. There is one available, with some minor appearance flaws, no function flaws. $.

Volume is 100ml. Single-hole strainer. 

More photos can be seen here

The surface flaws include a little dent on the surface (could be seen in the above photo right in the front) due to "sand explosion" - a sand grain was melted and "exploded", leaving behind a tiny dent. Besides, there is some uneven color of the clay (especially on the lid, but overall not very obvious). This could be seen in other photos. The white color on the lid is not dust, but uneven color. Both flaws happen mostly when the clay is authentic and firing temperature is high (both are features of Factory #1). But after all they are flaws. We all prefer good clay and good firing, without flaws.

I wouldn't mind keeping this one for myself. Please let me know if you would prefer to get a relatively perfect teapot from the same batch, as I'm getting some more of these teapots.

I've found this teapot interesting because it's a "brother" of the previous teapot. This one was also made for export, but not specifically for the Ceramic Arts Festival. The bottom seal is the author's name "Huifeng studio".

It looks like the above #1 and #2 are made with the same shaper (the semi-manual yixing teapots have a type of iron shapers for the craftswoman to sculpt the teapot body and spout). Their shapes overall look highly similar. The purple clay teapot (#1) is slightly smaller than the black clay teapot (#2) in volume. But interestingly, their weights are almost exactly the same. So it seems the volume difference is due to the varied degrees of shrinkage of their clays.

3. Yixing "shibo" set. There is one available. $.

Volume is 120ml (usable volume, not volume to the rim). It's the best for large leaf tea (oolong, puerh with whole leaves, etc.), as small debris could escape under the lid.

More pictures are available here.

The clay texture is very good and very similar to this and this.

This type of tea set seems more and more popular in China these days. This one is my favorite of all "yixing shibos" that I've seen. I like it very much, but I'm not sure if it could get popular in America. In China, few tea drinkers saw shiboridashi before, hence this style looks very novel and unique. But many American tea drinkers have already owned shibos from Japan and Europe. I very much enjoy using shibo-ish and hobin-ish tea ware for various types of Chinese teas, such as this, this and this. As much as I like this set, it didn't hit me as a "novel" style.

What I like about this specific one is that it reflects a sense of humor from its creator. The bottom seal is "China, Yixing" made very similar to the seals on those Facotry #1 teapot. And there is a number stamped under the lid. As many of you know, some Factory #1 shui ping teapots have a number stamped under the lid (said to be the number of each QC worker), usually a single-digit number. However, the number stamped under the lid of this "shibo" is 88, same number on every teapot this person made and not a QC number. I didn't have to ask her why - 88 is a very good number in China, often seen as a number of fortune.

4. Yan cha set, 15g 2013 Shui Xian and 15g 2013 Rou Gui. There are 5 sets available for this blog sale. $ each set of 30g.

Since dry tea of most yan cha look similar, I will be lazy and omit taking pictures.

Both tea are high mountain tea from central Wuyi region (zheng yan 正岩). The Shui Xian is from trees planted in early 1970s. Both are the relatively heavy roast type, but not the "tasting like fire" kind of heavy roast.

 5. Liu Bao produced by Guang Wu 广梧 (this is the same company that produced Guang Ya 广雅 puerh tea). There are 5 packs available for this blog sale. $ each pack of 15g.

This is mainly for people who are curious about Liu Bao (and probably those who are interested in examining it under microscope). I don't think everybody will like it, although the tea looks really pretty for a fermented tea. "Pretty" including "golden flowers" on the tea leaves, so it may not even be pretty in everybody's eyes. The tea leaves have rudimentary tiny golden flowers (smaller than those found in fu brick and not as many, not sure if it's exactly the same species, very possibly it is).

The tea offered here is one of the three promotion products that Guang Wu issued this year, as this is the first year that Guang Wu Liu Bao has been in the market. All three promotion products are quite inexpensive (especially compared with other Guang Wu products and products of Guang Ya), yet they look very nice (I haven't drunk a lot of them yet, so most judgment so far is based on appearance). The tea offered here is #1 and 1st tier in the promotion series. I think these are truly promotion products as they are really good deals. This #1 was out of stock in most places in no time. For selfish reasons, I almost wish liu bao doesn't get too popular too soon, so that they will offer more promotion products like these ones in future years :-p

It looks like this picture. The photo is from one of the sales agents, and is on the #3 of the promotion series. The tea offered in the blog sale is #1 of the promotion series, with more refined leaves and more golden buds. But the overall style is similar. It's not a "sheng" liu bao like this one. It's not the commonly seen style of Liu Bao either. Instead, it's a light-fermented liu bao with relatively whole leaves. The producer claims the tea is made with the traditional "double steam" technique. But since this technique almost disappeared in the last several decades, many tea drinkers feel there isn't enough knowledge base to judge it. But it's an interesting tea anyway. (That being said, the tea still has a basement-like smell and ideally should be aired out for a while before use.)

Free stuff:

* Small porcelain cup (40-45ml)

* Yixing teacups of red clay, di cao qing or jiang po ni, limited to 1 cup per person. There are few cups of each type. Please let me know your preferred type. The di cao qing and jiang po ni are made of same clay type as used for some teapots at Life in Teacup web store (the firing outcome will be slightly different each time, due to the size and shape).

* tea ware wrapper, similar to this one:

* Yixing red tea - if you are interested in tasting the red tea from the hometown of teapots. This is the most popular "teapot-seasoning" tea in yixing.