Introduction to Yixing Zisha Clay Teapots

-- George Wang, Ph.D.,


Identitying authentic Yixing Zisha clay teapots can be tricky, just like all antiques. Zisha teapots are unique in that they are enjoyed both their art work and usage. What's more is that "the more and longer it is used, the better it looks". Let's call this property as "the Yixing Zisha Appeal".

Over the years, I have collected over hundreds of Yixing Zisha teapots (majority of them are fine artwork and quite many are masterpieces with a few "Peerless treasures"). Based on my experience, Yixing Zisha teapots can be divided into the following 6 categories:

  1. Chemical teapots

  2. None-Zisha (most modern produced commodity) teapots

  3. Old (Commodity) Zisha teapots ($100-$200)

  4. Zisha teapots of Fine Artwork ($200-$2000)

  5. Masterpieces ($2000-$100,000)

  6. Peerless treasures (>$100,000)

We recommend collectors collect old Yixing Zisha teapots. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, compared to modern artwork, old pieces are actually cheaper. Secondly, old teapots usually have very good quality Yixing Zisha clay, which would have a good appeal property. Lastly, old teapots have high historical and cultural value.

Please note we intentionally left out "Modern commodity Yixing Zisha clay teapot" because it doesn't exist. If it is made after 1995 (we called Modern era), then because of the high price of the real Yixing clay it is either None-Zisha commodity (which is cheap) or Zisha Fine Artwork (which is expensive).

Please be aware of Type 1 and Type 2 and fake TianQing clay teapots (they are all over the internet). You will know after reading this TianQing Clay article

Six Types of Teapots

Type 1 Chemical Teapots

Chemical teapots are made of clay added with modern chemicals, usually have very bright colors. These chemicals are added to cover the bad appearances of the original clays. These teapots are toxic and cannot be used. Most modern cheaply-made Yixing teapots of all different colors and great looking belong to this category. I just listed a few pictures here.

Unfortunately some of them look similar to some Zhu clay teapots.

Chemical Teapot

The words read of Tianqing clay of Raw Ore. But it is Cobalt blue - Chemical teapots in fact.

Chemical Teapot

Type 2 None-Zisha Teapots

(Most modern produced commodity after 1990s) teapots either use None-Zisha clay or of very poor quality. They may not be toxic, but can not have the Zisha appeal either. The reason why I put modern commodity so called Yixing Zisha teapots into the None-Zisha category is the high cost of the Yixing Zisha clay. In the year 2014, my antique mentor went to a famous Yixing Zisha clay provider. The cheapest Zisha clay costs $300/pound. What kind of teapots can you buy below $100? In 2015, I went to a Yixing Zisha shop owned by a craftsman. $130-180 are cookie-cut made. $220 are semi-cookie-cut. Unfortunately some of these non-Zisha teapots look similar to real Yixing clay.

Type 3 Old Commodity Zisha Teapots

Type 3 Old (Commodity) Zisha teapots are those made before 1980s. At that time and most of the time before, commodity grade Yixing Zisha teapots were cheap. There are no reason for counterfeiters to make Type 1 or Type 2 teapots. They may not look as beautiful as those of Fine Artwork or masterpiece. But they are made of real Yixing Zisha nonetheless, and therefore can have the Yixing Zisha appeal.

Enameled Teapot of the Late Qing Dynasty

Close-up view. Notice the imperfection which resembles a real person's skin

Type 4 Fine Art Work

Type 4 are pieces of fine artwork made in the past or modern times. They are usually made of good quality Yixing Zisha clay, aesthetically appealing.

Type 5 Masterpieces that Transcends Times

by WANG Dongshi of Qing dynasty 清王东石周盘壶

Type 6 Peerless Treasures