Q & A of Yixing Zisha Purple Clay Teapots

-- George Wang, Ph.D., yixing.us(at)gmail.com

Anatomy of a Teapot

Q: Why Yixing Clay Teapots are the Best Tea Vessel for Tea Drinking?

Q: Do You Know How Much to Pay for a Yixing Teapot?

Yixing clay teapots are unique in that they are both art and utensils, and therefore considered "luxury" tea ware. If you plan to spend $50 or less, most likely you will end up in the first two categories -- "Chemical or None-Yixing Teapots". Following are the price range as stated in the Introduction to Yixing Zisha Clay Teapots:

  1. Chemical teapots (most modern produced commodity) -- Unsafe, AVOID

  2. None-Zisha teapots (most modern produced commodity) -- Safe, but not Yixing ware, AVOID

  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)

Please note I intentionally left out "Modern commodity Yixing Zisha clay teapot". If it is made after 1995 (we called Modern), 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 Not cheap, more than $200).

Please also be aware that some sellers sell expensive ($500 a pot) None-Zisha teapot!

Q: How Can You Tell If a Yixing Teapot is Real?

Real Yixing clay teapots are made of real Yixing clay. They look like a real person's skin - have imperfection, certain known color and texture, dots, moles etc. Only category 3,4,5,6 are real Yixing teapots.

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

Here are signs of real Yixing clay:

  • The small white shiny spots are mica 云母 yunmu in Chinese.

  • Tiny holes or "jumping sand" 跳砂 on the surface of an Yixing teapot.

  • Tiny bumps called Baozi 爆子 on the surface of an Yixing teapot.

  • Small black dot called "Melton Iron" 铁融. They look like moles of a real person's skin

  • Clay particles of different sizes and colors

  • Mixed Sanded clay or Decorated Sanded clay

Mixed Sanded Clay

Q: How Can You Tell If a Yixing Teapot Is High Quality?

A: High quality Yixing teapots have high quality Yixing clay and good craftsmanship. They look beautiful. They should have all of the following:

1) of real Yixing Zisha clay

2) of high quality Yixing Zisha clay

3) of good craftsmanship - well made

4) beautiful and of artistic value

5) made individually, unique or only a few or very limited quantity (Avoid Mass produced and "Modern Commodity teapots")

Q: Why are Real Authentic and High Quality Yixing Clay so Important ?

You not only enjoy the shape and craftsmanship, but also the color, texture, and feel of the teapot as well. High quality clay teapots age and become more beautiful much more quickly as they are being used.

Q: What Kind of Clays are Good Yixing Clay?

  • They are highly permeable and therefore easy to have the Yixing "Zisha appeal" (patina with semi-transparency). Some top clays can show you the difference within a couple of days usage.

Ming YiXing Teapot by SHEN Junyong 明沈君用圆壶

Clay of high permeability become wet when it is being used. Please note that it can become less permeable after long term usage.

  • They have a strong sandy appearance. They usually are sandy with particles of different sizes and colors.

  • They are beautiful

  • After a longer period of times, they can have some kind of semi-transparent appearance, like jade or precious stone. By that time, the clues and marks left by handcrafting are readily available to be spotted by your eyes. Be aware that new teapots have added chemicals to their clays to have this properties from the start.

Q: What are Mass produced and "Modern Commodity teapots"?

A: They are made after 1995 and have multiple or many copies for one particular teapot. Currently they are mostly machine-made with very nice and regular shape. They are made of very poor quality clay or None-Yixing clay, with added chemicals to boost their appearances.

Q: Are Yixing Teapots Safe?

A: They are safe except "Chemical teapots".

1) Avoid Bright colored

2) Avoid Mass produced and "Modern Commodity teapots"

Q: How Old is my Yixing Teapot or How To Tell Old from New Yixing Clay Teapots?

  • By Tea Filter (inner hole of the spout). These are just rule of thumb - not absolute

Mesh hole - Ming dynasty or early Qing

Single hole - Qing dynasty

Net-like holes - Republic era or later (Some high quality made in Qing dynasty as well)

Tennis ball holes - 1970s

  • By Yixing Zisha clay - old teapots usually have darker color, bigger and rougher sand particle, particle of different sizes and colors.

  • By craftsmanship - old teapots use fewer tools and therefore not perfectly made and have more clues of how it was made.

  • By marks

  • By "Zisha Appeal" (patina with semi-transparency) if it has been used

Q: What are Top Yixing Clay Teapots?

Beautiful teapots: beauty of clay, craftsmanship, shape, artwork, spirit and soul.

Q: What Is Beauty for Yixing Clay Teapots?

There are several kind of beauty. In the order of importance they are:

1. Gu1Zhuo2 (古拙) -- ancient looking.

2. Chen1Wen3 (沉稳, Da4Du4 (大度)-- calm, magnanimous

3. Qing1Xiu4 (清秀)-- handsome or pretty

4. Qv4Wei4 (趣味)-- interesting

1. Gu1Zhuo2 (古拙) -- ancient looking.

2. Chen1Wen3 (沉稳, Da4Du4 (大度)-- calm, magnanimous

Q: Handmade vs Cookie-cutter?

Handmade teapots are of art work. Everyone is different or unique. It takes times, craftsmanship, and creativity. They are made of top quality Yixing Zisha clay. It has soul. They are beautiful.

Cookie cutter are commodity. All are similar or even identical. They were mass-produced. They are made of cheap or non Zisha clay. They do not have souls. They are boring

This is a Qing dynasty teapot. Please see the radiant trace on the shoulder of the teapot. It tells you how the teapot was made by the artist.

Q: How important is Handmade?

This question is becoming much less meaningful as everyone claim his teapot is handmade. Instead, ask How many copies do you have for the same teapot.

Q: How do you judge whether a teapot is art?

If the more I look, the more I use, the more I like it, then it is art:)

Q: What "Zisha Appeal" looks like?

Be careful: semi-transparency can be artificially created with addition of Chemicals into the clay