Purple clay teapots (called “zishahu” in Chinese) are produced in Yixing, China from “purple” clay. This rare clay is mined near Taihu Lake, a hundred miles northwest of Shanghai. It was confirmed that purple clay mine was formed 3.5 hundred millions years ago, in the geological age of Paleozoic Devonian. In China, purple clay has been used for more than a thousand years.
Purple clay is also known as the five-color soil, color and lustre have a variety of red, orange, red, yellow, green and other colors. It is what famous Yixing teapots are made of. Different colors of purple clay pots are selected in the production process. Clay is an important factor to determine the quality of purple clay pots, but also an important yardstick to determine the design for these teapots.
In ancient China, purple color had the meaning of luxurious imperial objects, such as the emperor’s road known as Purple Road. The purple color also had an auspicious meaning. For example, in the “The purple air coming from the east” saying, it means a good luck from the east. Therefore, the ancient literati called the Brown Material Purple Clay, the Brown Clay Teapot were called Purple Clay Pots. It’s a common saying that there should be no lack of Yixing teapots as a lucky, noble artifacts meaning.
Chinese academia divides ceramics into two categories: pottery and porcelain. In American academic circles, ceramics are divided into three categories: clay-ware, stoneware and porcelain. China calls Purple Clay Wares pottery, or high-temperature pottery. However, purple clay ware is called stoneware in the western ceramic world. Some sort of mass production (machine made) Yixing’s purple clay pots are not hard to find in oriental craft shops around the world, but the high-priced Master Purple Clay teapots (hand made) are very hard to find on the market outside of Asia.
With the advent of the global economic integration, the Chinese tea culture has gained a lot of attention, and with it a deeper understanding of Chinese tea and tea sets.
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