The YiXing ZiSha teapot (purple sand teapot) - the pinnacle
The pinnacle of 'ZiSha teapot' belongs to a class made from a special clay called ‘ZiSha’ (translated: purple sand) - mainly produced in the Yixing area of the JiangSu province, east of China in limited quantities.
Local craftsmen (ZiSha artists) hand craft the tea pots from the ‘ZiSha’ clay. There is a strong tradition and culture associated with this craft, with artists regularly tested and graded by titles according to their skill level.
The Zisha artists' families routinely stock pile the Zisha clay for many years before the clay is ready for production.
Making a ZiSha Teapot involves precision and artistry. The results of high end ZiSha teapots are astonishing:
- First a sample of clay is “filed” for future reference. The rest of the clay is then put through a process that can sometimes takes up to a month before it becomes a teapot.
- The basic vessel of the teapot is shaped.
- Body, handle, spout and lid are then made at various stages.
- Every detail presents as a coherent story, a product of the artist personality, skills, feelings and interpretation of the history and tea culture.
- Sometimes teapots are paired: ie sister ZiSha teapots, male and female teapots, fruit and vine teapots – all unique.
- The finished product will then be stamped by the artist’s personal seal with a certificate outlining details of the teapot production: the artist, year, date, name given to the teapot and the details of the clay sample’s file etc.
Many of these teapots will then fall into collectors’ hands to be traded as art pieces.
The unique properties of ZiSha teapot
ZiSha fired clay has the special characteristic of being able to eradicate foreign odors. ZiSha’s odor absorbing effect enhances the subtle flavor of teas.
- Zi Sha clay when fired leaves small cavities embedded in the clay that allow the teas to breathe through, contributing to bringing the best out of a premium tea. Yixing Zisha teapot has long been considered to be premium vessel for the premium Chinese teas.
- The most amazing characteristic of Zi Sha is that it is ‘nourishable’. New teapots have a ‘raw clay’ appearance, whilst the ‘well nourished’ ones appear to shine - as if they had a layer of lacquer, but rather different from a men made one (a unique natural shine).
- Zi Sha teapots collectors pay up to thousands of dollars to purchase a teapot. They are often loaned to a tea house (with special care of course) to be 'fed'. The tea demonstrators will use them to demonstrate top quality teas (the higher the tea quality is, the more nourish the tea pot will receive) and continuously brush the outside of the pot with residual tea brew – till the teapot acquires the unique shine.
It is believed if a premium ZiSha teapot is used in association with high quality tea leaves, the goodness of the teas will remain in the teapots as a kind of residual.
An ancient Chinese tale: An ancient Chinese writer was travelling. One day, he ran out of his tea supply. Still so desirous of a cup of good tea as his daily writing accompany and pleasure, he poured some boiling water into his much used and loved teapot and derived a good ‘cup of tea’ from the teapot alone.
High quality ZiSha is only produced from the core of limited number of ZiSha mines in YiXing area. The supply is limited and highly valued. A high quality ZiSha teapot can fetch from a few hundred to up to tens of thousands Chinese Yuan. The antique ones are worth of even more. Just like premium Chinese teas, the ZiSha teapots are graded according to the quality of the ZiSha. It is also only natural that the good quality ZiSha is used by higher grade artists to produce highly priced teapots and vice versa.
Valley Green Tea offers a wide range of authentic ZiSha teapots with various quality grades.
For ZiSha teapot's care guide, please go to: Zi Sha teapot cleaning and preparation