Saturday, March 7, 2009
My WenGe "Cultural Revolution" Yixing Teapot
An interesting class of Yíxīng teapots is from the WenGe “Cultural Revolution” period (1966-1976). WenGe teapots are distinctive, due to a large part for their lack of distinction. These plainly styled teapots were manufactured when the assertion of pre-Revolution Chinese culture were frowned upon. Workers and master potters alike were forbidden from placing personal marks on individual pieces. As a result, these pots were typically and simply stamped Zhong Guo Yíxīng “Yíxīng China”. The state exercised complete control over all aspect of the Yixing factories – the most famous of which being Yíxīng Factory #1. -Note- Zhong Guo Yixing does not authenticate the piece as a WenGe since Zhong Guo Yixing chops are still being produced either by Yixing factories who are sanctioned to do so, or fake artist passing them off as later pieces.
Zhong Guo YiXing Mark "Yixing China"
The State also controlled the mining operations for zishā ore. Consequently, most pots during the WenGe were produced with relatively good clays as there were no other competitors. Although at first glance, it may sound reasonably well for the State to be in the pot business, there is one caveat - many revolution teapots exhibit poor production quality.
In an effort to automate the manufacturing processes under the new State, many of the quality measures you would find in an artist studio were abandoned. For instance, many pots were mold made (such as this particular one), have muddy odors from having been fired too low; others have lids that are not level, do not fit properly and spouts which do not pour water in a straight line. So, why would anyone want a YiXing WenGe pot? Well, despite the sometimes low quality of revolution teapots and their non-distinctive artistry, they still command relatively high prices due the quality of the zishā clay mined during this period. Zishā mined during and prior to the WenGe is said to provide a “roughness” allowing more tea oil to be absorbed.
As anyone will tell you who has engaged in teapot hunting, it is virtually impossible to buy a nice pot online. And living in the States only exacerbates the situation since most of the nice and authentic pots are in Taiwan. Sure, there are Taiwan and Chinese auctions online; however how do you know what you are buying is authentic or “as described”? You can’t! Well, after doing a considerable amount of auction hunting (trust me difficult if you don’t speak the language) I had decided to go to the source and give Life of Tea a chance.
This 150ml Shui Pin pot was made early in the WenGe and was manufactured through the use of a mold. Although the word "mold" can generate images resembeling a Play Doh Factory kit where a lump of clay is put into a press and voila - the word is somewhat misleading since the pieces were and are formed by hand and then assembled through the facilitation of a mold. Additionally, the pot was fired in an open kiln. If you look closely on the lid, you will see firing deposits on the surface from the "open firing". As for the clay, it has a lovly dense quality to it. It is also quite heavy considering its size. Perhaps, Xiao Hongni? ZhuNi? The texture is somewhat smooth. It has a nice 'ping' when tapped. A good sign that it was fired sufficiently. Its performance, well it has a nice pouring through its single hole spout. However, I am afraid that the lid did fall victim to the misfortunes of the era in that it is very loose and does not fit very well. Nonetheless, it makes a scrumptious tea! Note - The pot looks much more orange in sunlight or from a camera flash. It is really a very nice red.
These pictures are more representative of the true color *almost*
I was told ZhuNi, and I am starting to lean this way. Look at the texture of the clay. Beautiful IMHO. But then again, I am somewhat biased.
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