Saturday, March 7, 2009

My WenGe "Cultural Revolution" Yixing Teapot

WenGe Teapots

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.

My Pot

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.

Qing Dynasty Porceline Teacups 35ml


Life.learning.sherab said...

Congrats! I think from now we will see more tea reviews pouring out from this little lucky guy Bill's WenGe pot! Don't worry too much about the lid. From the picture, I think it fits well enough -- I mean the rim line is smooth and you don't see any gap.

You didn't tell me you also bought two Qing porceline cups! so that's a surprise!

Bill said...

Hi Sherab, thanks! I do enjoy it. Really a change of pace for me. Oh, I am not worried about the lid at all. Yes, it somewhat more loose than you generally find, but it makes a damn good cup of tea! :D As for the Qing Cups, well, I didn't buy them. They were a gift from Aaron F. Good of him wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful teapot! And your prose and photographs are splendid as well. Thanks for sharing!

chrl42 said...

Wonderful pot, wonderful cups. What the most important thing is how we get a satisfaction out of what we really enjoy. Cheers

Charlie in Beijing :)

Bill said...

Lainie and Charlie, thank you very much for your kind comments. Makes blogging all the worth while.

Zero the Hero said...

Hey Bill,
Love your blog. I'm loving those new cups too--the imperfect shape really works!

Peter said...

Hey Bill,
I have the same teapot as the one you posted with 4 teacups in a red box with the same stamp. I was wondering if you could tell me how much you bought yours for because I bought mine in the charity shop in London, UK for £6, which I think is a bargain. It has never been used before, and in excellent condition.

Bill said...

Hi Peter, thanks for reading.

Firstly, congrats on your find. Zhong Guo is an interesting petigree. First all, there are many years which have this particular stamp or chop mark which can make identifying the exact year very difficult. The only real way to know is by an expert who can judge the clay. Unfortnately, this is also an educated guess. Zhong guo started after '66 and are curently being made today so naturally prices will very. I really dont feel comfortable stating how much I paid but for a pot like mine that is WenGe "Cultural Revoluation '66-'73 Zhong Guo in good condition you will be looking between $400 and $600 sometime more. I hope this helps.

dazeyez said...

Hi! Thanks a lot, I am not a tea drinker but into antique.
Bought this lovely teapot with the Zhong Guo teapot with a beautiful, very fine enamelled teapot of flowers.

Wish I could upload the photos here, bit don't know how to.

Home Set Up

Tea should be simple. I typically brew gongfu except when I make a good English Breakfast. Zhuni pot is one that I dedicate to Chinese b...