You've seen the beautiful Yixing Zisha red and purple Chinese teapots and other ceramic
pieces, and perhaps have wondered where they get their unique color and properties.
Yixing Origins and Colors
Yixing ceramics originate in Yixing County in China, which has been the center of Chinese teapot production since the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The unique, fine Yixing clay is harvested from the banks of Lake Tai near Nanjing. The three major colors are red, green, and purple.
A subtype of the purple variety, called Tianqing clay, is the most sought after because it is rare - and no longer available. The supply of Tianquing clay was exhausted by the end of the Qing Dynasty c1912. Tianqing clay is distinguished from the purple type by:
Its dark liver color after firing.
Its much sandier texture.
Its higher permeability, which creates a distinctive semitransparent patina.
It can turn greenish after a period of usage and has a jade-like appearance.
A fourth color, Duan is a mix of purple and red.
Yixing Zisha Tea Pots
The clay used for Yixing teapots is called Zisha, which means purple clay - although it's not always purple and can range from purple to beige or green. Zisha, once it's refined and fired at high temperatures, creates a slightly absorbent pottery prized by tea lovers.
Zisha Tea Pot History
The Yixing Zisha pot date to the 1400's. Most are made from clay originating in Yixing in the Chinese province of Jiangsu.
Zisha Tea Pots Today
In Dingshan (Dingshu), on the west side of Lake Tai, you'll find more teapot shops than you can imagine lining the town's crowded streets. A popular spot among Chinese and foreign visitors alike, business in the area continues to thrive today.