Yixing, Jiangsu Province, known in China as the "Pottery Metropolis", produces a much-valued red and boccaro ware. Teapots of this category made there were appraised as the best vessel there was over one thousand years ago during the Song Dynasty.
Yixing earthenware is generally marked by its simplicity and exquisite craftsmanship. It is also appreciated for its practical utility. The material, called zisha (purple sand), is abundantly available in the locality. Although not as white or as fine as kaolin, it needs no glazing and, after firing, the product is solid and impermeable, yet porous enough to "breathe". A Yixing teapot enhances the tea brewed in it with respect to colour, smell, and taste. Its walls seem to absorb the tea and keeps its fragrance. In summer, it keeps tea overnight without spoiling. With hot tea inside, it does not scald the hand with purple sand being a slow heat-conductor. But in winter, it may serve as a handwarmer and may be left on a low fire to make certain types of tea which need simmering. To the Chinese tea connoisseur, it is the "ideal teapot".
The purple sand of Yixing may also be made into other utensils. The earthenware
| || |
steam cooker is a casserole which cooks with steam and appears on the dining table as a serving dish aswell. Drinking vessels and coffee sets of red ware are also welcome to users because they are good in preserving the flavour of the beverages. A boon to flower lovers, the red ware flower pot absorbs excessive water, helps the soil "breathe", keeps the roots from rotting, and generally ensures the plant a healthy growth. What makes the Yixing earthenware all the more attractive is the tasty designs it bears. Artisans cut or incise on the unburnt bodies pictures of birds and fish, flowers and animals, Chinese characters and seal marks all in the traditional style, thus turning utensils of practical use into works of art with national features.
Technical innovations attained in recent years have made it possible for the "Pottery Metropolis" to turn out many refractory kitchen utensils such as steamers, rice cookers, pots, pans and dishes used for roasting. They can stand drastic changes of heat and may be used on any kind of fire to cook food by boiling, steaming, roasting or frying. Thus new uses have been developed for the traditional earthenware.
Now Yixing earthen utensils are sold in large quantities to more than eighty countries beyond the domestic market.