• by vinux

Throughout the ages, ceramic tea utensils have evolved in their design and use. Originally, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), teapots were used to brew green tea. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), porcelain teapots began to appear. During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), blue and white porcelain became popular, with various shapes and designs appearing. In modern times, ceramic tea utensils are not only used for brewing tea but also for decorative purposes.

The wide variety of ceramic tea utensils now available reflects how they have developed over time.
China is the main production area of world tea and the hometown of tea. Drinking tea has a long history. It is said that more than 4,000 years ago, “Shennong tasted hundreds of herbs and encountered 72 poisons every day, and got tea to solve them”. Tea was called “tea” in ancient times, which shows that tea was used for medicine in ancient China. Tea not only has a delicate aroma, but also can clear away heat and detoxify, regulate qi and smooth the diet, improve intelligence and help thinking. Tea as a daily drink has become a fashion and has its evolution and development process. In this process, a unique and special utensil – teaware – was naturally formed. With the change of different eras, drinking customs and methods, the shape of teaware is constantly changing. Literature records, paintings and cultural relics of all generations provide us with reliable bases for distinguishing teaware from different periods today, which can be mutually verified for research. There are many documents about teaware, among which pottery artifacts are mostly. The Chinese teawares collected in this book can basically run through the long history of Chinese teaware development.
According to existing literature, the custom of drinking tea originated in Shu and Jiangnan areas during the Han Dynasty. In Wang Bao’s “Tongyue”, there are records such as “cooking tea completely, [Youfu] has already covered and stored” and “Wuyang buying tea”, which proves that as early as the Han Dynasty, tea as a beverage had become a commodity for trading. In the early days, drinking tea was not like today, and tea was often mixed with ginger, scallions and other foods to make soup or used for medicinal purposes. Therefore, there were no special utensils for boiling tea and drinking tea, and the cookers and drinkware were multi-purpose. Wine utensils and teaware were basically universal, without obvious differences. According to the record in “The Records of Three Kingdoms · Wu Book · Wei Yao Biography”: “Sun Hao secretly gave tea [Cha] instead of wine”, it shows that in the Three Kingdoms period, tea was already used to entertain guests instead of wine. The green-yellow glaze ear cup collected here is oval in shape on the plane with crescent ears on both sides, shallow abdomen, flat bottom, green-yellow glaze applied on it with simple and elegant shape. Ear cup is also called Yushan, bronze and lacquer products can also be seen. It is often used with tray. Straight mouth barrel body flat bottom blue glaze cup inside and outside applied with blue glaze is often found in Jiangnan area ceramics. The above two vessels are Han Dynasty drinkware. Before tea was differentiated from other drinks tools, they could all be used as teaware.

During the Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties, specialized tea utensils gradually differentiated from tableware. The first to appear was a blue glaze teacup with a tray. The tray is also called a tea boat or tea tuo, which is used to support the teacup to prevent it from burning fingers. According to Li Kuangyi’s “Zi Xuelu · Tea Tuo” recorded in the Tang Dynasty: “In the beginning of the establishment of Cui Ning, the daughter of the middle Shu Xiang, there was no cushion for the tea cup, and she got sick when she ironed her finger. Take [“Dish” character “Stone” instead of “Wood”] Child Chengzhi. When you sip it and tilt your cup, and encircle it with wax at the center of [“Dish” character “Stone” instead of “Wood”], its cup will be fixed. That is to say, order craftsmen to replace wax with lacquer rings… Later generations further encircled their bottoms and made them more new Hundreds.” Cheng Dachang’s “Yan Fanlu” in Song Dynasty also has similar records. According to existing archaeological data, it is uncertain that Tuo began in Tang Dynasty. The tray evolved from the tray, and as early as Eastern Han Dynasty, there were four to six ear cups on one plate. Afterwards, it gradually decreased until one cup on one plate in Eastern Jin Dynasty. During the Southern Dynasties period, it was produced more frequently and became popular tea utensils at that time. Tea cups from Jin Dynasty and Northern and Southern Dynasties had ingenious designs with trays glued together by glaze to prevent hot fingers when sipping tea (Figure 12, right). This blue-glazed connected tureen (Figure 12), an artifact of Eastern Jin Dynasty, has two ears cups glued together by glaze, a round open mouth shallow belly and flat bottom covered with blue glaze; simple yet elegant design. Blue glazed cup with tray (Figure 13, lower left) is an artifact from Southern Dynasties period; straight mouth deep belly circular foot; open mouth shallow belly circular foot inside and outside double hook line lotus pattern; all covered with blue glaze; clear natural patterns; simple yet grand design. At this time period most teacups have circular feet exposing wheels on their bases even though there are not many kinds of tea utensils then but laying foundation for later development during Tang and Song dynasty 。

Besides the cup and saucer mentioned above, there is another kind of tea ware we often call “teapot”, but in the past, it was not called a teapot, but “kettle”. It was a container for water. The common Chicken Head Soup Bottle originated from the late Three Kingdoms to the Two Jin Dynasty, mostly from Yue Kiln. Deqing Kiln and other porcelain kilns also had burning. Its emergence had a far-reaching impact on the shape of pots after Tang and Song Dynasties. Most of the early chicken head soup bottles were placed with chicken heads on one side of the small plate neck bottle shoulder, with no neck and sharp mouth. The closed flow is solid and only plays a decorative role. On the other side is molded into a chicken tail, with head and tail symmetrical before and after. Both shoulders are placed in series, belly is full and round, whole body is like lying chicken. The body is painted with green glaze and exposed raw material at flat bottom.