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Anecdotes about purple clay and famous men

05.14.2009 · Posted in Home and Garden Articles

Given the apparent love affair most Chinese people have with tea, you shouldn’t be shocked to learn that certain people have also found a deep connection with their teapots and other teaware. And these may not be the kind of people you’re thinking of: everyone from emperors to artists, writers to laymen have found joy in a special kind of tea ***: those crafted out of Yixing purple clay.nnAncient poet Su Dongpo (1037 – 1101) and his original purple clay teapotnnSu Dongpo was the most eminent writer of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). His works feature an unconstrained and enthusiastic style. Chinese people are so lucky that Su has left some 4,000 ancient poems to them. Besides, he was also a very famous calligrapher and painter.nnThe funny thing is that Su enjoyed tea and purple clay teapots very much, and he created a well-known *** of his own style called a Dongpo Cross Beam ***.nnSu would work day and night on his poetry and other work, so he would frequently rely on tea to keep him awake. He was irritated by the tiny pots of the day, which were much too small to hold a whole night’s worth of tea. nnTo solve this problem, Su decided to make a large teapot with his own hands. He purchased some local earthenware clay — Yixing purple clay, and got his plan under way. However, after a few months’ effort, not a single satisfactory *** showed up. It became a secret trouble to him.nnThen finally, as the poor poet was still worrying about the ***, a boy attendant came over and invited Su to enjoy a small meal with him. Su’s face lit up as soon as he took notice of a lantern in the boy’s hand. “Great! I will make a large teapot based on this lantern!” he thought.nnAfter just a few tries, Su perfected the lantern-shaped teapot. But there was a problem: it was heavy and slick, so no one could hold it. Even attaching the standard teapot handle was not enough. After thinking for some time, Su crafted a long, U-shaped handle that hung over the *** and attached to both the front and back. This handle was easy to carry, and gave great leverage when pouring tea out of the large belly of the ***.nnAfter that, Su was constantly using his special big teapot while intently creating his poems. Some say he had even spent more time with the *** than with his own son. At present, there are still a number of master potters trying to emulate Su’s original design. They give their imitations a name Dongpo Cross Beam ***, according to Su’s name and the characteristics of his famous ***.nnHere’s a photo of one such ***, taken in Su’s old home: [I:10:J]nnEmperor Qianlong and purple clay teapotsnnQianlong (1711-1799) was one of the most famous emperors of the Qing dynasty. He dominated China for sixty years. Meanwhile, he lived to be 89 years old, making him the Chinese emperor who lived the longest!nnHe was a huge fan of tea, and some say this addiction was what helped him live such a long life. He would go from place to place, sampling the tea across his vast kingdom.nnEmperor Qianlong was very particular not only with tea, but also with tea sets. He was very proud of his Chinese tea ceremonies. He knew that Yixing purple clay teapots can help tea exert their full potential, so he appointed the teapots made in Yixing ‘The No.1 Tea Set in the World.’ In fact, the tea Emperor Qianlong enjoyed was brewed almost exclusively by Yixing purple clay teapots. [I:11:J]nnEmperor Qianlong appointed specialists to select the best purple clay teapots from Yixing, or to design the most appealing styles. Favored by emperors like Qianlong, Yixing purple clay teapots earned a great reputation soon. Nowadays, people are proud of owning good purple clay teapots. Although we have no chance to being an emperor for even one day, we can pick a purple clay teapot and experience the pleasure that emperors used to have.

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