The history of teapots

The History of Teapots

Tea (camellia sinensis,) was cultivated in the 4th century CE, after wild specimens were brought to China from India. Teapots were not used until much later on.

Early forms of Teapots


Traditional teapots weren’t needed until leaf infusion became popular at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China. At this point, teapots were necessary to allow for the tea to steep in boiling water.

Drinking vessels for wine and water had been around in China for years. These vessels which had a spout and handle, eventually evolved to create teapots.

Yixing Teapots

The Yixing teapot, created during China’s Ming dynasty is believed to be the first teapot. It was made from zisha (purple clay,) specifically to brew or steep tea. Today, Yixing teapots are still made by skilled artisans from clay found in the Jiangsu Province. They are made from unglazed clay, which gradually absorbs the flavor and color of the teas brewed in them, making them a desirable tea vessel for tea lovers.

Yixing teapots were not only used to brew tea, but were actually drinking vessels. One would drink directly from the spout of the pot.

By the 15th century CE, tea was no longer regarded solely for its medicinal properties. The Japanese and Chinese were drinking tea for ceremonial purposes. Japanese use of teapots created a demand for this new form of pottery.

Japanese artist Sen Rikyu (1522-1591) was the driving force behind the development of the Yixing teapots into an art form.

In 1694, the British East India Company requested that the teapots made for them in China should have a grate or pierced barrier where the tea enters the spout so as to hold the tea leaves back. The British also began to make their own teapots.

Chinese scholars and intellectuals involved themselves in the design of teapots. The transition from using drinking bowls to using teapots for tea was a smooth one, but also prompted the invention of hard-paste porcelain in the western world.

The Japanese began making red clay or shudei teapots. They hired Chinese artists to teach them techniques for making the teapots, and developed new methods for creating these delicate wares.

Porcelain

In the early 1700s, Johann Friedrich B?ttger was commissioned by King Augustus of Poland to develop the European equivalent of the clay used to make Chinese porcelain, and was finally able to produce a hard paste strong enough to be cut with steel that was also fine, white and translucent. This was considered a breakthrough.

Some time later, in the 1760s, Josiah Wedgwood’s improved cream-colored earthenware was introduced. It was more attractive to consumers and didn’t crack on contact with hot water.

In the 18th century, the development of white porcelain in Europe had a strong influence on the rise in popularity of white porcelain in Asia.

Another important invention was that of bone china. Bone china was tough, refined, and easy to manufacture.

Tea drinking at the time was considered a luxury. Today, many of the teapots from these early periods are collectibles.

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