Kilns for Firing a Yixing Teapot

There were two types of kilns historically used in Yixing: Snake Kilns and “Modern Tunnel” Kilns. Later, gas and electric kilns came to be used instead.

Snake kilns were used throughout China for thousands of years, and the only type of kiln in use up to 1957. Snake kilns are simple, single-column climbing kilns made of clay and brick with a frontal firing chamber, air and fuel ports along the side, and a tall chimney at the far end. The kiln is set on a slope with the chimney at the highest point, which causes a consistent oxygen flow due to the heat rising up the slope and out of the chimney. These kilns could be up to 60 meters long and burn for over a week (though they would have been shorter and faster for yixing firings).

burn baby burn!

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Basic Verification of Yixing Teapots

calligraphy on a teapot; flowing liquid poetry; I want more tea to speak to me

Yixing teapots have been in nearly continuous production (wars being the primary cause of discontinuity) since the Song dynasty, reaching the height of their production during the Qing dynasty, before the market became flooded with teapots made from other clays.

The increase in price and rarity of real yixings of known provenance has caused a ripe market for fakes – often an expensive mistake for new and experienced practitioners alike. Simple fakes are often made from clays other than Yixing, and are not particularly hard to identify.

The better “fakes” can be real Yixing – but from the wrong year or maker. Most yixing teapots were made by students and apprentices of masters, who learned to make teapots by copying the designs of the masters before them. Masters from previous dynasties would have both later masters and their students copying their designs – “fakes” existed as early as the Ming Dynasty, with potters copying master made pots from the Song Dynasty. Students and apprentices copied their masters’ designs using the same tools, clay, and kiln. Thus, most master made pots would have been copied at least 10 times by students in training, using identical clay and equipment.

Are all of these teapots fakes? No – that would be a poor definition of “fake”…. Do yixings need to be master made to be real? No – they simply need to improve the tea you decide to pair with it to be used within GongFu.

Thus, even if one knows how to determine the composition of the clay (yixing vs. not yixing) by hand or through an analytical test, determining the age and provenance is still a challenge (for example, you can’t use radio-carbon dating on clay…. clay is really very old).

A practitioner of tea who wishes to purchase yixing for GongFu must learn a set of methods to separate real from fake. This first post will explain.

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Buddha wasn’t a Buddhist

It’s a poetic anomaly,
There is no right theology,
It’s phenomenology you need to Witness the reality:
No koan spoken understood;
No vista below the gaze undertook;
No path you know underfoot;
The crucible denied because even though you tried the reality you saw was caused by the illusions you had in mind – it was but shadows on the wall, hinting at a larger picture beyond, an impermanent veil instead of all… you could see, if we just opened our eyes, maybe for the first time.

This poem uses Buddhist philosophy to argue against certain Buddhist beliefs structures. The specific beliefs are left as an exercise to the reader.