I am without photos for now, but I can still post text. I hope to post some photos on this at some point.
As I have mentioned in other threads, I am in Dingsu, in Yixing and I am training with Le Shen Factory (Happy Living Factory) on every aspect of teapot production, from mining raw materials through to the finished product for sale in the shop.
What I have learned and am learning above all else in Xishuangbanna and Yixing is that categories and distinctions are more hard-lined in the West. There are various methods of distinction for tea and teaware in China, and this seems to have served the heritage and culture well. Here, the different systems of categorization (for tea and for teapots) all flow together, at the same time, even when they seem to conflict. What I am seeing are viewpoints and information that go against the conventional wisdom (that I have seen, written in English), and counter to what some people have written here on teachat. Let me be clear: I am not saying "I am right, you are wrong," rather I am finding that, "I am right, and you are right".
Two very interesting items have come up in my matriculation, and I want to discuss them with the teachat community. Maybe they should be different posts, but I am lazy tonight.
1st: Qing shui ni. I have read online, and on teachat, that qing shui ni means clear/clean water clay, and that it comes from mixing zini with only water, meaning it is good, pure zini. According to the distinctions I am finding here, both in my factory and among the people outside of my company, this distinction is not the only one used. Many folks here separate zini and qing shui ni as different clays, though both coming from the jianni ore (so both a type of the larger umbrella term zini-just subsections of clay coming from subsections of raw ore). Kind of like di cao qing ni is not the same as standard zini, but is a sub-set of the zini category. In this way, qing shui ni is seen as clay coming from deeper down, near or beneath some sort of water (though I get the impression it doesn't always have to come from near water-that's just where the name came from). So all di cao qing ni is zini, and all qing shui ni is zini, but not all zini is qing shui ni and not all zini is di cao qing ni. Make sense?
2nd: Hongni. I noticed two things in Korea: 1-we sell very, very little hongni, which is very, very expensive ($500ish and up) and reserved for high-end master pots; 2-the rest of the red clay I could find was called hong qing shui ni. I couldn't figure out what exactly hong qing shu ni was, and marked it down as a difference in translation/Korean categorization.
But talking it over here with my local teacher and guide (he manages the factory, and has taken me to a number of other factories), he clarified that hongni is pretty much gone. He said there are still five mines open, but they are producing only jianni (including zini and qing shui ni, but he isn't sure about new di cao qing) and beini/lvni (ultimately duanni)-all of which are lower quality than the closed mines. According to him, most places these days sell hong qing shui ni, and call it hongni. Hong qing shui ni is a type of qing shui ni, and thus a type of zini, even though it is red. So what we see today as "hongni" (but really hong qing shui ni) is different than the historical "hongni". But, these places are selling them as hongni, and that has become the industry standard, so perhaps we can view it as a kind of "modern hongni".
Worth noting: my teacher here differentiates between how the miners distinguish the clays, how the artists distinguish the clays, and how the tea preparers/connoisseurs distinguish the clay. All these different systems conflict and compliment, and harmoniously work in tandem with one another.
Has anyone heard or seen anything along these lines, and where? Sources are always good to hear/see. Thoughts? Additions? Objections? I'm all about peer review.