Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.


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Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby tingjunkie » Dec 9th, '13, 17:06

I am the proud new owner of a very beautiful tea set, but I'm looking for more info on it, and wondering if anyone has seen a set like this before. For reference the teapot is only 70ml.

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The set came from a dealer in Japan, and was listed as 1930's Bizen. Since I know far more about Yixing clay than I do about Japanese clay types, I'm not sure about the clay. Most Bizen ware I've seen has a far rougher texture, and the splotches of color on the outside of this set looks more like a purposeful glazing technique than random changes from the kiln as you'd see in Bizen ware. In the second photo below, you can see there is a very definite line of glazing on the inside of the pot wall.

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The style of the pot is familiar to me, however. The general pot shape, the fat canon spout, the flattened disc-shaped knob on the lid, the longer clay "skirt" on the inside of the lid, the air hole being located right in the center of the knob, and the flat spout filter inside all remind me of Yixing teapots which were exported to Japan in the 1930's.

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As far as the construction, the pot is almost certainly wheel thrown, as there are very even concentric lines both inside and outside of the pot. The unglazed clay does look very similar to Yixing clay to me, except for being wheel thrown. Despite having a slightly loose lid fit, the pot doesn't drip and the water flow will stop when the lid hole is covered.

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The pot, the cups, and the water cooling bowl all have chops on the bottom, but I can't make heads or tails of them. The style looks more like Japanese kanji than Chinese script to my untrained eye, but I really have no idea. (Honestly, I'm not even sure I posted the photo right side up.) One odd thing about the set is that the teapot holds 70ml, yet the water cooling pitcher only holds about 30ml. Not sure why that would be.

So, any info or theories out there? Is it a Japanese take on a Chinese gongfu set? Perhaps it was meant for the senchado ceremony, but used theYixing style of the day as inspiration? Any information helps!
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby 茶藝-TeaArt08 » Dec 9th, '13, 17:18

Wow....I was unprepared for that. Exquisite! Very beautiful set! I really appreciate the shape of the pot and the very unique surface effect. Congratulations on a great find!
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby tingjunkie » Dec 9th, '13, 17:26

Thanks! I've fallen in love too. :D
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby puyuan » Dec 9th, '13, 17:41

Beautiful indeed! I have to check my books before being assertive about it but I really don't think Yixing ware from the 1930s could have those spout holes. I can't offer anything other than that, but I'd love to see more pictures of the unglazed clay.
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Drax » Dec 9th, '13, 18:06

It's definitely Japanese. You have the picture of the characters in the correct direction.

The middle two say きび (kibi) or きぴ (kipi), unfortunately I can't tell which. And I have no clue what the first or last characters are.

It's VAGUELY possible that if it's kibi it's referring to a city in Fukayama by the name of Kibi (吉備).

The style certain has some qualities of Bizen, but I don't believe I've ever seen the "drop-like" qualities that this one has. Definitely very awesome either way.

By the way, it's also unusual that the middle two characters (kibi or kipi) are in KANA, while the first and last are KANJI. I'm not sure what to make of that.
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Drax » Dec 9th, '13, 18:15

I thought maybe the last character was 盜 but that means to steal, or thief. Probably not it. Probably. :wink: :lol:
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby NPE » Dec 9th, '13, 19:26

That is one absolutely breathtaking set! I am certainly no expert but it definitely does not look like bizen to me. What I do know is that this is a truly wonderful and unique find. I hope it makes the tea taste as good as it looks!
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby tingjunkie » Dec 9th, '13, 21:54

NPE wrote:What I do know is that this is a truly wonderful and unique find. I hope it makes the tea taste as good as it looks!


Thanks! Early testing with water and a couple teas is very promising. Of course, at 70ml, it's perfect for gongfu, but I'd like to get my hands on some good gyokuro and see how that goes too. :D
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby tingjunkie » Dec 9th, '13, 21:58

Drax wrote:It's VAGUELY possible that if it's kibi it's referring to a city in Fukayama by the name of Kibi (吉備).


Thanks Drax! According to Wikipedia, Kibi provence in Japan later split into smaller provinces in the 7th Century- one of which being Bizen. Of course, I don't think the set is anywhere near that old, but it's interesting!
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Teaism » Dec 9th, '13, 22:11

I heard historically Japan imported a lot of Yixing clay but not sure whether it is true. It looks quite close to Yixing clay. However, wheel spun is not normal to Yixing clay pots, more of Japanese. Maybe they add other clay to soften it for wheel spinning. Very interesting find indeed.
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Chip » Dec 9th, '13, 22:21

Very interesting set! Enjoy.

Aside from the mottled exterior which is confusing, the interior clay surfaces more resemble Tokoname or Banko than Bizen due to the smoothness, texture. None of the Bizen I have have such smoothness ... the Bizen clay has a rough look and feel, inside and out. I am not saying it is Tokoname or Banko, it simply reminds me more of these origins based on the fired clay finish.

It is as if the creator was attempting to mimic a Bizenesque look by some kind of application before firing ... giving it the wood fired appearance.

Question, when you place the lid on the pot and turn the lid as it rests on the pot, is the sensation and sound smooth or rough as you spin the lid?
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby tingjunkie » Dec 9th, '13, 22:27

Chip wrote:Question, when you place the lid on the pot and turn the lid as it rests on the pot, is the sensation smooth or rough as you spin the lid?


Well, with smooth or rough being relative... I'd say it feels like an unused Yixing pot made from slightly sandy clay. Slightly rough, but it still spins without too mush resistance. Compared to wheel thrown tokoname pots, it's significantly rougher.
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Chip » Dec 9th, '13, 22:31

... I posted the edits below, but you had already posted, so I will do a seperate post.

[EDIT] Also, the lid fit, is it more precise or more loose? Bizen usually have more give due to the nature of the clay and firing when compared to more Tokoname-like clay posts.

[and EDIT] I will be interested to hear what perhaps John has to say about it based upon his deep experience with Japanese clays and origins.
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Re: Mystery Teapot- A fun riddle for Asian teaware experts.

Postby Chip » Dec 9th, '13, 22:32

tingjunkie wrote:
Chip wrote:Question, when you place the lid on the pot and turn the lid as it rests on the pot, is the sensation smooth or rough as you spin the lid?


Well, with smooth or rough being relative... I'd say it feels like an unused Yixing pot made from slightly sandy clay. Slightly rough, but it still spins without too mush resistance. Compared to wheel thrown tokoname pots, it's significantly rougher.

In my experience, Bizen is significantly rougher ... giving it a "choppy" feel and sound when turning.
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