When I first saw this kind of teapot I thought "ugh how cheesy" and I assumed it was just for tourists visiting China. I was surprised to find out that they have a 400+ year history. (But then, so do tourists in China*) Here is an early one sold by Christie's.
It's from the "18th/19th century"
But it gets even better...
This is from 1573-1619! It's not a teapot, yes, but it's the kind of "matching cup" often paired with the above stye of teapot, so, I think it is safe to assume the pots were around too, or followed shortly after.
This style originated during the Ming dynasty. It can be very realistic:
(Image from: http://www.clmattioli.com/catalogue_art ... page_z.htm
or it can be highly stylized:
A tree stump is a theme well-suited to Yixing clay, with it's natural colors, and ability to hold great detail. But, what I wonder, is why did this style become so popular?
It is often found in collections of old British
goods. Suggesting that it was made for export
. At one time it seemed like everyone's grandma had one of these on the shelf from her trip to "the East" -- but now they have become harder and harder to find:
Pots like the one above with painted handles seem to be in British collections, mostly. And the oldest I've seen was from 1920 or so. So, maybe, in a way, I was right, it is
for tourists. I could see how it would be hard to get people who knew nothing for tea and clay to buy dull brown pots, so the glazing adds color. The sizes are also more western, as well, tending to be much larger.
That said, if they are older, quality Yixing clay they could be very nice for brewing. Has anyone used one?
I want to learn more about the history behind this iconic shape. Tell me all that you know! Do people like them in China as much as they are loved in the west? Are they functional? *I have nothing against tourists in China having been one and aspiring to be one again... as many times as possible.