This past year in Taiwan I had taken a trip with my tea teacher to visit some artisan teaware galleries and to look at teaware. After a day spent looking at many beautiful items I still had yet to feel that special connection/heart pull to a piece. My teacher caught an early train and my wife and I stayed on to look around. Around 9 p.m. we decided to leave to catch a train back home. On the way we saw a small sign that that said "stone work."
When we entered a quiet man sitting behind a stone-carved tea table gestured to us to come in and look around. There were many beautiful sculptures, statues, and tea tables…all carved by this stone master. As we looked around, I noticed the walls had dusty glass cases. When I looked inside the cases I was greeted with some of the most impossible and free shapes of wonderful teapots. A closer inspection showed that all the teapots were made of various stone. I followed the display to the end where I found a small teapot. The master's wife stopped watching her Taiwanese soap opera and came over to us. We asked about the pots and she said they were not for sale. All this time, I had felt the stone master watching us from a distance.
At this point he got up and filled a glass bowl, walked over to us, and invited me to fill the pot and pour it to see its perfect pour. He then invited me to tip the pot upside down over the water to show me how tightly fit the pot lid was. The pot is made from native Taiwan stone and is very elusive. He then began to share that he'd been working with stone for 40 years and we met his apprentice, a young art student from the south. He told us that his personal goal is to make 1000 perfect pots before he dies. The pots were his personal path. At that time he'd made 600 pots that he deemed perfect, the ones we'd been looking at in the cases.
After talking awhile he said something to his wife and then looked at us to tell us that he would sell us the pot I had been drawn to.
We were surprised and when we asked why he said he had been watching me and knew I studied gong fu and cha yi/茶藝, noticed my care in moving, and that our meeting was yuan2 fen4/緣份 ((destined connection) This is how I've met all my deep teachers and friends in Taiwan… a very beautiful concept). We were deeply humbled.
He took us to his back workshop and elegantly signed/carved his name into the pot bottom and lid, dating the day. He then invited us to sit at the stone tea table and poured us many rounds of the best gaoshan wulong I had in my entire six weeks from a different stone teapot and carved stone cups. He pulled out the pot he'd offered us and began to meticulously buff the pot and then placed it in a box. All this time my wife and l looked at his portfolios of his life's work…beautiful things, mostly sold to China from Taiwan. He continued to pour us tea and placed the pot in a very nice box. We finished tea, thanked him for his time, bowed in respect, and left.
Amongst the many nice tea things in our home, my father-in-law's collection of Yixing teapots, my own Petr Novak, Yixing, and other pieces, if I were forced to choose one pot, it would be this unique, native Taiwan stone teapot which brews excellent tea and has such a flowing shape。 So, for this survey I have to choose "stone teapot" or "other."