Feb 14th 16 11:21 pm
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Old clay, modern clay

by steanze » Feb 14th 16 11:21 pm

A question that has come up recently, and a million times before, is how "modern" clay compares to old clay. In this thread I propose to choose two teapots - one old and one modern - that have related/similar clays, and to post pictures and descriptions of your experience with the pots. By modern I mean post Factory 1/after the mid 1990s.
Obviously the comparison must be taken with a grain of salt, because 1) different firing techniques were used in different time periods, and 2) there is no way to know that we are comparing pots at a similar "level" (with an extreme example, comparing a pot by Gu Jinzhou to a $20 modern pot would not be a very fair way of comparing old to modern :) ).

To start off the discussion, I'll post a comparison between zhuni clays, one is Zhaozhuang zhuni from the Qing dynasty (the taller one), the other is a Xiaomeiyao "golden" zhuni by Xu Yuefeng, student of Jiang Youming.

Image

Image

In my experience the old zhuni seems denser, more metal-like, and it is a bit darker. The inside of the modern zhuni seems a little "softer", I think this might be because of the different firing method. In terms of their behavior with the tea, it is not easy to judge because the old zhuni is a bit thicker - the modern pot is very thin walled, but I would say that the old zhuni is slightly more porous. Again it is hard to say whether this is because of the firing or the clay. Also it is important to keep in mind that there are many different kinds of old and modern zhuni.

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Feb 15th 16 12:51 am
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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by bagua7 » Feb 15th 16 12:51 am

But IYO how the two compare? My belief is the old will perform better and not because of the clay but due to the age factor. Generally speaking, things improve with age. Secondly, in terms of brewing tea is the difference 'noticeable' for an experienced tea drinker?

That's the key point: a 'significant difference' that warrants the use of old zhuni.

Maybe this was addressed in another thread but I unfortunately missed out.

Feb 15th 16 3:04 am
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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by steanze » Feb 15th 16 3:04 am

In my opinion, tea involves creating an experience which is not only about taste. A full evaluation of the two pots would need to take that into account. But if we are focusing only on the taste, the difference is relatively small, and it is difficult to know to what extent it is due to the initial clay quality, the firing, the age, or the wall thickness. Both pots are very good at making the tea lively and "crisp", with the old zhuni giving a bit more in the aftertaste.

An important caveat is that there are a lot of pots out there called "modern zhuni", and they range from clays that are not yixing, to not-so-good hongni, to better clays, to much better clays :) Among these moder zhunis, Xu Yuefeng's zhuni is pretty good. Most of the other modern zhuni pots I came across do not perform as well.

Looking forward to hearing about other modern/old comparisons and experiences :)

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Feb 15th 16 3:23 am
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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by Tead Off » Feb 15th 16 3:23 am

steanze,

In your opening post, you say that this comparison should be taken with a grain of salt. I agree, but why would you continue down a road that leads nowhere? As you rightly point out the reasons for this, why pursue this and ask others to join in to a meaningless pursuit, by your own admission?

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by kyarazen » Feb 15th 16 3:58 am

Tead Off wrote:steanze,

In your opening post, you say that this comparison should be taken with a grain of salt. I agree, but why would you continue down a road that leads nowhere? As you rightly point out the reasons for this, why pursue this and ask others to join in to a meaningless pursuit, by your own admission?


exploration is where the fun is, thats how hobbies are to be enjoyed

Feb 15th 16 4:04 am
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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by steanze » Feb 15th 16 4:04 am

Tead Off wrote:steanze,

In your opening post, you say that this comparison should be taken with a grain of salt. I agree, but why would you continue down a road that leads nowhere? As you rightly point out the reasons for this, why pursue this and ask others to join in to a meaningless pursuit, by your own admission?
Constructive comments are always great :)
I think that with its own limitations, having a page on this forum with a series of side by side comparisons of old and modern pots can help members to familiarize themselves with old and modern clays.

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by Tead Off » Feb 15th 16 4:04 am

kyarazen wrote:
Tead Off wrote:steanze,

In your opening post, you say that this comparison should be taken with a grain of salt. I agree, but why would you continue down a road that leads nowhere? As you rightly point out the reasons for this, why pursue this and ask others to join in to a meaningless pursuit, by your own admission?


exploration is where the fun is, thats how hobbies are to be enjoyed
sort of like playing with dolls. :D

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by kyarazen » Feb 15th 16 4:22 am

Tead Off wrote: sort of like playing with dolls. :D
o'really? 8)

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by Tead Off » Feb 15th 16 6:01 am

kyarazen wrote:
Tead Off wrote: sort of like playing with dolls. :D
o'really? 8)
Maybe you missed my point. This experiment only holds up between the two pots that steanze illustrates. Nobody else can duplicate it. Any conclusion only is applicable to the two pots of steanze, not any two pots of one being old and the other being modern.

I don't mean to prevent steanze from experimenting. But his finding may not hold up for similar experiments with other pots. So whether old is better than modern, cannot be answered as he states in his original post.

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by Bok » Feb 15th 16 6:30 am

Also a more valid comparison would also be to take two pots with identical shape and not two very different ones…

Shape in my experience is as important to the result of the brew as the clay is.

Feb 15th 16 6:36 am
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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by Bok » Feb 15th 16 6:36 am

bagua7 wrote:My belief is the old will perform better and not because of the clay but due to the age factor. Generally speaking, things improve with age. Secondly, in terms of brewing tea is the difference 'noticeable' for an experienced tea drinker?
Beliefs are a tricky thing…

Regarding age –
I always like to say an idiot who becomes old, ist just an old idiot. Age does not necessarily improve things nor beings :mrgreen:

A thought I just recently had, if it wouldn’t be interesting to have blind test of such a thing. Imagine one person brewing the same tea with the same parameters and serve it to the blind-folded tester. That way one could avoid hopeful expectations and prejudices one might have in regards to certain clays.

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by jayinhk » Feb 15th 16 6:57 am

Bok wrote:
bagua7 wrote:My belief is the old will perform better and not because of the clay but due to the age factor. Generally speaking, things improve with age. Secondly, in terms of brewing tea is the difference 'noticeable' for an experienced tea drinker?
Beliefs are a tricky thing…

Regarding age –
I always like to say an idiot who becomes old, ist just an old idiot. Age does not necessarily improve things nor beings :mrgreen:

A thought I just recently had, if it wouldn’t be interesting to have blind test of such a thing. Imagine one person brewing the same tea with the same parameters and serve it to the blind-folded tester. That way one could avoid hopeful expectations and prejudices one might have in regards to certain clays.
I always enjoy your very practical and scientific approach to clay and teapots. It makes for good contrast to the assumptions many of us take for granted. We live in a world of empirical testing, so it's definitely necessary to look at both sides of the coin!

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by steanze » Feb 15th 16 7:06 am

Bok wrote:Also a more valid comparison would also be to take two pots with identical shape and not two very different ones…
That's very true. Unfortunately I don't have a Qing zhuni and a good modern zhuni of the same shape. I'd love to see such a comparison though.

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by steanze » Feb 15th 16 7:11 am

Bok wrote: Regarding age –
I always like to say an idiot who becomes old, ist just an old idiot. Age does not necessarily improve things nor beings :mrgreen:
+1
also pots don't learn as people do. It's true though that age can change a pot (e.g. firing can recede). It also depends on how the pot is stored. Whether the age related change is good or bad though is not obvious, it could be different in different cases.

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Re: Old clay, modern clay

by .m. » Feb 15th 16 9:08 am

Tead Off wrote:
kyarazen wrote:
Tead Off wrote: sort of like playing with dolls. :D
o'really? 8)
Maybe you missed my point. This experiment only holds up between the two pots that steanze illustrates. Nobody else can duplicate it. Any conclusion only is applicable to the two pots of steanze, not any two pots of one being old and the other being modern.

I don't mean to prevent steanze from experimenting. But his finding may not hold up for similar experiments with other pots. So whether old is better than modern, cannot be answered as he states in his original post.
While this is true, I must say that I really enjoy to see Steanze's pots and him talking about them. It doesn't matter that i'll probably never own one like that or drink a tea from it. And there are some bits of informations that have a general meaning. Like knowing that there are indeed modern zhuni pots that are comparable to the old zhuni.