Overview of the main Yixing Clays

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Youzi
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Location: Shaxi, Yunnan, China

Fri Oct 18, 2019 2:36 pm

Hi Fellow Tea Lovers!

After a long time, I got myself together, to create a blog and start writing down, the Yixing knowledge I gathered from various Books, Chinese Online sources, and discussions with my Friends from Yixing.

As a first post I tried to put together an easy to read overview of the Main types of Zisha, to help people get a jumpstart in the subject. Since there are many knowledgeable people on this Forum, I'd like to ask for your help and feedback, if you see any inconsistencies or ambiguous parts or statements which you think need more clarification.

Later I plan to so smaller overviews of the each clay category and if needed detailed articles of a subvaritey of Zisha Category. I have also plans for writing about the clay processing process and other topics such as all the different old mines in Yixing etc.

I also plan to keep all posts up to date to my current best of knowledge, for people to use it as a resource while navigating in the world of Yixing teapots.

Hope you have a nice read and waiting for your comments! :D

https://www.teapotandtea.com/overview-o ... isha-clay/
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Bok
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 11:45 pm

Very informative article, much more in depth than most what I have come across in English articles.

More accompanying images would be a nice addition.

One part which I think still has a lot of confusion, is Zisha. Some say that Zisha encompasses all of Zini, Zini being a better kind of Zisha and Dicaoqing the finest of Zini.

In terms of antiques, a lot of “commoner pots are in what collectors call Zisha: looks like Hongni to the untrained eye, but is actually a coarser light reddish clay. Usually those pots are medium to low fires and workmanship can be not so good as well. See attached pot below which is from the late Qing/early Republican era.
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Youzi
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 2:33 pm

Bok wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 11:45 pm
Very informative article, much more in depth than most what I have come across in English articles.

More accompanying images would be a nice addition.

One part which I think still has a lot of confusion, is Zisha. Some say that Zisha encompasses all of Zini, Zini being a better kind of Zisha and Dicaoqing the finest of Zini.

In terms of antiques, a lot of “commoner pots are in what collectors call Zisha: looks like Hongni to the untrained eye, but is actually a coarser light reddish clay. Usually those pots are medium to low fires and workmanship can be not so good as well. See attached pot below which is from the late Qing/early Republican era.
Image
Zisha refers to all Yixing clay, Zini, Hongni, Lüni, Duanni/Tuanni, Zhuni. It is Zisha, because originally they only used Zini to make teapots, because the main, original mine during the Ming and Qing Dynasties was Da Shui Tan, which produced Zini, namely Tian Qing Ni (The highest grade Zini) and Qing Hui Ni (Second to TQN). In the ancient times clay mixing was also an art and mastery in itself of which the best is considered Yang Peng Nian (杨彭年). (make sure the check out her Sister's Sunflower teapot made of TQN... I missed out on it when I was there.... :( )

So getting back to your question, it is possible that those commoner pots was made of young Zini clay (also close to the surface), and low fired as you said which will result in a light reddish brown color. Also during ancient times poorer potters sourced their material from HLS by shallow surface mining, so that would explain the color and material you are talking about.

What kind of images would you like to see more of?
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Bok
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:45 pm

Thanks a lot for that, makes a lot of sense! It often doesn’t help that collectors from different countries sometimes use different terminologies :)

Representative pictures of the clays in original and fired state would probably be very helpful. Especially, the rarer kinds. Even if one Google’s those, you can never be sure if the results shown are what they are supposed to be.
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Bok
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Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:33 am

Another point of contention among collectors is of course Zhuni clay and the big questions:
Is it really extinct? And if not, to what extent is it still available? Even more important, how likely are relatively cheap Zhuni to be authentic, rather than blends or finely sieved Hongni?

Would be interesting to hear your take on it!
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Youzi
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Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:32 pm

Bok wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:33 am
Another point of contention among collectors is of course Zhuni clay and the big questions:
Is it really extinct? And if not, to what extent is it still available? Even more important, how likely are relatively cheap Zhuni to be authentic, rather than blends or finely sieved Hongni?

Would be interesting to hear your take on it!
None of the Yixing Clays are extinct, it's just that the supply is tightly controlled by the Provincial Government. The mines are walled off (HLS) and protected by security guards 24/7. Only some influential people allowed to go in, (people with the right Guangxi) and besides them there's very small surface mining done, if any. So clays from the old mines (HLS, DST, QLS, Bao Shan, Zhaozhuang, Hongwei, Xiaomeiyao etc.) are low in supply, but they can be bought on the official government controlled "Market", but besides the official market there is illegal mining done too, which is sold on the black market, based on connections. There were news about some houses collapsing near Da Shui Tan, because the base of the houses had problems... khm... :D

I'd say real hongni is more rare than Zhuni from any of the mines, for example Da Hong Ni (the real Da Hong Pao), Xiao Hongni etc. because these ones were heavily mined and favored during F1, because they were similar to Zhuni, but had a red color after firing, Which everyone loves. Zhuni was not used for making pots, because of the low yield. So "lots of" HLS Zhuni was preserved and later distributed among the workers based on rank when F1 closed down.

Zhuni is a daunting subject, maybe the most controversial, however there is modern Zhuni mines in the Dingshan area, which are mined commercially. Usually cheaper zhuni pots are mixed with Duanni/Tuanni or Baini, etc, to increase the yield. Pure Zhuni pots are expensive because a potter has to make at least 3 pots to get 1 good one. So most Zhuni pots, especially ones from Zhaozhuang or Xiaomeiyao are not fully handmade, and most potters won't make them, cuz it'd be too expensive and waste a lot of precious clay. HLS is different, because it has much much better yield.

This is just a quick Tl:dr, there are many subjects I want to write about, however my time is too limited... :|
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Bok
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Sun Oct 20, 2019 7:34 pm

@Youzi thanks for your reply and taking the time to do so.

Very much in line with what I thought. We’ve had some discussions in the past... some people think that pure Zhuni can be had at under 300$ which seems very unlikely given the scarcity and difficulty of this clay.

Interesting what you say about Hongni, had not thought about it that way! From experience the red clay from the early factory years is really very nice, maybe even nicer than some of the pre factory Hongni.
Teachronicles
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Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:44 am

Very informative article. Thank you for taking the time to research and write it.
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OCTO
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Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:19 am

Youzi wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 12:32 pm
Bok wrote:
Sun Oct 20, 2019 8:33 am
Another point of contention among collectors is of course Zhuni clay and the big questions:
Is it really extinct? And if not, to what extent is it still available? Even more important, how likely are relatively cheap Zhuni to be authentic, rather than blends or finely sieved Hongni?

Would be interesting to hear your take on it!
None of the Yixing Clays are extinct, it's just that the supply is tightly controlled by the Provincial Government. The mines are walled off (HLS) and protected by security guards 24/7. Only some influential people allowed to go in, (people with the right Guangxi) and besides them there's very small surface mining done, if any. So clays from the old mines (HLS, DST, QLS, Bao Shan, Zhaozhuang, Hongwei, Xiaomeiyao etc.) are low in supply, but they can be bought on the official government controlled "Market", but besides the official market there is illegal mining done too, which is sold on the black market, based on connections. There were news about some houses collapsing near Da Shui Tan, because the base of the houses had problems... khm... :D

I'd say real hongni is more rare than Zhuni from any of the mines, for example Da Hong Ni (the real Da Hong Pao), Xiao Hongni etc. because these ones were heavily mined and favored during F1, because they were similar to Zhuni, but had a red color after firing, Which everyone loves. Zhuni was not used for making pots, because of the low yield. So "lots of" HLS Zhuni was preserved and later distributed among the workers based on rank when F1 closed down.

Zhuni is a daunting subject, maybe the most controversial, however there is modern Zhuni mines in the Dingshan area, which are mined commercially. Usually cheaper zhuni pots are mixed with Duanni/Tuanni or Baini, etc, to increase the yield. Pure Zhuni pots are expensive because a potter has to make at least 3 pots to get 1 good one. So most Zhuni pots, especially ones from Zhaozhuang or Xiaomeiyao are not fully handmade, and most potters won't make them, cuz it'd be too expensive and waste a lot of precious clay. HLS is different, because it has much much better yield.

This is just a quick Tl:dr, there are many subjects I want to write about, however my time is too limited... :|
+100

Very well written. I totally agree.
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Zenshin
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Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Sun Nov 03, 2019 4:10 pm

Thanks for the nice summary. Really helped me getting a better understanding of all those confusing clay names behind Zisha :D
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