Backwards-handle "teapots"? (倒把西施)

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mbanu
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:14 am

I've heard that even though they look like teapots, apparently they are more like gaiwans with built-in straws? You suck the tea from the spout when the pot is cool enough to hold in your hand, and the handle and pot shape are designed with this in mind.

Does anybody know the history of these pots? Were they an intermediate phase between the teapot and gaiwan? A regional quirk? I'm especially curious over whether these were made continuously through the nationalized years or if they are a retro-revival pot from the new interest in old teaware.

Any help?
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Bok
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:14 am

Do you have a picture? I am not sure what you are referring to... Backward handle is the norm for tea pots no? As opposed to side handle. Or do you refer to those rare pots where a side handle bends until it points to the almost same direction as the spout?
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:27 am

The type of pot you are referring to is specifically a Xishi teapot. We tend to just call it Xishi in English, but commonly in Chinese it is referred to as 倒把西施 which might be better translated to "upside-down handle Xishi." The reason for this is that while many classic pots' handles start thick at the top and run thin at the bottom, the Xishi pot's design is exactly the opposite.

The original name for this pot (as many may by now be familiar) has to do with Xishi, one of the four beauties of China. The pot resembles her breasts which...well they are famed for being voluptuous. Originally this pot was also known as 西施乳 (Xishi's breast pot). Since the name is just a wee bit risque, it was changed to be commonly called 倒把西施. Obviously, the origin of the pot is pretty well known in China, so the name change is probably just for...whatever "appropriateness" is desirable. Having the handle reversed to other pots seems to help make vertical pours more convenient.

Hope this helps!


edit: attaching a photo of the style of pot referenced in your title
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Bok
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:43 am

That design is not the most comfortable to handle in my experience, an already bottom heavy shape, is rendered even more so with the thickening handle. Weird balance. Saw an antique Xishi not long ago, but had to pass – too expensive... almost the same design exists since 100s of years, much more refined than contemporary examples, but still overall the same.

From the the description of the original question it seems to me another pot was meant? Or maybe just a mix up due to translation inaccuracies?
mbanu
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:55 am

That's the pot style, what shocked me was the grip that is used:

Image

When it was explained that the awkward handle was for this grip, and the grip was because the teapot is not really meant for pouring in the normal way, I was so surprised I was prepared to believe it. :) (Finding out that it was originally called a "teatpot" is just adding another surprise on top.)
Last edited by mbanu on Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:59 am

When it was explained that the awkward handle was for this grip, and the grip was because the teapot is not really meant for pouring in the normal way, I was so surprised I was prepared to believe it. :)
It isn't too uncommon to see an older gentleman in his home drinking straight from a pot like this. This pot's design allows for a comfortable casual grip like this...and you get to enjoy the beauty of xishi directly while drinking your tea :D
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Bok
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:11 am

S_B wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:59 am
It isn't too uncommon to see an older gentleman in his home drinking straight from a pot like this.
Creepy old man in the park is more like it...

I have seen this method once in a movie playing during the Qing dynasty, but I doubt it is more than sort of grandpa(again) style brewing. Not sure how historically accurate it is.
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:30 am

but I doubt it is more than sort of grandpa(again) style brewing. Not sure how historically accurate it is.
I don't think anybody would want to gongfu brew like this. Not sure how that's even possible.

On a second anecdotal note, my SO's grandfather drank tea straight out of the pot like this every day, and he didn't drink any tea in the park ;)
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Bok
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:41 am

@S_B interesting! First time I heard this actually being done. And no offence to your grandfather!
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:00 am

Bok wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:41 am
S_B interesting! First time I heard this actually being done. And no offence to your grandfather!
None at all! I've seen a few other gentlemen his age do it, though admittedly usually it was at home. It might be more common in parks or public areas in China(?) but I've never actually been.
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Youzi
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:05 am

To be honest it makes all the sense to do like this. To be one of the oldest grandpa brewing vessels, similar to a Gaiwan and it can also warm your hand in the winter. And the concept is also aligned with this explanation.
Probably you'd brew much less leaf in it.
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Victoria
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:38 pm

Puts a whole new spin on the phrase ‘drinking from the teat’. Great topic and @S_B your explanation is very useful. No grandmas drinking tea this way ? :)
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:44 pm

Victoria wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:38 pm
Puts a whole new spin on the phrase ‘drinking from the teat’. Great topic and S_B your explanation is very useful. No grandmas drinking tea this way ? :)
I wish I could say. I'm sure there must be, I haven't seen it though!
theredbaron
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Fri Apr 03, 2020 7:35 am

S_B wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:00 am
Bok wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:41 am
S_B interesting! First time I heard this actually being done. And no offence to your grandfather!
None at all! I've seen a few other gentlemen his age do it, though admittedly usually it was at home. It might be more common in parks or public areas in China(?) but I've never actually been.

When i was in China first in the early 90's i have seen older folks drinking tea straight from the pot quite regularly in this way
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