The enamel colored purple clay teapot is a royal tea set made from aesthetic craftsmanship passed down through the Qing dynasty. Known as the “Zisha of the Palace,” it was used by three different emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong.
This technique, which includes using enamel to manifest color on purple clay, was kept secret and exclusively used to serve royal purpose. It also involved use of Yixing clay, a type of purple clay from the region near the city of Yixing in Jiangsu Province in China. This region produce highest quality crockery in the country. Palace officials would send their design to Yixing to make the body of the teapot before proceeding with the enamel coloring and kiln at royal palace.
The enamel colored purple clay teapot made from the royal kiln is very elegant and rare. Making a pure purple clay teapot is quite simple, but to color the enamel onto the clay body is not an easy task because the craftsman needs to make sure the enamel can successfully dye into the clay. Besides, the enamel purple teapot is more difficult in firing comparing to enamel porcelain, and with very low success rate. That is why this complex technique is still unmatched until today.
Mr. Ma Xu, a famous critique of Chinese porcelain, praised the teapot, saying that “it is full of color and thick glaze whose blush and eggplant purple are well preserved. These two kinds of mineral glaze trace back from the middle of the Qing dynasty with no deposits of ore or minerals. The body of the kettle is covered with a light-filled pulp and it feels smooth and delicate. This is enough to prove that this pot is a large-opening Qianlong period art piece.”
This enamel colored purple clay teapot with dragon and phoenix pattern dates from the Qianlong period, and was part of the official collection of the palace. The purple clay is painted with dragons and phoenixes and the flowers are in full bloom. The pot is symmetrical and elegant, detail of flowers is done in refined detail, and the pair of dragons and phoenixes are imprint with god-like aura. The overall pattern is well structured, lines of Yin and Yang are meticulous staggered across.
A record of this teapot was found in the Qing dynasty palace archive, “September … delivered 10 pieces of Yixin enamel bowls, 4 pieces of enamel tray and 1 piece of enamel kettle, all Kangxi-era style.” “Qianlong Year 3… delivered 1 piece of Yixin enamel teapot, 1 piece of Yixin Shifang enamel teapot, 1 piece of Begonia style enamel teapot.”
The National Palace Museum in Taipei only possesses 7 pieces of emperor Kangxi-style enamel tea set. They are treated as the crown jewel of the museum.
China Yixing purple clay pot maker Li Ming (son of Chinese art and craft master Li Changhong) said: “The dragon and phoenix on this royal enamel teapot are very lifelike. This elegant and precious teapot could only be used by the emperor during that time, and it is very rare to find one of this kind of purple clay teapot on the market. Therefore, this rare antique enamel teapot is a valuable treasure in the world today.”
Master Li Changhong also said in an interview that Gu Jingzhou’s teapot had set a high price of more than 90 million yuan on the international auction market, and this piece of zisha teapot has straight, clear edges and corners, clear lines, craftsmanship and tight clasps. These standards are 100 percent in terms of approvals. Collectors should regard them as masterpieces. This is a priceless treasure. Collectors must respect it and understand its art, the culture, the times, the fineness of this raw material. To this day, there is no way to set a price that measures the disappearing of these skills. This pot is flawless; it is a collector’s treasure worth a national-level work. Master Li Ming also pointed out that this pot is a four-footed and up-to-date style and is the highest standard of the royal court. It is a legendary artifact.
For more information, watch Master Li Changhong sharing this rare treasure of the Qing dynasty – Enamel Colored Purple Clay Teapot with Dragon & Phoenix Pattern on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_zfsZbquZ0.