Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zhuni Duo Qio teapot from Yixing

13 cl for 108 grams.

This teapot is made from a different batch of modern zhuni clay as the Xishi. The color has an older, browner appearance.

The shape is simple, cute and familiar to many of you, I guess.
The walls below the lid are slightly inclined inwards. This small angle helps to make the lid fit tighter. It also requires more skill to make walls with an inclination. So, this is a sign of a skilled maker.
This teapot also has an inside golf ball shaped filter.

When looking inside, it appears that the inside 'skin' of the teapot is rougher than the outside. The potter told me he uses a tool to rub the outside 'skin' of the teapot to make it smoother. This glossy feeling will increase if you often brew tea in it.

I also asked why does it look like there was sand trapped in the clay. He makes this effect on purpose. To do this, he crushes failed zhuni teapots (zhuni has a high shrinkage rate, which explains why there is also a high failure rate during firing). These pots are crushed to small grains and this is then mixed together with the zhuni clay. Modern machines could crush the teapots more finely. But in older times, clay wasn't so fine, so adding these 'sandy' zhuni elements in the clay makes it more similar to traditional zhuni clay.
Update:
A reader from Vancouver sent me this picture of his cracked zhuni Duo Qio. How did it happen and what can we do to avoid a similar fate?

Winter is Vancouver is very cold. Our tea friend poured boiling water directly inside the teapot to pre-heat it. The hard zhuni clay wants to expand too quickly and cracks. (This can happen even to very experienced tea drinkers). 

When our room is very cold, or the teapot very old or unused for a long time, we have to pre-heat our teapot more carefully, especially those made of the hard, less flexible, zhuni clay. My tea master, Teaparker, would first pour some hot water on the lid of the closed teapot to pre-heat the outside walls. Only then would he slowly pour hot water inside the teapot.

10 comments:

terence said...

Stepane,

Is this pot made by the same potter as your previous duo qio in duanni clay

Terence

Anonymous said...

Stephane , what is " Modern " Zhuni clay ?

thomas said...

Good question anonymous!

I'm also curious about this subject of that kind of clay that Stephane call "Zhuni"...

Salsero said...

There has been quite a bit of talk in Adagio's TeaChat about the different processes by which pots are made. Since you have talked to the potter, do you know by any chance it this pot is made on an electric wheel, slip cast, with molds, semi-manually, manually or some other way? My impression is that prices for fully manual pots start at hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Thomas said...

In a prevoius post on "zhuni", you present the "sand under the surface" like the carateristique of a real Zhuni clay:

>>> How to distinguish a zhuni from a red clay teapot?
Teaparker showed us the characteristics of a zhuni: under the surface, it's like there is some sand... >>>

Or, in this post you said that the sand effect was artificially created by adding broken teapot... Do you mean this teapot was made like a "fake" one?

You also use in the same post, the name of Teaparker as a caution:

<<< With all his knowledge and experience, Teaparker confirms that these teapots are made of pure zhuni clay. (...) Hereby, Teaparker is committing what is most valuable to him: his reputation. If this were a fake and he couldn't tell, his reputation would be trashed. However, since his usage of this teapot shows him that he gets the same results as with his old zhuni, he is able to endorse a rare modern zhuni teapot that makes very fragrant tea and is still affordable.>>>

You and teaparker seem to pretend that this modern zhuni is as good as "old Zhuni". This statement looks to me a little bit excessive... A modern and very cheap teapot like this one is not bad (I own one like this and use it a lot, and I like it), but it is not very serious to say that the result is the same as a "old zhuni" pot... I've made a parallel comparison between the Xishi teapot and a 1950'S Real zhuni teapot of my collection, it's completly different. How Teaparker can think it is the same clay??

In the same post you also said:

<<< The principle of my blog is transparency and advanced gongfu cha knowledge >>>

That's why I ask all these questions

Steph said...

Thank you - it's so wonderful to have the info from the potter!

Anonymous said...

Heh thomas,

What makes you an expert, grow up. It's very simple; buy if you like it, if you don't don't get it.

Nobody is holding a gun to your head and telling you, BUY STEPHANE'S ZHUNI POTS, OR ELSE.

Stephane said...

First, thanks for everybody's interest and comments.

Terence,
It comes from the same workshop, but this one is made by a different potter. It looks very similar, because he used the previous duo qio pots made there as his standard.
Another difference: like the Xishi I showed in the preceding post, this teapot bears my 'slogan': Cha zhi Le: Happiness in tea.

What is modern zhuni?
First, why call it zhuni and not hungni? Both mean red clay after all.
A hungni clay is softer and more porous than zisha clay. Zhuni, on the other hand, is harder and less porous than zisha. And the less porous a teapot is, the less it absorbs fragrances.
When I compare this Duo Qio or the Xishi with a zisha or even a hungni pot, I find their clay harder. That's why I call them zhuni (as does the maker of these pots).
I add the adjective 'modern', because I had the opportunity to see, hold and use old zhuni teapots. They are also harder than zisha, but their clay has a different feeling, a finesse, that these teapots don't have. (I don't own any such old zhuni pot, so far. I feel my teapots serve me well already).

Salsero,
The process is made by hand. First the clay is flattened and cut into pieces for the different parts. You can see the video I posted on June 13, 2006. The main difference between this video and the way these pots are made is that for these pots the potter will use a mold for the body. But body is attached to the bottom, the spout is then carved by using tools and the hand... (Yixing pots are not like vases that are entirely made with your hands and fingers.)

Thomas,
The article you refer to is 2 and a half years ago. Luckily, I continue to learn and share what I learn on the blog.
There must be many ways to make fake zhuni pots... But if you take crushed zhuni and mix it with zhuni, you still get zhuni in the end.
You are right to write that my words were excessive at the time ("same results"). As I've experienced since and written higher here, a good old zhuni teapot makes a different tea than a modern zhuni teapot. (And given how expensive they are, they better be different).

Note: let's keep the exchange open and courteous. Let's have some tea and be happy!

John-Paul said...

The design of this pot is very beautiful, and the modern zhu ni clay produces wonderfully fragrant tea. I am also very impressed with the craftsmanship of this pot. The lid fits virtually perfectly, and covering the small hole on top usually stops the flow of liquid from the spout instantly and completely. The pour on this pot is also very smooth, with no dripping.

On the other hand, the pour rate is a bit on the slow side (E.g. more than 10 seconds to empty the pot). If I had to critique this pot, my only complaint would be that the ball filter prevents the pot from releasing every last drop of liquid. In fact, despite my best efforts, there always seems to remain a small amount of water in the bottom of the pot. Also, because of the length and orientation of the spout, the pot cannot be filled to the top while the lid is on. As a result, the maximum capacity of the pot is closer to 12 cl (with the lid on). All this being said, I am very glad that I purchased this pot.

I really can't emphasize enough how much I appreciate the quality of service and product that Stephane provides. This is not only true of the teas, but also of the teaware. I am particularly impressed with both of the zhuni teapots that I have ordered. I have compared these to other similar teapots from places such as Shouzhen Zisha Teapot (zishateapot.co.uk), as well as other retailers in both China and the United States, and I must confess that Stephane's modern zhuni teapots are superior in both form and function (and for a better price in most cases!).

It is evident that Stephane's potter really took his time to finish the teapot properly, and the clay used makes wonderfully frangant and balanced tea. In my experience these modern zhuni teapots are by far the best buy online, and wish that everyone else knew it. I'm also annoyed by all the retailers out there who boast about the quality of their clay, and the skill of their craftsmen, only to offer low quality, and mass produced teapots that make lousy tasting tea.

Thank you Stephane!!

John-Paul said...

To update, I'm very sad to say that I have somehow managed to injure my zhuni duo qio. As I mentioned in my last post, I really do love this teapot, and I use it all the time (along with two other zhuni for Stephane). Unfortunately, my duo qio has suffered a fate similar to the one depicted on the blog which belonged to the gentleman in Vancouver.

In my case the crack is very fine, and can only be seen once the walls of the teapot become saturated with water/tea. It is a straight and vertical crack on the side of the pot, that runs from the brim right down to the base. The teapot will leak slightly from this crack, and it does not hold it's temperature the way it used to.

I'm not sure what caused the fracture. I'm always very careful when preheating or cleaning my pots. It may have occurred via rapid temperature fluctuation, or I may have knocked the teapot against something without noticing (although I can't see any evidence of this). It is also possible there was an inherent flaw in the structure of the pot itself, which failed as a result of the pressure released from repeated heating and cooling of the vessel. If this was the case, then it was just a matter of time.

Whatever the cause was, I just wanted to give a heads-up to other owners of this teapot. I'm sure it means just as much to you as it did to me, and if I can help save a teapot, then it's all worth it. I believe there is something about this teapot in particular that makes it more susceptible to breakage when compared to some of the other zhuni that Stephane offers. This probably has something to do with the thickness of the walls, the shape of the teapot, perhaps the batch of clay, and perhaps even the firing of the teapot. Therefore, I would be especially gentle and careful with this one, and hopefully it will last you much longer than it did for me.