For Christmas, I received this book of antique zisha wares. They come from the best collection one can dream of: the National Palace Museum (NPM). The story of this museum is fascinating in itself. Its collection comes from what was seized from the last emperor, Pu Yi, as he left the Forbidden City. The artifacts moved several times: to escape the Japanese army during Second World War and the communists during the civil war that followed. And so, by 1948, the best imperial pieces arrived in Taiwan.
For centuries, the best works of arts and the best teas were often given as tributes to the emperors. This central power structure makes it easier to now seek the finest examples of tea ware. Also, coming from a public museum, this is where we have the least to worry about fakes and imitations.
The collection of wares in this book remains quite varied. Teapots come in many different styles and shapes, some heavily decorated, others so simple (see the back of the book above). In my opinion, the most extraordinary pieces are whole sets of tea wares placed on their custom made curio box. These sets combine several Chinese arts: paintings, zisha pottery, porcelain, lacquered wood, tins... All these arts serve one goal: enhancing the pleasures of tea.
Update: I realize I made a mistake. The wares from this book are not from the NPM in Taipei, but from the NPM in Beijing! (This detail is only mentioned in the book's introduction). Not everything was transported to Taiwan. Tea wares that were often used had their place in the imperial kitchen. So, they were not considered as precious as jades or other artifacts. That's why they were left behind in Beijing and these managed to survive the war and cultural revolution.