Sunday, November 26, 2006

Yixing Tea Cups

My attempts to buy nice big tea cups in Hangzhou and Hanoi came to naught for two reasons.
  • Traditional Far Eastern tea cups are the size of egg cups.
  • Modern Far Eastern household goods are designed to a taste that screams CHEAP AND TACKY to the Western eye. (Yes, I know it's all relative and historically contingent.)
But still we did come home with good cups. My father-in-law took them from work and gave them to us. Apparently he's got a stash of them at the office.

This zisha stoneware is really nice, unglazed, a matte dark chocolate, the vessel shape severe and elegant. The cups are made in Yixing in Jiangsu. I gather the clay is ancient, rich in iron, quarried from beneath formations of sedimentary rock.

Each cup carries an inscription. I fancied it a piece of poetry, perhaps something about cranes and harpistry and wind in the bamboo grove. I generally don't bother much about Chinese script: it's such a huge unknown to me that nibbling at the subject seems futile. But this was inscribed pottery, awakening my archaeological instincts. My wife read it for me.
Heng sheng hua gong chang qing shi zhou nien
Ji shu bu

"Eternity rising transformation work factory celebration ten cycle year
Artisanship artisanship department".

That is,
"The Eternally Rising Chemical Factory, Tenth Anniversary
Technical Department".
So much for the poetry. Our beautiful new cups are in fact promotional items, high-end gifts for the employees of my father-in-law's dye factory on its tenth anniversary. But who will ever know? The inscription looks great regardless of its meaning.

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Blogger Hans said...

I wouldn't have guessed. ;-) Really nice-looking mugs!

26 November, 2006 19:20  

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