Saturday, 19 July 2014

An old bell-shaped pot

An old bell-shaped pot for sharing.

This pot was purchased in the 80s, one of my earliest collection of pots. The potter's name was engraved at the underside of the lid, no idea who he was as the characters used are not clearly identified.

This is the frustration I faced in the early days. I cannot read the name of the potter found at the base of the teapots I bought. This is because the engraving style (Chuan Shu) is very cursive and complicated, totally different from modern Chinese characters. This style of engraving originated as early as the Qin period (some 2000 years ago) and is still frequently used by engravers of today. Another frustrating thing is that there was hardly any literature on teapots and the Yixing culture of pottery available. It was difficult to check who the potter was even if you could read his name on the pot.

With more and more information available these days on Yixing teapots and potters (through internet), I began to know more about the potters and their lives. In my free time, I would go through all the teapots in my collection trying to find out who the potters were. As a result of this intense search, I found out that quite a number of the Yixing pots I bought in the early days are indeed made by famous potters. Most of these potters were in fact apprentices that went through the rank and became masters themselves.

If one understand the Chuan Shu way of engraving the Chinese characters, it would make life much easier when reading these characters is concerned. One example of the Chuan Shu type of engraving generally found on teapots:

Of  course for great grandmaster like Gu Zingzhou, there is a lot of information on the seals he used for his teapots so much so that teapot cheats can imitate his seals (there is tremendous value in pots bearing his names). Hence 99.9% of teapots bearing Gu's seals are not really teapots made by the master himself. Usually Gu's pots can only appear in the auction markets where the highest ever recorded price to date was over 17 millions RMB. There are 10 teapots from the master that fetched over 10 millions in auctions.

Seals of the legendary Gu Zingzhou
Gu's famous pot, Crossing the New Bridge
Gu Zingzhou in his younger days
Guess who is the lady next to Gu Zingzho? She has also become a grandmaster herself. Her teapots are also highly sought after by collectors all over the world.

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