Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blue and white

Fancy drinking Chinese tea from the world's most expensive tea cup?

Antique collectors all over the world know this cup, its history and rarity. It is known as the Chenhua chicken-cup made during the Chenhua era of the Song dynasty. It is rare as they are less than ten pieces in the world today and most of them are in museums.

A song dynasty Chenhua chicken cup
This Chenhua chicken-cup from the Song dynasty was recently auctioned in HK for a record 45 million Sing dollars. A similar cup was auctioned in HK in the 90s for over 4 million HK$. A well known antique collector in China once told the press that he was served Chinese tea with this cup when he visited a Japanese tycoon who had previously acquired the cup in an auction. He said the reason why he was served tea with this cup as the Japanese held high regards for him as he knew the significance and the historical background of this chenhua cup (he truly appreciates antiques of such quality). What a way to entertain a visiting guest.

Blue and white porcelains have its origin from the Yuan dynasty. The Yuan dynasty blue and white porcelains are very rare and there are only around 30 odd pieces in the world today, again mainly in museums. One of such blue and white jar from the Yuan dynasty was auction for over 230 millions RMB. The reasons for such a high value in these antiques: they have to be genuine, rare and in excellent conditions.

230 million RMB for this Yuan dynasty jar

Recently there is a craze to use blue and white pots and cups for tea brewing and drinking. Most of these porcelains are made in Jingdezeng following traditional methods. The porcelain pieces are specially crafted and hand-painted by professionals who spend long time to perfect the art of creating such porcelain pieces. They know that the customers are no longer happy to use those cheap mass produced pieces where the art work is printed on them. The blue and white pieces as produced by these young professionals are exquisitely created and hand-made to the highest quality. The art work is vivid and lively, and ideal for tea appreciation.


Although they are not antiques, these blue and white pieces are not cheap either. Some of the unique pieces are put for local auction. Prices range from several thousands to tens of thousands. One of the blue and whit tea cup was sold for 2 thousand RMB.

This small cup was auctioned for 2k RMB

New porcelain pieces are being put up for auction
The most fantastic blue and white porcelains are the under-glazed ones which are not easy to produced as the kiln temperature has to be accurately controlled. Well-fired under-glazed pieces are quite costly due to the high cost incurred.

If you want to own a few chenhua chicken cups and are not willing to pay millions for them, you can also order such cups made in the highest quality and they cost a fraction of the value people paid in auction. They may not be 600 years old, but the design and glaze are by no way inferior to the original cup. If you such cups to appreciate your favourite tea, I am sure the experience is truly remarkable. I have already acquired these cups for my tea drinking appreciation.

Chenhua chicken-cup

Chenhua chicken-cup

They do look like the genuine chenhua chicken-cups

The blue and white porcelain pots and cups are glazed internally and externally. Unlike Yixing ware where the clay is porous and can trap tea fragrance, the porcelain ware does not trap tea fragrance over the years of usage. So you do not have to use one pot for one type of tea. That can be tremendous saving if you drink different types of tea.

So why not invest in some good blue and white or under-glazed ware for your tea brewing and appreciation. There are a lot of different varieties in terms of art work and type of glaze. You will a hard time selecting the one that best suit your taste.

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