Monday, 1 May 2017

The teapot story

Another great teapot of yester years. There is a story behind this great teapot. A story i kept to myself all these years.

This is a teapot made by the legendary Chu Kexin, one of the seven seniors of Zisha, a title given to the seven pioneers in the art of teapot making in Yixing who were  active in the early 1950s.  The legendary Gu Jingzhou was in fact one of the seven as well. Everybody know his teapots fetched tens of millions in today's auction market. Sad to say all of them were no longer around. They left behind a legacy.

How on earth could i, a guy with no deep pocket nor firsthand knowledge, was able to own such a great teapot. There was indeed a story behind this rare find, neither did the seller nor the buyer knew was going on in that purchase more than 25 years ago.

Teapot by Chu Kexin

Can you read these characters

In those years when i was obssessed with Yixing teapots, i would go treassure hunting almost every weekend. I would throng the streets of Chinatown and other areas where art and craftshops were aplenty. During those times, there were no books nor any publications on yixing teapots to guide me, no internet as well. One would have to try one's luck when ploughing through lots of pots to look for the gem. Of course, i made many friends, most of them were vendors who were most likely after my money. I got cheated a few times but i learned the trade quickly. As they all said, one has to pay his lessons in order to grasp the experience. This is what they called the tution fees one has to pay to acquire certain knowlede and experience.

One day, i received a call from a worker of an antique shop. He told me there was a shipment of antiques just arrived from China. He said there was a teapot he thought i might be interested in. He told me to come at night to take a look. Obviously i acceted his invitation to view the teapot. God only knew why he asked me to come in the evening (may be he didn't want his boss to know).

When i went to the shop in the evening, the shop attendant took out the teapot and told me it was an old teapot from Yixing. I knew what his intention was. By saying that, it would be easy for him to demand a lot of money from me. This was how it began, a battle to negotiate for a price.

 I held the teapot in my hand, trying very hard to acertain the chinese characters inscribed at the base of the pot. No matter how hard i tried, the characters seemed so difficult to comprehend. This meant i did not know who the maker was. I blamed myself for such shallow knowledge in the art of seal carving. Those characters were not conventional chinese characters. Eventually i gave up. I looked at the teapot, i examined the clay and i found that it was unique, the purplish hue of the zisha clay was indeed rare, not something i had seen earlier. Although i hadn't a clue who the potter was, i decided to acquire it. I knew the teapot was indeed an old one, just as the shop attendant told me. After some bargaining, we settled for a price. I then became the proud owner of this teapot whose maker was still a mystery. Deep down in my heart, i knew it was a good old teapot and i would not regret buying it. We had to console ourself after paying a sum of money to buy somthing which was not an essential item in life, like food, etc.

The teapot was in my possession for more than 25 years. I made no attempt to find out the potter as i knew not many here knew anything anyway. However, things changed one day when i was browsing through a teapot megazine published by a firm ftom Taiwan. When i turned to a page, i was astonished to find a picture of a teapot similar to the one i bought many years ago. The characters inscribed at the base were far too familiar to me. The caption indicated that the potter was Chu Kexin, who used his ealier name Chu Kaichang as the characters inscribed at the base of the teapot. I knew Chu Kexin had an ealier name Chu Kaichang, but again i was too stunned to realise the characters were that of Chu Kaichang. Anyway who care, i was the owner of this teapot and that is a fact.

This is a case of both the seller and the buyer did not know what value of the transaction that went through their hands. Today, it is safer to purchase Chu Kexin's works from an international auction, if you have the desire to own such a teapot. Now i appreciate the teapot not because of its monetary value. I read about his life story and knew how he struggled in his early life to make ends meet. When he made it in life and how unselfisfly he passed his skills to his fellow students and trained them to become masters and grand masters of the trade. He lived a humble life and many of his students now achieved accolades and fame and wealth. It is indeed an honour for me to have in my possession one of his early works and i shall treassure it.

Just a word of caution, if you think you can own one Chu Kexin easily, you are gonna pay a heavy price to learn a lesson. There were many fakes around. This type of story won't happen again, trust me.

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