Yixing Zisha Artists And Different Levels

If you ask Chinese people what the most prominent tea vessel is in China, most of them will give you the answer “Zisha teapot”.

Raw Material of Zisha
Raw Material of Zisha

Zisha teapot, made of purple clay unique to Yixing, is also known as Yixing teapot. The special properties of Zisha (purple clay) make it an excellent material for teapots. For example, the porous nature of Zisha teapots not only preserves the full aroma and flavour of the tea, but also enhances them! No wonder Yixing ware is still popular since it first made its name in China, which was nearly 5 centuries ago.

The First Yixing Zisha Artist

The first recorded Zisha production appeared in the 16th Century, by an artist called Gong Chun (供春). As the first known Zisha artist, he popularized Zisha teapots with distinct style.

It was during the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty, brewing rolled tea leaves became the mainstream instead of cooking powdered tea. The dominant material for teapots then was porcelain.

Gong Chun stayed in Jinsha Temple in Yixing as a servant of a scholar who wanted to study in peace. While living there, he spotted the monks making teapots using the local purple clay. He took the opportunity and learned the skills of Zisha teapots crafting. Inspired by the big ginko tree next to the temple, Gong Chun made a small sized teapot that looked like a tree burl, and engraved the pattern of it on the teapot.

This kind of teapots that were modeled after the natural forms quickly became popular among the literati who were avid tea lovers at that time. They were call “Gong Chun teapots”.

Gong Chun Teapot
Gong Chun Teapot

A long list of talented Zisha artists emerged since Gong Chun and brought Yixing ware to a greater height of development. On the list, we can find familiar names such as Shi Dabin and Chen Mansheng.

Yixing Zisha ware production technique is recognized as national intangible cultural heritage. To this day, there is still a significant number of Zisha artists active in China, while a majority of them reside in Yixing. The factories and workshops in Yixing provide Zisha ware crafting courses, many artists also teach apprentices.

Yixing Zisha Artists Levels

There are mainly 5 different levels of Zisha artists according to their degrees of craftsmanship and experience. What are these levels? And what are the qualifications of each level? Let’s check them out below:

Level 1 – Craftsman

Qualifications

  1. Education: high school or above;
  2. More than 7 years experience of Zisha ware crafting;
  3. Has primary level of arts and crafts;
  4. Capable of crafting fully handmade teapots.

Level 2 – Assistant Craft Artist

Qualifications

  1. Education: junior college degree or above;
  2. More than 15 years experience of Zisha ware crafting;
  3. Has intermediate level of arts and crafts;
  4. Capable of crafting fully handmade teapots;
  5. Has more than 2 provincial gold medals or more than 1 national gold medal in the field.

Level 3 – Craft Artist

Qualifications

  1. Education: junior college degree or above;
  2. More than 20 years experience of Zisha ware crafting;
  3. Has advanced level of arts and crafts;
  4. Capable of crafting fully handmade teapots;
  5. Has more than 3 national gold medals in the field;
  6. Publish two papers in the field;
  7. Has creative design capabilities.

Level 4 – Senior Craft Artist

Qualifications

  1. More than 25 years experience of Zisha ware crafting;
  2. Can give lectures on technical and art theory;
  3. National-level operational performance of the arts and crafts;
  4. Creative designs and production won more than two national gold medals.
  5. Has 5 national gold medals and 1 international gold medal in the field;
  6. Published several papers on design concepts, material selection, production, firing, etc.

Level 5 – Researcher-level Senior Craft Artist

Qualifications

  1. More than 30 years experience of Zisha ware crafting;
  2. Can give expert-level lectures on arts and crafts theory;
  3. Can perform the techniques of high difficulty;
  4. Has more than 5 national gold medals and 3 international gold medals in the field.

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