Have you heard of purple pottery from Jianshui, Yunnan?

Updated: 5 days ago

Jianshui has a fairly long pottery-producing history which dates from 3500 years ago. What really distinguishes Jianshui purple pottery is the wide scope of processing techniques and traditional culture involved in its making.

Purple Pottery Teapot

If there is one thing that can represent the history and culture of the Chinese nation, it must be ceramics. Celebrated as art, all ceramics are in essence a representation of hard work, functionality, novelty, and the time in which it was produced. Throughout Chinese history they have developed four famous types of pottery, purple pottery from Jianshui, Yunnan, is one of them.


Purple Pottery Jar


Where is Jianshui?

Jianshui County is located in the middle of Yunnan Province and has a profound historical and cultural heritage. As one of the regions most deeply influenced by Confucian culture in Yunnan, it was once the education centre of the province. The excavation results show that the history of Jianshui pottery industry can be traced back to 3,500 years. During the Song (420-479 AD) and Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) periods, Jianshui was the centre of Yunnan's pottery industry. Jianshui celadon was built in the middle and late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and began to enjoy a glorious position and became one of the four most famous potteries in China. Interestingly, the first purple pottery found was a pipe of untreated opium, which was imported into China after 1840.


Double Dragon Bridge, Jianshui, one of the most famous 10 bridges in China

What is purple pottery?

Purple pottery is a cultural and artistic treasure with the characteristics of Yunnan ethnic folk crafts. Jianshui purple pottery is not glazed on the inside or outside but is given a unique gleam with the use of fine polishing. It’s said its structure is like iron, colour like copper, it’s bright like water, and sounds like a chime, which is different from other famous pottery.


Purple Pottery Tea Set

Purple pottery is famous for its unique style and has become a favourite treasure. The reason is that in addition to the exquisite production and novel modelling, is the application of traditional paintings and calligraphy to the purple pottery body, using multiple hand-made methods such as inscribed and Yang filling, broken monuments, unglazed polishing, etc. It has not only practical value, but also aesthetic and collectable value, it has been recognised for its artistic qualities and as such has been listed in the elegant hall of art. In 2008, the State Council of China approved Jianshui purple pottery firing techniques as a national intangible cultural heritage and a protected geographical indication.

Purple Pottery Teapot

It is said that Jianshui purple pottery is good for tea-brewing, especially when used to brew Yunnan Pu'er tea. Brewing tea is the process of adding water to the tea (leaves) to turn it into a tea infusion (broth). The taste of tea made with different vessels can vary in flavour. However, all good tea and good tea infusion share their commonalities.


Purple Pottery Teapot

What are the characteristics of a good pot of tea?

1. Rich in content

Various aromatic substances emitted from the tea and dissolved in the tea infusion, high-quality and strong-penetrating ingredients.


Purple Pottery Tea Set

2. Mixing degree

The combination of the content and water directly affects the sense of tea infusion. The well-mixed tea infusion has a firm texture, the taste is in the water, and the aroma can also dissolve into the tea infusion, which is sweet and delicious when you drink it.


Purple Pottery Tea Set

3. Coordination

Whether the state of existence of the contained substances can be harmonious and distinct, the tea infusion has a sense of layering, just like a good perfume, the light notes, the deeper notes, and the finishing notes are distinct, not obtrusive and full of flavour.


Purple Pottery Tea Set

What are the advantages of using purple pottery to brew tea?

1. To maintain the original flavour and gather the aroma.

The purple pottery tea set has very fine pores and high density, which can keep the aroma and taste of the tea from being absorbed by the tea set. Purple pottery contains high iron content and a variety of trace elements, which can go towards softening the water quality and enhancing the taste of the infusion. Use it to make tea, the tea taste will be naturally sweeter yet retain its original flavour and have a lasting aroma.

Purple Pottery Teapot

2. The brewed tea is kept fresher for longer.

Purple pottery teapot has a double pore structure and a very good air permeability. The tea brewed can be kept in a better condition even overnight in summer.


Purple Pottery Teapot

3. The performance of quenching and heating.

Unlike a purple pottery teapot, some utensils will not be able to withstand sudden cold and heat. Purple pottery is known for its ability in dealing with sudden cold and heat. It will not break the kettle body by suddenly adding boiling water to it in the cold winter.


Purple Pottery Teapot

4. Insulation.

The purple pottery tea set is a good heat insulator. Purple pottery transfers heat quickly and is easier to stimulate the contents of tea.


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