In addition to a cultivated taste for tea, the Chinese also have a penchant for teapots. Last month, a 1948 purple clay Yixing zisha teapot by the master ceramicist Gu Jingzhou sold for nearly $2 million at a China Guardian auction in Beijing, topping the list of the most expensive Yixing teapots in the world.
A living legend at almost 100 years old, Gu has honed a sophisticated craftsmanship that can measure up to that of Ming court artisans of the 14th century. This teapot is made from a clay that can only be found in the town of Yixing in China, where the zisha clay usually comes in five natural colors — of which purple is the rarest, containing no lead but a variety of minerals that are healthy for tea drinkers.
Yixing teapots often interest buyers for their engagement with ancient Chinese literature, as poems and designs are engraved on them by calligraphers and artists. This multimillion-dollar pot is adorned with notable calligraphic engravings by modern master Wu Hufan and bamboo carvings by painter Jiang Handing.
Though historically they are most often coveted by Chinese collectors, a few teapots have also been purchased by foreign collectors at auctions at Christie's and Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. If $2 million dollars seems extravagant for a clay pot, just wait until another Yixing piece comes up for auction — the prices of these vessels are expected to continue to rise.