Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gong Chun 龔春

Pottery in the Yixing area has been produced for thousands of years, but it wasn't until the early 16th Century that the birth of Yixing pots, as we know them today, took place.

A monk from Jinsha-si, the Golden Sand Temple, just outside of Yixing, who had studied with a local potter began producing fine quality teapots with the zisha clay. His name has been lost with the golden sands of time but a name that is still remembered well is Gong Chun, a young servant of a scholar who'd come to Jinsha Temple to study for the Imperial examination.

Gong Chun spent his free time with the monk, learning to make pots. With some zisha clay, he went out and modeled a teapot after the texture and form of a burl in an old Ginkgo tree growing on the temple grounds. Pressing his thumb into the bottom of the pot, marking it his own, he began a long tradition of Yixing masters.

Eventually, his master freed him to dedicate his life to potting. Tea was a popular commodity amongst the upper-classes and at the time of Gong Chun, tastes were shifting from extravagant to elegant simplicity. Also, the Emperor had recently declared that tribute tea must no longer be in bricks that were to be ground, but as loose leaves. Gong Chun's style fit perfectly into this new trend and his master quickly spread the word of Gong Chun and his pots, making his work highly sought after. Gong Chun and his master also recognized the superior quality of the porous zisha clay for brewing loose-leaf tea.

He was a great innovator of Yixing pottery, creating his own tools. He also designed as several unique styles of pots, many derived from nature, including the "Dragon Egg", "Square Seal", and the "Burl" teapot, now better known as the "Gong Chun" teapot. There is only one remaining pot in the world that is quite certain to be his, on display at the National Museum of China. Unfortunately, the lid was "lost" during the war, but a convincing replica was make to replace it. Since shortly after his time there has been a constant line of potters imitating his work, keeping his creations and his spirit alive.

the "Gong Chun" teapot

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