Thursday, November 14, 2013

Korean-made Yixing "Xi Shi" teapot • 韓國 西施 宜興 茶壺

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Looking for a break from the city, my family and I spent 2012, bookended by a few months of 2011 and 2013 on each side, in a small town just outside of Daegu in the south-eastern corner of Korea.

Adjacent to Daegu's famous traditional medicine street, is a street with a surprising number of tea shops. One in particular caught my attention because the owner was a potter who'd studied in China and claimed to be the only Korean potter who makes Yixing teapots. He makes them in China, then brings them back to his shop to sell. He has a large variety of designs and they were all very well crafted. Some even had Korean themed images or poems written in hangeul, rather than the traditional Chinese subject matter that may usually adorn pots.

I ended up choosing a small Xi Shi pot, mostly for its size but also because of my weakness for Xi Shi pots. I've always liked how they sit firmly and balanced but appear as though they could roll over with the slightest nudge. I like how the lid fits (usually) flush with the contour of the pot, creating a continuous line. Then one day, in Seoul, I learned that the design was meant to resemble the breast of Xi Shi, the first of the historical four most beautiful women of China. The funny thing was, the tea master at Kkik Da Geo had just placed a newly arrived Xi Shi pot in my hands as he told me the story. I couldn't resist blushing when he got to the part about it being her breast and there I was, delicately cupping it in my palm, admiring its shape. I also had to pause a moment and wonder if that had anything to do with my natural attraction to them. I didn't arrive at any definitive conclusion...

Back to this pot, I was very impressed with the Korean potters skill. The lid fits perfectly and the lip is so smooth the lid slides on it like glass. The pour is quick and clean. Xi Shi pots should have a feminine sensitivity to them and the spout, which could be seen as phallic, is often kept very short, though I have a few Xi Shi pots with regular spouts. The handle is bottom-heavy, as though it was attached up side down, but adds to its charm. The top bead is relatively large but not awkward. Then, finally, on the bottom is a very unique stamp, the only Korean one I've ever seen on an Yixing pot.










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8 comments:

  1. Really cool stamp. Any idea what it says?

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    1. It's his name but even though I can read Korean, I can't make out the first part. My wife is Korean and she can't even read it. To me it, it looks like "Gyeong Eun" but that sounds like a girl's name. It could be "Jung" or "Gong".

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  2. Can you tell us more info about how to find the shop? Did you pick up a business card? What were the prices of the pots?

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    1. If you know Daegu, the medicine street (Yangnyeongsi Market (대구 약령시장)) is a block behind Hyundai Depertment, and this street meets the medicine street, just behind Hyundai Dept. Heading away from the department (north) it's about three blocks down on the right. There sign is a large image of Guanseum Bosal (the Buddha of Compassion), and you'll see all the pots and tea through the window. You'll also pass a shop that's a little darker inside and has a big, red TAETEA decal in the window. I preferred this shop over all (especially for tea), but on the next block is the one where I got this pot, and I did really like his pots.

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    2. This pot was ₩80,000 but he sold it to me for ₩50,000. I think he was pleased a foreigner was buying his pot. Most of his pots were around ₩80,000 - 200,000 and he had some antique and zhuni pots that were much more, ₩350,000 and up.

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    3. Thanks! I'll have to take a trip to Daegu sometime and check it out. Do you happen to know the name of the shop? I'm not familiar with the area.

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    4. Hey, sorry, I thought I'd replied to you but it must have gotten lost in the either... All I can remember of the name is that it had "Guan" in it (as in Guanseum Bosal, the Bodhisattva of Compassion). I may make it down to Daegu soon to visit a friend. I'll take some pictures of the street and find the name.

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  3. Beautiful pictures. I'm really jealous, high-quality teaware like this is hard to find in the United States, and extremely expensive or terrible knock-offs.

    I'm hoping to get a nice geniune teapot, either iron or one like this, for the holidays.

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