Curator's Choice: Michael Regan picks three tiny teapots made by a Master of Shandong ceramics

By Michael Regan | 07 November 2011
A photo of a man standing next to an exhibit case carrying three small light brown teapots
Curator's Choice: Curator Michael Regan chooses Qiankunxiangning – a set of three exquisitely-crafted small teapots made by Huang Haigen, Master of Shandong Ceramics, as part of From the Realm of the Dragon: The Ceramic Heritage of Zibo, China at The Lightbox in Woking...

"The exhibition covers all aspects of ceramic production in Zibo, traditionally one of the five major ceramic making areas of China.

Recent archaeological excavations have revealed that ceramic production in this region dates as far back as 10,000 years. The exhibition includes pottery fragments from this period, as well from another site dating back 8,000 years.

The exhibition documents the rich and varied ceramic heritage of Zibo, from the Longshan Culture Period (2310-1810 BC) to The Republic of China (1911 – 1949).

But it is something made in the present day, by a modern master, that has caught my eye.

A photo of three small brown teapots inside an exhibit case
Huang Haigen has collectively named these three teapots Qiankunxiangning.

The first part of this word describes the fact that their design derives from the interconnected symbol of Yin Yang.

The second part of the word refers to the aroma of tea leaves which comes from the pots.

The shape and size of these teapots are also determined by their function. Low profile or shorter clay teapots are used for brewing black tea.

As with many Chinese teapots, the maker has intentionally left them unglazed – the clay remains porous which allows tea oils to build up inside the teapots, seasoning the pots. A well-seasoned pot is believed to improve the taste of the tea that is brewed in it.

Haigen has skillfully combined two very different materials – unglazed clay and natural wood – to give these traditional, functional vessels an unusual contemporary feel.

They are also in sharp contrast to the majority of highly glazed porcelain teapots displayed in the exhibition.

For me, these small objects sum-up one of the main themes of the exhibition and the essence of Chinese ceramics – successfully combining beauty with functionality."

  • From the Realm of the Dragon: The Ceramic Heritage of Zibo, China continues at The Lightbox until December 11 2011.
More pictures from the show:

A photo of a large earthy pot
Black Glaze Line Pot from the Song Dynasty (960-1279)© Zibo Ceramics Museum
A photo of a tall elegant ancient light brown vase-like sculpture from ancient China
Celadon Lotus Flower Vase from the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589)© Zibo Ceramics Museum
A photo of an ancient Chinese bowl in white featuring a blue swirly design in the centre and an orange, blue and brown rim
Porcelain blue-and-white dish with fish design (1911-1949)© Zibo Ceramics Museum
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