Published in conjunction with the exhibition "Tea and Immortality: Contemporary Chinese Yixing Teawares from The James Bialac Collection."
For millennia in China, tea was regarded as food, medicine and drink. History and folklore are replete with mortal and divine figures connected to the discovery and preparation of tea. Over time, its curative powers evolved into tea’s status as a sacrificial libation bestowed on mortals as a celestial blessing.
Since the 14th century, the region of Yixing has been well-known for the production of teawares made of a sandy clay in colors of purplish-brown, red, black and yellow, which are usually unglazed to allow the porous quality of the clay to enhance the tea’s flavor. Several types of shapes can be seen in this extraordinary collection: geometric shapes of great simplicity and elegance; naturalistic shapes imitating plant and animal forms; segmented shapes of mathematical precision; and plain forms decorated only with incised poetic inscriptions. Today, Yixing remains the center of tea production and tea culture in China, and Yixing teawares remain lively and creative, yet linked to a historical tradition.