Republic of China Yixing History

The late Qing through the Republic of China (1912 – 1949; “RoC”) was a time of great change and turmoil for China, beset by wars, multiple uprisings, and dominated by political infighting across the crumbling empire[1]. Few Yixing teapots were made from 1850 through the turn of the century; the Opium wars (1839 – 1842 & 1857) disrupted trade and the Taiping Rebellion[2] (c. 1850 – 1864 CE, with remnant revolts lasting until 1871) interrupted the production of Yixing wares.

The 1911 Revolution, which began the RoC, overturned the political system while leaving the majority of society ungoverned – it was a revolution of politics more than a revolution of society, and did little to unify, rebuild, and modernize the nation[3]. The nationalist government, looking to reinvigorate the economy and promote local industry, founded the Jiangsu Pottery Industrial School in 1930; the school aimed to teach Yixing ceramic artistry and craftsmanship. Zhu Kexin (朱可心, 1904 – 1986 CE), later one of the seven masters of F1, was hired to lead the school and the government promoted the teapots abroad. The 1932 Jiangsu Provincial Records (江苏省志 Jiang Su Shenzhi) includes estimates of over 600 ceramic-craftsmen working in Yixing, making approximately 2 million pieces per year. The number of active kilns declined throughout the RoC until the nationalist government began their (minor) support of the industry which stabilized but did not reverse the decline; between 1939 – 1949 there were only 20 operational kilns in Yixing, and very few firings took place.

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