The Skill and Practice of Blending Zisha Ore

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The majority of antique Yixing teapots, with or without claims of provenance from ores rare and mundane, are formed of blended materials. The historical views of miners, clay processors, ceramic craftsmen, and scholars varied in their ideals of material purity, generally focusing more on the major-component ores and their post-firing attributes than a desire for “single ore” purity[1]. The blending (pinpei, 拼配)[2] of ore and clay is both a natural outcome of its formation and a skill practiced at multiple stages of a teapot’s formation from ore to fired-ware.

Clay blending predates the refinement of zisha material and was actively practiced as Yixing developed into a ceramics center. Works of blended zisha ores are found amongst the earliest Yixing wares, with some renowned zisha craftsmen known for their clay blends: for example, Xu Shiheng (徐士衡, fl. Wanli Era)[3], a student of Shi Dabin[4], is known to have blended various ores to achieve specific colors and textures of zisha clay.

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