Myths and Complications
The financial interests of merchants and collectors has led to many myths about Yixing over its long and uneven history. Some myths arose from a kernel of truth, others from a misunderstanding of history or craft, and most in order to benefit someone financially. The Yixing teapot market was reinvigorated with the relatively-recent reopening of China in the early 1980s; since that time, there has been a sustained rejuvenation in tea culture, a growing popularity of Yixing, and an increase in the price of the wares in the local and international markets. The growth in value has driven merchants, collectors, and novice practitioners to over-invest and under-question the reliability of the information at hand, or the knowledge they presently hold.
The internet is a series of tubes through which information and disinformation flow in unequal proportion with individual websites, blogs, and forums unfortunately effective at spreading misinformation. Prevalent examples of such misinformation include: teapots dating back to 1000 BCE; the development of teapots, as a ware or artform originated in Yixing (variously phrased as Yixing being the first teapots); or Yixing teapots absorbing so much flavor that they must be exclusively paired with a single class of tea. While the majority of misinformation is rejectable with a modicum of knowledge, the remainder borders on the hyperreal – the reality we wish was true: Yixing is rare, you can purchase these great antiques at an affordable price, and the clay will make your tea taste better. The hyperreal is difficult to assess because it is a reflection of the truth, or a half truth, a truth of earnest belief. There is far too much outright disinformation to consider addressing the fabrications in any consistent manner – I will thus limit myself to the myths broadly believed by advanced tea practitioners.
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