Zhuni Ore and Clay
Zhuni (朱泥, “Vermillion Clay”), or more formally zhushani (朱砂泥, “vermillion sand clay”), is a distinct and rare zisha ore which has achieved a near mythical status within some portions of the practitioner and collector communities. Original (antique) zhuni is often acclaimed as the “best” ore (or at least rarest ore) of Yixing, sought after by teapot collectors and practitioners of Chinese tea alike – with much debate about which ores and clays are included or excluded from its archetype.
The category “zhusha” (朱砂, “vermillion sand”) was first used in the late Ming to refer to all red-colored fired zisha clay, while the categories “hongni” and “zhuni” developed in the late-Qing dynasty, to better differentiate the growing understanding of different ores. Other terms were proposed and used for short periods throughout the dynastic eras; for example, “Hai Tang” (海棠, “begonia flower red”) was used to refer to zisha red-clay in the book Yang Xian Ming Hu Xi (阳羡茗壶系) by late-Ming author Zhou Gaoqi (周高起, c. 1596 – 1650). Thus, before the distinction of zhuni and hongni, there was little or no differentiation between clay refined from the more common hongni ore and rarer zhuni ore – nearly all antique zhuni wares are composed of blended hongni clay.
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