How much is a Yao Bian Jianzhan worth?

The original text of Yao Bian is mentioned in Japan's "Kintaikan Sayucho" as follows:

Oil droplet glaze: the second precious type. Its glaze is also black, with faint purple-white starry spots appearing both inside and outside. Compared with Yao Bian, more of them exist, with a total of 5000 pieces. This is mentioned in Japan's "Kintaikan Sayucho."

Jianzhan (here referring to the Rabbit's Hair teacup): not inferior to the oil droplet glaze. Its glaze is also black, with silver-colored splendor on top, and some also have starry spots like oil droplets. There are 3000 pieces in total. This is mentioned in Japan's "Kintaikan Sayucho."

The supreme treasure of Jianzhan is a rare item in the world. Its glaze is black, covered with varying shades of glass-like starry spots, mixed with yellow, white, and extremely light glass colors, like a brocade glaze. It is a rare item of ten thousand pieces.

Yao Bian Tenmoku teacup from the Jingjia Tang collection.

The meaning of the above text is as follows:

The three types of Jianzhan's value ranking are: Rabbit's Hair valued at 3000 pieces, Oil Droplet valued at 5000 pieces, and Yao Bian the most expensive, valued at over 10000 pieces! It is more than twice the value of Oil Droplet. During the Song Dynasty in China, the price of one piece of silk was at most 4 guanqian, and 5 guanqian was equivalent to one tael of gold. The concept of 10000 pieces of silk is almost equivalent to 10000 taels of gold, which is of inestimable value and enough to exchange for an ancient Japanese castle from the Warring States period!

The only three and a half Yao Bian Jianzhan remaining in the world.

In 1924, one of the three remaining Yao Bian Tenmoku teacups (kept in Japan) was sold by its second owner, Tetsuro Ono, to the president of Mitsubishi, the Iwasaki family, for 167,000 Japanese yen. At that time, 167000 yen was equivalent to 125.25 kilograms of gold, and even having assets of only 100 yen was considered wealthy, as 120 yen could buy a small villa in Tokyo. Therefore, the value of the Yao Bian teacup at the time, which was worth 167000 yen, was equivalent to over 1000 small villas!

Undoubtedly, Yao Bian is the rarest and most precious Jianzhan, without a doubt. The firing process for Yao Bian teacups is extremely difficult, with a low success rate that is unimaginable. We have to search through millions of teacups, and that's just for a start. Its rarity is such that it is only by chance to find one in even millions of pieces, and it cannot be replicated nor mass-produced. As we all know, there are only three intact Yao Bian teacups remaining in the world, all in Japan, and only half of one piece has been unearthed in Hangzhou, China.

Since Yao Bian teacups are so valuable and rare, why did they end up being passed down to Japan?

There are two reasons:

  1. Humans are always fearful of the unknown, and since Yao Bian teacups are so rare, it is extremely rare to see them even by chance. Therefore, they are bound to be seen as something remarkable. Furthermore, Yao Bian teacups are enchanting and splendid, full of mystery, and it is unknown whether it is a blessing or a curse to be able to create such objects. The kiln workers were afraid that it might be a punishment or curse from heaven, and perhaps it was an ominous object. What to do? The answer: destroy or give away to others to avoid any involvement.
  2. If such a rare object were discovered by the imperial court, it would be seen as a treasure and there would be a demand for more. What if they couldn't produce more? To be on the safe side and ensure a peaceful and secure life, the same answer applies: destroy or give away to others to avoid any involvement and to permanently eliminate any potential trouble.

In summary, Yao Bian teacups disappeared from the view of the Chinese people during the Song Dynasty. The legend says that the three Yao Bian teacups collected in Japan were obtained by a Japanese monk who was studying in China, and he brought them back to Japan where they have been passed down to this day.

Although it is regrettable that the lost Yao Bian teacups cannot be found, fortunately, the existing ones are still well-preserved and intact. Since Yao Bian teacups are so rare, if a complete one were to be discovered, it would undoubtedly become a national treasure of the country.

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