"Jianzhan Pottery: Understand in 3 Minutes"

Jianzhan pottery, with its unique glaze color and firing techniques, has become a unique flower in the field of ceramics in China. During the Song Dynasty, tea was an indispensable part of daily life for people from all walks of life, from emperors to commoners. The way of drinking tea in the Song Dynasty was different from our current loose tea brewing method. The "pointing tea" method was a popular new way of drinking tea during the Song Dynasty, which involved grinding the tea into powder and then drinking it all in one go with warm water. At that time, the trend of "competitive tea-drinking" was prevalent everywhere, and in addition to high-quality tea leaves, exquisite Jianzhan pottery was also necessary to match the tea. As an important tool for pointing tea and competitive tea-drinking, Jianzhan pottery can be said to be a perfect combination of art and aesthetics.

   As time passes and dynasties change, Jianzhan pottery, as a leader in tea culture, has been sleeping in the long river of history. However, its brilliance has not been obscured by time. The legendary Jianzhan pottery has become more and more fascinating over time, arousing people's desire for exploration. If you still don't know what Jianzhan pottery is, spend three minutes reading this article and you'll understand.

  1. Why is it called Jianzhan?

For modern people who have never heard of Jianzhan pottery before, the first time they see a Jianzhan with a large mouth and a small base that resembles a funnel, they may mistake it for a bowl. Friends who are unfamiliar with the history of Jianzhan pottery would surely have this question: why do people call this heavy, black tea bowl a "zhan"?

The Jian kiln began producing ceramics in the Tang Dynasty, mainly producing black porcelain. With its unique firing techniques, the Jian kiln was renowned for producing exquisite black-glazed tea bowls and gained high recognition from the Song Dynasty emperors. Its main focus was producing items required by the imperial court.

Generally speaking, a large kiln would produce multiple products such as bowls and dishes to meet people's various needs. However, Jian Kiln only specialized in producing tea cups, which was a shock to later generations as it allowed this kiln, which was over a hundred meters long, to maintain production. The black iron-glazed cups produced by Jian Kiln had a high iron content, thick cup bottoms, large openings, deep glaze colors, varied shapes, and colorful patterns on the glaze surface after being fired at high temperatures.

According to historical records, the original meaning of "盏" was a small and shallow cup. If called a "碗" (bowl), it would be too colloquial and difficult to distinguish, so it is most appropriate to call it "建盏" to reflect its uniqueness.

  1. What are the characteristics of Jianzhan?

Jianzhan is mainly in gray-black color and belongs to the black glaze category, with an iron content as high as 8%. According to the mouth of the Jianzhan cup, it can be divided into four categories: tied mouth, closed mouth, open mouth, and tilted mouth. According to the size of the cup, it can also be divided into big and small open mouths, etc.

The temperature for firing Jianzhan in the kiln is over 1300 degrees Celsius. Various patterns naturally form on the surface of the Jianzhan during the firing process, including rabbit hair, partridge spots, and iridescent changes. The name of Jianzhan is also named after the characteristics of these patterns. Due to the high firing conditions, the yield of Jianzhan is very low. Moreover, it is difficult to find two identical Jianzhan cups. Each Jianzhan is unique and therefore more precious.

Rabbit hair Jianzhan is the most representative category of Jian kiln, which was highly popular at that time. However, due to the high firing requirements, the product was difficult to meet the needs of the general public, making rabbit hair Jianzhan very precious.

Rabbit hair Jianzhan has fine and slender brown-white stripes that appear through the black glaze. Each stripe shines with a silver light, resembling the hair on a rabbit's body, hence the name "rabbit hair Jianzhan." It is also called "golden rabbit hair" or "silver rabbit hair" Jianzhan. The rabbit hair pattern shines brilliantly in the tea water, making it irresistible. Su Dongpo, a great literary figure in the Song Dynasty, mentioned rabbit hair Jianzhan in his poems and essays.

Oil drop Jianzhan has silver-gray metallic small dots densely distributed on the surface of the cup. These are iron oxides produced at high temperatures and crystallized after cooling, named after their shape resembling oil drops. In order to form oil drop spots, the temperature must be strictly controlled during the firing process. If the temperature is too low, it is difficult to form spots, and if it is too high, it is easy to form streamline shapes. Therefore, the production of oil drop Jianzhan is low, and the number of intact oil drop Jianzhan unearthed is currently rare.

According to the record in "Jun Tai Guan Zuoyou Zhang Ji," "Oil Drop Jianzhan is the second most precious treasure, worth 5,000 pieces of silk, while Rabbit Hair Jianzhan is worth 3,000 pieces of silk." Therefore, it can be seen that oil drop Jianzhan is more precious than rabbit hair Jianzhan.

  1. History of Jianzhan.

Jianzhan originated in the late Tang and Five Dynasties period and flourished during the Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty was a period of great prosperity in the development of Chinese tea culture, which also drove the rapid progress of ceramics. During the Northern Song Dynasty, people's way of drinking tea changed from steeping and boiling tea to "pointing" tea, and they enjoyed the fun of "competing" with each other in tea tasting. Jianzhan was born as a tea ware designed for this purpose.

Jianzhan not only became a tea utensil for the royal family but also a favorite tool for the common people. The literati and scholars of that time each had a Jianzhan to showcase their social status. Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty can be said to be the number one fan of Jianzhan. He personally wrote the "Da Guan Cha Lun" to endorse Jianzhan, which detailed the relevant content of Jianzhan and left valuable resources for the study of the tea culture of the Song Dynasty.

In the late Northern Song Dynasty, the invasion of the Jin army caused a sharp decline in the social economy, and the once-popular trend of tea competitions gradually lost its luster. By the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, who came from a humble background, deeply hated the complicated way of tea drinking in the previous dynasty. In addition, at the beginning of the founding of the country, the national strength was relatively weak, so Zhu Yuanzhang ordered the abolition of the previous way of tea drinking and banned tea competitions. People could only drink tea by simple brewing.

With the change of people's way of drinking tea, Jianzhan gradually disappeared from people's sight, and this once-famous porcelain went from glory to decline. Later, Jian Kiln was also ordered to stop production, leading to the loss of the firing technology.

After the establishment of New China, an archaeological team was specifically established to investigate the Jian Kiln site. With the excavation of the site, a large number of finished Jianzhan and fragments were unearthed, and Jianzhan, which had been buried for hundreds of years, re-entered people's sight. After a long period of exploration by ceramic craftsmen, the firing technology of Jianzhan gradually recovered, and the products became rich and diverse. Jianzhan plays an irreplaceable role in our understanding of the long-standing Chinese tea culture and the promotion of national traditional culture, and the inheritance and protection of its skills have important practical significance.

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