Sharing excellence

Yixing Teapots by He Zhong Tai

“Paolo, this is a stupid business. I can make 5-6 of these teapots each month, and 1 or 2 will break in the firing. I could make 50-100 half-handmade teapots, sell them at half as much and they would fly off the shelves. …but I wouldn’t be happy, I want to make something remarkable, as close as I can to a living object that can be truly felt, appreciated and loved. I want to put my life experience and the beauty of life in the teapot so that who uses it can feel love and warmth” – He Zhong Tai (何中太)

(See the currently available teapots here)

Last year I went to see Zhong Tai…

1000 master pieces

Fully handmade by the master himself, painstaking amounts of details and dedication go into each teapot, to a level that will reveal itself over the months and years of ownership and use. Zhong Tai’s work it’s truly another level from present day pottery masters and everybody I’ve shown his teapots to has been awed.

When I use one of these teapots it’s like drinking Zhong Tai’s being, the details in the craftmanship and the overall harmony of the teapot are very hard to pin-point (let alone describe) and yet unmistakeably there.

His teapots don’t use pretty shiny glazing or try to be different for the sake of difference or any other novelty gimmicks, they’re a throughly traditional artistic interpretation of a real master’s Yixing teapot: made to serve tea with, not just to look at. By using these you can tell that Zhong Tai’s experience with Puerh is very vast, because it reflects in the functionality of his teapots.

To pair with the exquisite one-of-a-kind craftmanship, the clays used are excellent quality, the best we’ve seen in modern Yixing, sourced from private stashes of aged Yixing ore. They’re also been tested to be 100% free from chemical additives (note: this is the minimum you should require when buying modern Yixing).

I’ve known Zhong Tai for a long time, first as an old puerh collector and seller and friend of my first tea teacher (Nick Dilks) and later as he blossomed into a master potter. Through all of the time of our friendship, I’ve been very impressed with his presence and being, although pretty young, it’s obvious how talented he is in channeling artistic depths and spirit into his creations.

So of course when he proposed me to be his ‘stupid business’ western distributor I had to immediately agree: something quixotic, made against the grain of current market dynamics and frankly almost impossible is exactly what we specialise in. How many people can really fully appreciated or even tell the difference between half-handmade standard teapots and fully handmade masterpieces like this?

There will only be 1000 of these teapots, already highly collectible and sought after in China and Taiwan, they will only become more so as the amount that will be made will be less and less (we’re currently at around 200, he only counts teapots that pass his stringent quality test).

Origin poem

三寂壺 Three teapots

寂靜 寂定 寂空 Silence, Stillness, Emptiness

是一門生活修行法 It is a practice of life

是一把獨特的手捏壺 A unique hand pinched teapot

更是一種創作的精神狀態 Even more, a spiritual state of creativity

寂靜既是寧靜 一種歲月靜好的感受 Silence is tranquility, a sense of peaceful moments

寂定既是入定 一種精神堅定的沉穩 Stillness is meditation, a stability of the solid spirit

寂空既是放空 一種清淨無為的狀態 Emptiness is space being freed, a quiet state with doing nothing

三寂壺是我 是我對生命的獨白 The Teapots of Silence, Stillness and Emptiness represent me. They are the dialogue of my life.

概念 / Concept

器乃身體之延伸 The vessel (teapot) is an extension of the body

茶乃心量之流露 Tea is an expression of the mind

茶不離器 器不離神 Tea is not separate from the vessel and the vessel is not separate from the spirit

從容沉穩 流暢不亂 Calm and steady, free-flowing yet not messy

自然寧靜 簡約樸實 Natural and quiet, simple yet unpretentious

He Zhong Tai’s story

I have been exposed to tea since I was ten years old
When I was young, I didn’t understand what tea was.
Just drinking tea unconsciously or even drinking it as water
But I developed a living habit that affects me to this day.

When i was 13
Our family opened a tea shop
At that time in Taiwan, very few people enjoyed drinking Pu’er.
But ours is an old Pu’er specialty store.
Regular tea parties at the tea shop
Gradually a tea culture was born
In the era when a (1950s) “Red Mark” cake cost 5,000 yuan (~150 US dollars)
I’ve drank almost all the antique teas
But I still didn’t understand tea. Drinking tea was just a habit!

Senior year of college
That was the first time I became really aware of tea
Maybe it’s the heavy academic pressure, maybe it’s the cup of tea at the moment
At the tea table where I habitually sat
I picked up a cup of rich dark brown old Pu’er and drink it
At the moment, I feel like the world is silent and I am the only one left
And the mellow aroma of tea that lingers in your mouth
After a long time, I gradually woke up and became aware of the eyes of the people around me.
Only then did I start to fall in love with tea and pursue tea.

After leaving the army
I didn’t have any hesitation
So I decided to run a tea business and promote tea.
From confusion to determination, ten years passed in a day
I found out my own tea ceremony in life, step by step
That is the composure tempered in the depths of life
calm tranquility
But it penetrates into the bone marrow
That’s the tea I love!

On May 28, 2017, I rode a motorcycle to the mountains to meet who then became my pottery teacher, a very respected master potter called Tang Runqing (湯潤清). When we first met, the teacher kindly handed me a freshly picked sour guava and invited me in to make tea. What I will never forget is , the teacher spent a while making tea to persuade me to study the way of making teapots.
At that time, my teacher often went to China to participate in exhibitions, and I met with him about once every two weeks. Dialogue with the Tao of the teapot for more than 12 hours a day also made me grow rapidly. Patience and persistence are the indispensable qualities for me to learn from Tao.
In November of the same year, I came into contact with the “hand-kneaded pot” (fully handmade teapot) for the first time. While watching the teacher’s demonstration, I wondered more than once in my heart, how could there be such a stupid method of making pots, so time-consuming and labor-intensive, and the result seemed to be the same as a pot thrown on the wheel? But when the pot was completed and held in the palm of my hand, I completely changed my mind. The indescribable emotion and temperature conveyed from the pot moved me instantly and made me light up. The exquisite little pot made me feel like I was a child. I smiled knowingly as I made the tea, knowing that I had finally found the treasure I had been looking for for so long!

At this point, I began to devote myself to the creation of hand-kneaded pots, until NBA star Kobe Bryant passed away in a plane crash on January 26, 2020. This great player who accompanied me when I was a boy playing basketball at higher and higher levels, and the “Mamba” spirit he created profoundly affected me. That is to “never give up” which create miracles in the face of difficulties! After hearing the news, I decided to dedicate my self to my own teapot-making style and started to get up at four o’clock in the morning to make pots. In the quiet moments of self-reflection, I continue honing the Mamba spirit!

See the currently available teapots here.

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