Verdant Tea

Meet the Artist: Lin Xi and Jian Zhan

Meet the Artist: Lin Xi and Jian Zhan

Meet the Artist: Lin Xi and Jian Zhan

get to know the potter behind these beautiful ceramics

April 30, 2020

Jian Zhan is a Song Dynasty ceramics tradition featuring stunningly deep & dark glazing. Jian Zhan kilns produced the very first bowls designed specifically for drinking tea – marking a moment in history when tea culture became important enough for people to devote ritual objects to it.

whisking tea in a Jian Zhan bowl

Today, Jian Zhan is seeing a golden age revival using clay and glazing material from the original Song dynasty kiln sites in Shui Ji to recapture a lost art. This revival is being led by pioneering artists and researchers like Master Xiong and his Dragon Kiln, and Lin Xi as a one-man studio.

 
Master Xiong unloads his Dragon Kiln
Master Xiong’s work featured in print
 
Lin Xi works at the wheel
one of Lin Xi’s award-winning cups
 

Why is Jian Zhan valued?

These days, the finest modern Jian Zhan is being sought out with nearly the same fervor by collectors as original Song Dynasty pieces in China. What makes this new work so valuable?

This golden age of experimentation in modern Jian Zhan is seeing glazing techniques rediscovered after being lost for seven hundred years. Collectors are eager to acquire these early works by modern pioneers, thinking of this as an important moment in ceramics history.

On the left, a new Jian Zhan cup from Master Xiong. On the right, an unfired Song Dynasty Jian Zhan cup
On the left, a new Jian Zhan cup from Master Xiong. On the right, an unfired Song Dynasty Jian Zhan cup

The appeal of Jian Zhan comes first from the beauty of the glazing – patterns formed through chance by heat and oxygen to create startling detail, like a picture of the universe in a cup. The glazing of the finest Jian Zhan is something you can gaze into over a long tea session and find something new, every time. The patterns are not painted on or brought about through added chemicals, but rather come from the special natural clay and mineral deposits of Shui Ji.

iridescent colors emerge with regular use

 

What does Jian Zhan do for tea?

Jian Zhan has a fascinating way of taking initial flavor, texture and aroma, and stretching it out into a lingering aftertaste and texture. This gives teas a longer arc, while mitigating some of the initial impact as a tea hits the palate.

This works especially well for teas that brew out for a long time like oolongs and pu’ers, or rich black teas.

 

Who is Lin Xi?

Master potter Lin Xi set up the Taishou Jianlou Research Institute to study Han and Song Dynasty tea culture and firing techniques. He is dedicated to reviving the lost ancient art of Jian Zhan through meticulous research, hand made glazing and clays personally excavated from Song Dynasty sites.

Unlike many studios, Lin Xi personally oversees every aspect of his work without help. As a single artist, Lin Xi makes his own glazes with natural clay and minerals from original Song Dynasty deposits in Shui Ji, throws his own cups, and fires every batch personally. His unique style is apparent in every piece he produces, because he has full control from mixing his own clay and glazing, to the final firing. His passion is winning him awards and national recognition including gold medals.

 

“Bo Re Zhan” 16th Annual China Art Exhibition
Traditional Arts Category Gold Medal

“Cai Shao” April 2019 Shen Zhen
Golden Phoenix Art Competition Gold Medal

“Mu Lan Zhan” June 2018 Hua Li Competition
Silver Medal

 

Lin Xi’s Collaboration with Li Xiangxi

Lin Xi works with our partner Li Xiangxi and the Yangxian Institute on building Jian Zhan fit to revive the Song Dynasty style dian cha ceremony, and to best compliment the unique minerality and depth of Wuyi teas. Every new shape or style that Lin Xi pioneers is exhaustively pilot-tested by Li Xiangxi at her tea institute to ensure that the first ceramics tradition designed specifically for tea maintains at its heart the goal of complementing and enriching any tea it is paired with.

Li Xiangxi specifically recommends very mineral-driven teas to pair with Jian Zhan ceramics, because the Jian Zhan accentuates the almost-sparkling after-sensation of yun for which her family’s tea workshop is so well known.

 

Lin Xi anf Li Xiangxi at the studio
traditional “dian cha” tea made with the Li Family’s Wuyi White
tea



 
 
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