Yixing teapots are fired from Yixing clay. The clay for the pots comes from the city of Yixing in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. The traditional use of Yixing teapots dates back to the the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). Yixing wares were commonly exported to Europe from the 17th century on. They are known as Zisha ware. The color of Zisha ware is red, brown or purple and is unglazed.
The term "yixing clay" is often used as an umbrella term to describe several distinct types of clay used to make stoneware:
- Zisha this pots have a purple-red-brown color.
- Zhusha or Zhu Ni reddish brown pots, The color is due the very high iron content.
- Duan Ni pots with various stones and minerals in addition to Zi Ni or Zhu Ni clay. This results in various textures and colours, ranging from beige, blue, green and black.
Yixing teapots are meant for use with black, oolong teas or puer tea. The teapots absorb a tiny amount of tea and will develop a coating. This why only hot water and no soap should be used to clean the teapots. Yixing teapot are usually used only for one type of tea because it could influence the flavor. They are smaller than typical teapots and usually, a bigger amount of tea leaves is used which are infused several times.
First Yixing tea pots were designed for travel use and therefor less expensive and compact in design. During the Qing Dynasty (18th century) tea connoisseurs started to use the pot also at home. From then on, artisans begun to form Yixing tea pots in different shapes and sizes and decorated with poetic inscriptions, calligraphy or paintings.