The first ‘official’ teapots are considered to be those made in the 16th century in Yixing in the Jiangsu province of China, about 120 miles northwest of Shanghai. The distinctive purple/red clay from which they are made, known as zisha, creates a pot with a fine texture and thin walls that can be left unglazed. They are ideal for brewing tea as the material is porous, allowing the colour, smell and flavour of the tea to absorb into the clay surface, developing a seasoning after repeated use. Yixing zisha stoneware was admired by the ruling classes and began to be exported to Europe in the late 17th century.
This example is decorated with press-moulded chrysanthemums under archaistic dragons, while on the lid, a Buddhist Lion features as the finial. These motifs are considered auspicious symbols in Chinese culture, the lion standing for strength and stability while the dragon represents power. The chrysanthemum is used throughout Asian decorative arts, representing longevity and nobility.