In China the fashion for powdered tea gave way to the method of brewing of loose-leaf tea in around 1300, which in turn led to the development of the teapot. 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. This 18th century example bears the hallmarks of a classic Yixing teapot. The distinctive purple-red clay, known as zisha, creates a pot with a fine texture and thin walls that can be left unglazed. It is also ideal for brewing tea as it is porous and allows the colour, smell and flavour of the tea to absorb into the clay surface which develops 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. Yixing wares were formed by hand rather than being thrown on the wheel and potters could craft naturalistic details onto their designs. This teapot is decorated with moulding in relief showing lions at play, a pattern which is repeated on the lid which also has a finial in the shape of a Buddhist lion. The experimental potter, Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) later copied these Chinese Yixing examples to create red stoneware at Meissen in Germany from 1708.