Jian ware, Jian teacup, or Jian Zhan Tea cup are fine ceramic bowls recognized for their unique glaze. Jian refers to the province where the original kiln was located in Jianyang, Fujian province. The original town the cups had come from was renamed JianZhou in 621 CE. Zhan literally means teacup, so you have Jian Zhan (建盏), Jianzhou Zhan, or Jian teacup. The elaborate glazes are caused by iron being forced out during firing. The original kiln was called Jian Yao (建窑). The temperature and position in the kiln dictate what the pattern will be. Highly popular in Japan they also developed a similar style called Tenmoku. Generally made in basic styles of teacups, small bowls, and vases. One of the oldest Chinese pottery styles Jian ware has been in use for over 1000 years! They became vastly popular throughout the Song Dynasty, with Buddhist monks, specifically for tea drinking.
The glaze of our Jian Zhan tea cup is called peacock! There are many glazes and patterns achieved by different firing techniques! Some of the glazes hares fur, oil spot, partridge feather, peacock and rainbow. By adding pine needles to the cup before firing to direct where the iron crystallizes, Hares fur glaze is achieved! The patterns and colors in the glaze are achieved during firing. High concentrations of iron in the clay, as well as the glaze, are pushed to the surface. Causing elaborate patterns to form, due to the iron crystallizing into elaborate patterns. The main types of glazes coming from the original kiln were the “hare’s fur” (兔毫盞), “tortoiseshell” (鼈甲盞), and “partridge feathers” (雪鷓鴣盞).
“The Song dynasty scholar and Fujian native Cai Xiang (1012–1067) noted in his The Record of Tea: Tea is of light color and looks best in black cups. The cups made at Jianyang are bluish-black in color, marked like the fur of a hare. Being of rather thick fabric they retain the heat, so that when once warmed through they cool very slowly, and they are additionally valued on this account.” In these times tea was prepared from cakes. The cakes would be taken and ground into a very fine powder in stone mills. This powder was then whisked into these small bowls in a similar style to modern matcha. The quality of this tea was decided by the froth. As a result, Jian Zhan teawares were the favorite due to their dark colors.
Jian Zhan Tea Cup Lost To Time
During the Ming Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor liked tea prepared from leaves over powdered cakes. Due to this he only accepted tea from leaves. This yielded the invention of the teapot! Subsequently, Yixing teawares became highly desired. Due to their ability to complement the flavors and increase the overall quality of even low-end tea. Following the rise in Yixing ware, Jian Wares were all but phased out and the art was lost for centuries. Although production continued in Japan under the name of Tenmoku, it wouldn’t see a rise in popularity in China again until the 1990s. At this time Master Xiong Zhonggui, after studying with Japanese Tenmoku potters, was able to restart the production of Jian Zhan using original clay.