Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jingdezhen Porcelain Blue Gaiwan, A Tea Gear Showcase

Eww! I am unwell, actually it is not a sickness per se, just my body doing its thing. I can honestly see how I was originally misdiagnosed with Lupus, when I have a flair up it really does seem like my immune system is tearing itself apart. Doctors can't explain it totally, I can't explain it, but it does mean I get to explore all the different forms of alternative medicine and holistic approaches as well as western medicine. I have been studying different forms of healing since I was a kid, a combination of being sickly and wanting to eat all the plants in my mom's garden, I needed to learn what I could eat, and by doing so starting following other paths of knowledge. I think the thing that frustrates me the most is the closed mind approach of western medicine means that a lot of alternative medicines (though to a lesser extent with Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) do not get studied, meaning a lot of self medication and outrageous claims due to the placebo effect. Trying to sift through these claims (oh man, the same can be said about all the crazy health claims about tea) to find nuggets of truth is exhausting!
Enough of that! It is Sunday, meaning I am going to feature one of my pieces of tea gear, specifically the newest addition to my collection. Brenden, the famed Tea Hobbit of Whispering Pines Tea bought me the most fantastic gaiwan as a congratulatory gift upon the announcement of my engagement. Before the surprise proposal at the zoo, I had posted the gaiwan on facebook saying if anyone 'donated' it to my blog I would give them a shoutout, so it was well known I had my eye on this beauty! From ebay: Jingdezhen Porcelain Blue Gaiwan (forgive me for not listing all the keywords used for searching) a gaiwan that is outright LOADED with symbolism! 
Done in the famille style (I think, please do not quote me on that, I am still researching the different styles of Chinese porcelain...it is harder than you think) that looks surprisingly similar to the antique (possibly Tongzhi period) cup I found recently at the thrift store. With hand painted designs on the inside and outside, it might be the most striking gaiwan in my collection, and this is from someone who owns that crazy gold gaiwan. I have noticed that Jingdezhen Porcelain lately has been getting a bit adventerous, I am so used to seeing just the standard blue and white porcelain, that these colorful pieces reminiscent of older dynasties makes me giddy. It has been hard resisting snatching up every piece I can find...because lets face it, I love antiques and own only a few pieces, I do not mind reproductions or pieces inspired by older eras...as long as it is clearly marked as such!

The designs on this gaiwan are the classic and very famous Wan Shou Wu Jiang (萬 壽 無 疆 ), or as it roughly translated, 10,000 years of long life, it is the ultimate wish for longevity. The designs on the inside and accompanying the Wan Shou Wu Jiang are symbols of the Taoist Immortals. The sword of Lu Dongbin, the fan of Zhingli Quan, the flower vase of Lan Caihe, the lotus of He Ziangu, the peach of immortality, and the basket of flowers and Buddha's hand citrus (Fo Shou!) symbolizing all the immortals. Sadly I have not had the time to translate what it says on the inside, I recognize good fortune and others, but have not determined if they are just auspicious words or actually say something. Also not sure what the red fluffy circular things are all over the gaiwan, one of the reasons I need that book I was winging about yesterday! 


So, it is beautiful, but how does it perform? Wonderfully, that is how! The lid sits perfectly meaning it pours easily, having as large or as small a gap as needed for the optimal flow without leaves getting in your cup (if you are a barbarian like me who refuses to use a strainer) or splattering hot water all over you. It is kinda humongous (yet it does hold 5oz, it just seems enormous) so it also works perfectly for bowl steeping, drinking from the gaiwan in the traditional way, using the lid as a strainer. The low top knob means that it is easy to grip the gaiwan when pouring while keeping the lid at the correct position, any higher and it would be hard on my tiny hands! The only flaw I can find is when it is sitting in saucer and your cat happens to use the leg of your desk as a scratching post, it wobbles something fierce. The foot of the gaiwan could go for being a bit longer for the deep impression of the saucer, as flaws go, it is totally tolerable for such a beautiful treasure.

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