I am always honored that my friend James will often ask for my opinions regarding Yixing purple clay teapots before and after buying one. He would show me a picture of a particular shape of teapot that he wishes to own, asked if I do have one, and if I do own it, I will gladly snap a few pictures and send it to him. He would then ask if I can sell mine to him despite knowing the answer is a firm NO. James is always very persistent in asking this question and I have a great admiration for him in this aspect.
I would then tell him that I will look around KL for the teapot that he is looking for, otherwise my next advice will be that for him to be patient or wait till my next Yixing trip. From my experience, collecting teapots can’t be done on impulse and most of the time; it takes patience and luck to find a good pot. During my last December’s trip to Shanghai and Yixing, I’d helped him to purchase two pots. The other person that James would often seek advice from is Shirley, who used to work in a tea shop in Subang Jaya but have since moved back to Kuching.
To date, James has been collecting teapots for about half a year. It also amazes me and a few cognoscenti’ friends of mine that James jump from collecting new and inexpensive teapots to starting to collect old pots in such a short span of time. It is not an easy feat to collect old pots because fakes are aplenty and the real ones don’t come cheap. Ten years ago, when I started collecting them, all good pots that are made of pure purple clay from Yixing and from famous masters cost between RM50 to RM10,000 with the exception of extreme famous masters like Gu Jingzhou, Zhu Kexin, Jian Rong and a few more. However, they price have since gone to the extreme starting from 2010 due to the fact that the rich in China are starting to collect them too as well as depleting pure purple clays from the mines around Yixing.
Not too long ago, James began to purchase teapots and Chinese tea online. Purchasing teapot online is not something that serious collectors will ever do. It is also a mantra that was told and retold to me many times by the boss of Legend of Tea, Mr. Ng, who is very generous in sharing all the stories of how fakes are made in Yixing. From Uncle Wang of Lu Yu Teashop in Shanghai, I learn of how to spot between real and fakes as well as the techniques used to make a teapot from different era. From my personal opinion, Yixing purple clay teapots are something that needs to be touched, seen and feel while holding them and not from pictures unless you are purchasing one from someone you trust.
There are genuine sellers online but the risk is always there. Of the three pots that James purchased online, one is confirmed to be a fake old pot while the other spurs debate among my cognoscenti’ friends but I am glad that the seller has tentatively agreed to refund him. Out of curiosity, I asked James to send me the link where he found his pots. To my surprise or actually not a surprise, I found a familiar name that is so synonymous with selling fake old pots and teacups and he is even banned from entering certain tea shops!
|The old pot.|
|2015 edition but marketed as old.|
A few days ago, another person that James got to know through an e-commerce site tried to sell him a teapot that he said is from the 70s with the engraving of Koh Chuan Huat Tea Merchant for RM800. As James is keen to get a similar pot, I asked my friends who have similar pot and showed them the picture that James sent to me. A friend then pointed to me that those produced in the 70s comes with yellow engraving while the one with white which was shown to James is a 2015 production and currently on sale at Tea City in Bukit Bintang with the price tag of 2 for RM 1100.
Living in Kuching is quite a disadvantage for James when it comes to collecting cheap and good purple clay teapots as well as tea. Bluntly, I told James to stop buying online with all the risk of fakes. Instead of taking the risk and having the nagging feeling of whether the teapot is genuine or fake, he should just come to Kuala Lumpur, get to know the nice owners of reputable tea shops and shop to his heart’s content.