Yixing Teapots: Artist Ranking

Yixing Teapots: Artist Ranking
November 14, 2011 Leo Kwan
In Nature of Things
A certificate of originality by the Yixing pot artist Pang Yao Nian

An artist certificate handwritten by the famous Yixing pot calligrapher Tan Quan Hai for a pot made by an equally famous potter Pang Yao Nian. For a pot Leo once collected.

There is a double tiered, multi-level ranking system for artists and craftspeople in Mainland China. Yixing teapot makers are generally categorized under “Industrial Artists” with various ranks.

Ranking: Money Matters

Yixing pot makers who have a higher rank usually fetch much higher price for their products because there is a tendency for rapid value appreciation as the artist further rises in the rank or gets certain other recognition, such as winning certain prizes in one of those national annual exhibitions or competitions. When a person’s works gain enough momentum in collection value, his/her decease normally draws even more dramatic demand. Teapots made by those at the top can easily fetch tens of thousand USD a piece, contrasting the price in the tens or hundreds of most other good craftspeople.

There is the national tier and the provincial tier in the rank system. Because of competition for economic and cultural performance amongst provinces, and the influence of guanxi , rank recognition at the province tier is a lot more common place. It has not much meaning so we don’t mention it here. The national tier, on the other hand, requires a lot more effort (that is not to say that the works of guanxi or other shady practices not exist here). Anyway, a national industrial artist label justifies for a lot more values than provincial industrial artist.

Utilitarian and Investment Values

For making this relevant to your choice of a teapot; or rather our choice of a teapot for putting up to offer in our shop, we select not basing only on whether a piece is by a ranked artist, but rather also by its aesthetics, workmanship, material quality, utilitarian values in addition to investment potential. The price is a proportional reflection of the sum of these factors. It is also competitive against that of comparable quality in internet shops in Mainland China.

The Independents

Before we go on to list the ranking, we have to also point out that there are other artisans who do not enroll in this rank system for various reasons. Lack of effective guanxi or the means to it most often is an important reason. Some work independently, others in small groups or workshops, yet others freelancing for various studios, factories or famous artists. We skip the rank description for these kind of artists. Good independent artisans, nevertheless, sometimes have better collection values because of the steep appreciation they may gain upon other forms of recognitions. They do sometimes win national prizes amongst nationally ranked ones.

The Ranking

As for the rank list, we are unable to find consistent and appropriate translations of the names of the ranks so we have come up with a set on our own. We think it reflects most accurately the original Chinese names of the ranks. This is the list, in decreasing order of seniority:

  • Grand Master Industrial Artist (Further divided into grades 1~4) 工藝美術大師(分四等)
  • Senior Master Industrial Artist 高級工藝美術師
  • Master Industrial Artist 工藝美術師
  • Associate Master Industrial Artist 助理工藝美術師
  • Industrial Artist 工藝美術員
Yixing Teapots: The Clays
Handcrafting Yixing Teapots
Ergonomic Criteria for a Yixing Teapot
Standard Traditional Forms

See the teapots

Related Tea Guardian article