Yixing Clay Tea Pet’s figurines - mini tea sculptures

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The tea pets or mini tea sculptures

Now let's talk about another interesting element of the Yixing pottery - the tea pets, also known as a tea lover's pet. These are clay figurines or mini tea sculptures. They are real masterpieces made with precise craftsmanship.


Some of these little objects used in a tea ceremony will never touch your lips, but they will definitely touch your heart.


The tea pet’s figurines are traditionally put on a tea tray (the Gongfu Tea Table) during the Traditional Gongfu Tea Ceremony or any preparation for tea drinking. The tea pets are molded into animals, zodiac animals or Chinese mythical creatures, saints, legendary heroes, various plots and even Buddha or Guanyin. But they can also represent funny characters, designed to decorate the tea tray and cheer up the mood. The clay figurines are varied in color, size, ability to change color with the impact of hot water, and different extra tricks they can perform, like spraying water or blowing bubbles.


The Chinese firmly believe that their tea pets bring luck, health, wealth and happiness to their owner, and therefore the first tea infusion is always offered for a tea creature. A tea figurine is a symbol of the tea spirit, represented in a tangible form. “Raising” a tea pet is, in some way, a meditative practice and a form of art, which is a part of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony (the Traditional Gongfu Tea Ceremony).


Imagine that when you drink tea, your tea pet also becomes a part of your daily tea drinking practice and with time it even becomes a part of you. Interesting, isn’t it? Buy a tea pet and try it yourself! By pouring out the first steeping over it, you rinse it with tea, and it absorbs all the delicious flavours of your favorite tea and accumulates positive vibes and energy.


It is better to use consistently one sort of tea for “raising” your tea pet. Just pour some tea over your pet on a regular basis and over time, it will smell exactly like the tea you drink, and the rough surface of the tea figurine will become more polished and glossy.


The History of Yixing Tea Pets

Yixing region in Jiangsu Province is the place of origin of the tea figurines, but its best known as the birthplace of the famous Yixing clay teapot.

During the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), the craftsmen began to use the Yixing clay for molding various mythical creatures and animals as lucky charms for the tea lovers.


The Yixing clay is often referred to the purple-colored clay abundant in iron oxide. Clay deposits in the Yixing region can be of various colours: purple clay, red clay, and green clay. For the tea figurines, some masters use mineral pigments to achieve black, yellow or blue colours. When fired, the purple shade of clay acquires reddish-brown or dark brown color, which changes over time. Even today, with all the advanced technologies, it is difficult to find a decent alternative to match the Yixing clay as a natural material for making tea figurines.


The popular figurines among tea pets

Among a wide variety of tea pets, here are some of them:

The Three-legged toad

Tea toads are mythical creatures with three legs, quite different from those who live in a pond. In Chinese myths, three-legged toads spit out coins from their mouths and help the poor. In Chinese culture, toads are considered as nice animals. Furthermore, if a person is a fan of the Harry Potter series, this small toad can serve as a little reminder of the Hogwarts school of magic.

The Pi Xiu

The Pi Xiu is a tea pet, similar to a Chinese unicorn, very popular among businessmen. In traditional Chinese culture, the Pi Xiu is the ninth son of a dragon which brings good luck to people. He detects the scent of gold and silver and brings it in his mouth to the master. It is also believed that Pi Xiu can protect the house from evil spirits.

The Lion

A lion in China is a symbol of divine power, authority, and might. It’s also related to nobility, intelligence, and the strength of spirit. One of classic clay tea pet is two lions playing with a ball.  

The Pig

In traditional Chinese culture, pigs symbolize prosperity. Many Chinese women believe that there’s no better year for a child to be born than a year of the Pig to bless a child with a happy future. Pigs as tea pets are also cute and charming.

The Buddha

Tea pets in the shape of Buddha are the most common. Buddha always smiles, and in many Buddhist texts blesses people with happiness.

Each tea pet has its own unique energy and special meaning, and if you believe in its powers, they will definitely work.


By the way, lately, in China, it has become popular to collect tea pets, especially the ones with high quality, unique shape, and bright color. When choosing a tea pet, it is common to pay attention to its absorbing properties, in addition to personal preferences in style and beauty.


Today, the pet tea business has boomed in popularity in China. There are a lot of newly opened shops offering a huge variety of tea pets, from simple frogs and pigs to more sophisticated Buddhas and mini-statues of famous people such as Lu Yu who wrote “The Classic of Tea”.


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