History & Symbolism of Japanese Tetsubin Teapots
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Use of the cast iron teapot, or tetsubin teapot, became common in Japan around the time Sencha Green Tea was introduced between the 17th and 18th centuries. But originally, these Japanese tetsubins were used for boiling water, often left over the fire to keep the water hot so a cup of tea could be made at any time. Soon after, drinking loose leaf teas became popular and the Japanese cast iron teapot was a household necessity. Much like the Chinese Yixing clay teapots, the cast iron teapots become seasoned with a tea’s flavors after repeated use.
Caring for a cast iron teapot is very simple. Similar to the Yixing teapots, soap should not be used to clean an iron teapot. After rinsing the tetsubin cast iron teapot thoroughly with water, it should be wiped dry with a clean cloth. This cleaning method will allow the seasoned mineral coating to remain intact and protect the iron in the teapot walls from oxidizing.
Decorated tetsubin iron teapots eventually became coveted and prestigious items to have. Having multiple tetsubins or owning the fanciest teapot was a way of showing off your status in Japan. Each teapot is usually hand crafted and could have very ornate designs. When holding a tetsubin in your left hand with spout facing the right, as traditional in Japanese tea ceremonies, you can typically view the intricate design or embellishments on this side of the teapot. Often, Japanese symbols were used on these cast iron teapots. For example, the symbol of a dragon on a Japanese tetsubin is a popular design for those that want to exhibit power and strength. Each Japanese symbol has special meaning as listed below. Find a cast iron teapot as unique as you are!
Japanese Teapot Symbols and Meanings
- Chrysanthemum: Symbolizes autumn harvest. Rich & beautiful, filled with hope.
- Cherry Blossom: National flower of Japan; symbol for beauty
- Coins: Prosperity
- Dragon: Power, strength, and good fortune
- Dragonfly: New beginnings and good fortune; marriage
- Elephant: Mighty and kind.
- Fire: Warmth and Romance
- Ginkgo: Memory and energy
- Gourd: Good health and long life
- Hobnail: Strength
- Horse: Leadership, intelligence and loyalty.
- Lotus: A symbol of purity and enlightenment. The lotus comes out of the mire but it is not itself soiled.
- Maple Leaf: Spriritual growth
- Monkey: Quick witted & full with energy.
- Pine Needle: Friendship and long life
- Plum Blossom: Beauty, strength & will power. One of the only flowers that withstands the cold & bloom in spring
- Rabbit: Happiness, fertility, good luck, and family unity
- Rooster: High energy and full of warrior's spirits. Praise those who bring good news at day break.
- Ripple Pattern: Positive energy and infinity
- Sea Wave & Sea Foam: Positive Change
- Serpent: Wisdom
- Shogun Warrior's Armor: Strength and courage
- Sun: Happiness
- Tatara Designed Pots: Special edition pots that fuse all styles. Designed by artist Tatara which have unique texture and shape.
- Tea leaf: Good health. The holes in the leaf indicate that the leaf is organic, no pesticide, bugs like to eat the leaf.
- Tiger: King of the wild animals, the tiger is a symbol of courage and bravery and it can drive off demons, is a powerful protection.
- Wind: Serenity
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