Teapots Bridge Culture through Exhibit (April 8-9, 2014)

Original Creightonian Article: Click here
Date Published: Friday, April 11, 2014
By Anna Ferguson

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Creighton's Asian World Center proved that teapots do much more than pour tea: they bring different cultures together.

That was the premise for “The Making of Beauty: Purple Sand Teapot & Hand Fan Painting Exhibition” in the Skutt Student Center Ballroom, using art to encourage
people to engage in dialogue about different cultures.

“Since the Asian World Center was established in 2006, we have had more than
10 major art shows on Creighton’s campus. Through the art shows and many lectures on Asia-related subjects, the center serves as a bridge to link the East and West for conversations among people of different cultural paths,” Director of the Asian World Center Maorong Jiang said.

“The Art Show is the best form of conversation, which unites people in our appreciation of art and the making of the beauty,” Jiang said.

This particular exhibit showcased 30 Yixing (sometimes translated as “Purple Sand”) clay teapots as well as painted hand fans.

“The works were all handcrafted by a group of Chinese artists, many of whom come from or have experience in the eastern Chinese city of Yixing. Thirteen of these artists flew to Omaha to transport these works to Creighton’s campus,” said Asian World Center Program Manager Andrew Trapp.

The display was put together, in part, thanks to a longstanding relationship Jiang has with one of the artists (Tang Yongyan) who had previously visited Omaha and come to know Creighton.

“The inspiration behind the display was to expose the Creighton and Omaha community to a unique art form not commonly found in the U.S., let alone the Midwest: teapot making and hand fan painting, and have this be a platform for cultural exploration, discovery and reflection,” Trapp said.

Yixing is in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, a city internationally renowned for its heritage of ceramics and teapot making. Yixing clay teapots have been used to brew tea in China as far back as the Song Dynasty in the 10th century.

“The purple sand art is one of the most unique cultural traditions in China for thousands of years,” Jiang said. “The people, who are associated with the purple sand culture, are considered to be friendly, genuine and hardworking. They have good working ethics.”

“One of the benefits of teapot making is that our personal character in in good development. The purple sand culture instills patience and compassion in our personality. Our eyes are open to beauty and loving. We are sensitive to the change of nature and the relations among friends,” Jiang said.

According to Trapp, the group of artists is made up of “well-recognized and -respected leaders in their field.” The teapots and hand fans are handmade and designed “using intricate elements of Chinese philosophy and artistic style.”

Interestingly, Trapp pointed out that, although tea drinkers can find Yixing clay teapots in Omaha where they sell for about $20 - $30, the most expensive teapots previously sold by an artist (which were not displayed) amounted to a few million dollars.

“We hope that students and visitors will take away an appreciation for an ancient art form that dates back to the Song Dynasty and are inspired to reflect on transcultural values an event like this inevitably opens our eyes to,” Trapp said.

“The Asian World Center, along with our new Master of Arts in East-West Studies program, is dedicated to constructing and engaging in a unique relationship among the cultures of Asian and those of the Western world, and what better way to do that than hosting a collaborative, exciting and engaging event as this.”