Curios: Chinese Art Set in Stone

Fancy adding some teaware to your collection from the Paleozoic era?

Consider owning a 470 million-year-old work of Mother Nature’s art.

In 1996 in Guangxi Province, this stunning sedimentary stone – with Chinese characteristics – was serendipitously discovered in a mine 300 meters below sea level. When cut cross-wise it is befittingly named the ‘Traditional Chinese Painting Stone’.

Slices depict bled-out ink paintings of pine forests, karst mountains, exotic flowers, waterfalls, and lakes. The vibrant colors and unique patterns are due to mineral-enriched silt from ancient rivers and lakes that seeped through the cracks in the earth’s crust and hardened under heat and pressure over hundreds of millions of years. The result is petrified mud that resembles Chinese ink paintings of natural landscapes.

A few years ago, some Chinese craftsmen endowed this stone with new life by carving and polishing it into tea trays and tea canisters. Each is one-of-a-kind and has won over collectors and tea lovers from across China and abroad. Former US President Bill Clinton, and the state of New York were each gifted pieces by the Chinese government. They are indeed rare treasures, more so since 2010 when the Chinese Government prohibited the continuation of mining the stone. The tea trays sold today are from stone stored since 2010. Only two companies in China make them.

The trays are priced by size and grade of the stone. As an example, a 30cm to 40cm tea tray sells for between $500 and $1000, while a 1kg tea canister averages $400.




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