Hai Au

For one collector, ceramics bring the spirit of adventure and tales of faraway lands to his home.

Each ceramic object represents a story waiting to be told, and in the case of Lam Phong, who has traveled across the globe to collect ceramics, the stories seem to be endless. Teapots account for a major part of Phong’s collection, as the way of tea has been an integral part of his life. Going from drinking tea to collecting teapots is a short step to take, yet guests are often surprised by the sheer number of teapots he possesses. His collection is comprised of hundreds of items, with Purple Sand (Yixing clay) teapots accounting for more than half. Each Purple Sand teapot is a masterpiece, ranging from classic forms such as round, pomegranate-shaped and egg-shaped to square or octagonal and ranging in dimensions from large to individual-sized. This collection tells stories of tea and ceramics far and near, from Vietnam to China to Japan. Each flawless Purple Sand teapot is notable for tea ceremony enthusiasts not only because of the ceramic techniques used to create it, but also for its region of origin’s unique tea ceremony practices.

Apart from teapots used to enjoy a cup of Oolong, Black or Dongfang Meiren (Eastern Beauty) tea with his friends, Phong also arranges hundreds of teapots on wooden shelves for ornamental purposes. It takes a great deal of time to clean every day, but for ceramics-lovers, cleaning and holding these beautiful objects in their hands is a delight and a chance to once again immerse themselves in distant memories.

Perhaps the most interesting decorative feature of a teapot is its pattern, drawn by the skillful hands of artists. Ink wash paintings and calligraphy are the most dominant forms, with profound poems of Tang and Song Dynasties and images of flowers some of the most popular motifs.

Among Lam Phong’s collection, the masterful craftsmanship of Japanese ceramic artisans stands out with sophisticated paintings and clever use of bright colors. Meanwhile, ceramics from Taipei are dimmer in color but unique in their shapes. Also in Phong’s collection are old teapots with a rough appearance, resembling small rocks or towering mountains. One of the most unusual designs is a teapot with five climbing monkeys, representing a traditional wish of success for families.

Other than teapots, Phong’s colorful collection features items such as jars and statues of animals and humans from diverse origins. Spanish ceramics are famous for their vivid colors and mosaic patterns. Turkish ceramics, meanwhile, are a convergence of East and West and feature extremely meticulous decoration.

Each item tells a story of a faraway land. Holding ceramics from the distant land of Iran, one can picture stalls filled with tapestries, jewelry and fragrant spices. Music lovers might imagine exciting melodies of Persian markets while travelers can envision thousand-year-old cities and caravans crossing through deserts on the ancient silk road.

Hailed as “flowers of the earth,” ceramics become things of beauty that adorn life after a baptism by fire. For Lam Phong, the shapes, patterns and colors of his ceramics collection bring vitality and the spirit of adventure to his home, especially to be enjoyed during tea parties with friends from around the world.