Master Xu Xiutang
Master Xu Xiutang is the soul of the modern art of Yixing clay. His unparalleled talents are fully demonstrated in his creations, and his art, a superb combination of calligraphy, painting, ceramics carving, teapots, sculpture and cultural theories, has not only integrated Yixing clay carving closely with the development of teapots but has also elevated the status of Yixing clay carving to that of teapots. Xu has produced “The Eighteen Arhats (Luohan)” and others which are creations with traditional motifs, and works like “Eight Drinking Immortals” with inspirations from poetry. There are also works of complete innovations, such as “Eight sitting eccentrics” that has been awarded the First Class Prize in the National Exhibition of Ceramic Art. He is undeniably the leading figure of the art of Yixing clay, as he has not only nurtured many juniors who have become famous later but has also further developed the essence of the art.
On creating his work of “Eight drinking immortals”, Xu Xiutang had inspirations from Du Fu’s narrative poem, “Eight drinking immortals song”. These eight alcoholics lived in the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty. Bold, unconstrained, frank, carefree, they had no ambitions for power or wealth. With his description of their drunkenness in his poem, Du Fu expressed his infinite admiration for them. Based on this poem, Xu Xiutang has produced such a vivid portrayal of the eight drunken men that the viewer is touched by the contents of the poem and the poet’s emotions.
“Eight drinking immortals song”
Zhizhang sits on his horseback as if in a rocking boat; his eyes dazzle and he falls into a well and lies there sleeping.
Yu Yang pays respects to the emperor after having finished three cups; he salivates on seeing a wine cart on his way, and regrets not having moved his manor estate to Jiuquan.
Zuo Xiang drinks in extreme luxury every day, like a long whale that can swallow a hundred rivers, and his avarice for wine makes him willing to surrender his official post.
Zongzhi, elegant and unconventional, is a good-looking young man; with his big drinking cup raised high to the blue sky, he throws a contemptuous look to unrefined people; he is so handsome that he looks like a white jade tree in the wind.
Su Jin fasts and worships the Buddha for years; but he forgets the rule of alcohol abstinence.
Li Bai composes a hundred poems after having finished one cup; drunken, he sleeps in a tavern in Chang’an; so drunken that he cannot respond even the Emperor summons him; he tells the Emperor that he calls himself Wine Immortal.
Zhang Xu, the Divine Grassist, drinks three cups; with his hat removed he shows his head to the nobility; intoxicated, he writes on paper at the speed of fleeting clouds.
Jiao Sui’s face glows after he has finished five cups; his eloquent speech astonishes the whole banquet.