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The hills to the southeast of the county are endowed with rich clay deposits, and the centre of pottery-making is located around the small towns of Dingshan and Shushan, now known collectively as Dingshuzhen. Yixing teapots are all hand-made rather than being thrown on the wheel. The hard clay is pounded with a heavy wooden mallet into a slab, and the bodies of the teapots can be made in three basic techniques: segmented teapots are press-moulded; round teapots are paddled, and square teapots are made by the slab method. Specialised tools of wood, bamboo, metal and horn, created through the centuries, are used during the process. There are four main styles. The first style is geometric, such as the round lantern teapot shown below. The clay of Yixing is known collectively as zisha purple sand , and there are three basic types: zisha , a purplish-brown clay; banshanlu , a buff-coloured clay, and zhusha , a cinnabar or deep orange-red clay.
Most of them, although made with care, were not considered objects of great artistic consequence. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when the serving of infused tea became increasingly popular, those tetsubin which were especially made as tea utensils came to be more highly esteemed. Such pieces may be found in private collections or museums in the West.