Gathering: Teapot

Relationship: unknown
Teapot from China excavated from Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown archeological site, ca. 1900. Courtesy of Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.
Teapot from China excavated from Los Angeles’ Old Chinatown archeological site, ca. 1900. Courtesy of Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

In 1933, to construct Los Angeles’ now famous Union Station, a thriving Chinese community of about 2,000 people was displaced. Established in the 1880s, the settlement was comprised of merchants, laborers, farmers, herbalists, and families housed in brick and wooden buildings. When Chinatown was razed, fill dirt was added to support the train center and level the tracks. The remains of Old Chinatown were sealed 14 feet below the railroad tracks.

In 1987, workers building the Los Angeles Metro Rail tunnels discovered the long-entombed Chinatown. Archaeologists were brought in to preserve and protect the cultural resources. The excavations uncovered unprecedented numbers and densities of artifacts, illuminating aspects of lifeways not previously recorded.

The Chinese Historical Society of Southern California became the guardian of the assemblage; one of the largest collections of Chinese American archaeological artifacts in the country. Cultural materials in the collection include figurines, jars, bowls, ivory toothbrushes, teapots, jewelry, toys, imported and domestic glass containers, cooking vessels and ceramic items.

Displayed here is a common, mass-produced, teapot imported from China during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Used for tea preparation and table service the vessel features polychrome designs painted in enamel over the glaze. The artwork includes flowers, fruits, a pheasant, and Buddha Hand. The Buddha Hand is represented by a bright yellow citron with long segments growing out of the stem. This design resembles the Buddha in meditation.

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): Los Angeles, CA
Year: 1900

– Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

Relationship:  unknown unknown