Benshan Duanni or Benshan Lüni?

Benshan duanni teapot

(Originally published December 29, 2019)

As we mentioned in our article discussing duanni clay, the name “duanni” can refer to a broad category of zisha (Yixing clay) defined as being those clays that do not fall under the category of zini (purple clay) or hongni (red clay). Within the category "duanni," there is also the clay called “Benshan Duanni” 本山段泥. Another well-known clay within the “duanni” category is Benshan Lüni 本山绿泥. Although both are yellow clays mined from the same mountain, they differ in origin, composition and character.

Names

Benshan 本山 means “original mountain,” in this case the original mountain refers to Huanglong Mountain 黄龙山. Both kinds of clay have to be mined from Huanglong Mountain to be called “Benshan.” The terms lüni and duanni refer to the appearance of the different ores before they are processed and fired. Benshan lüni ore appears grey-green when it is removed from the ground. Lüni 绿泥 means “green clay.” It is found as a thin layer under granite in Huanglong Mountain.
 
Benshan duanni is found as a co-existing combination of zini (purple clay) and lüni. The original name for duanni 段泥is tuanni团泥. The character tuan 团 means together. In the Yixing Chinese Dialect, tuan 团 and duan 段 have the same pronunciation; tuanni became known as duanni overtime, especially by those not working in the zisha mines.

Benshan Lüni: Raw ore to the left, and fired clay on the right.

 

Raw Benshan Duanni Ore.

Raw Benshan Duanni Ore.

Clay Characteristics 

Benshan lüni ore is quite fragile, flaky, and not very sandy. The processed clay has good plasticity. These characteristics in clay are referred to as nen 嫩, meaning: soft, tender, young in character.
 
Duanni differs from benshan lüni in this respect; the raw ore of benshan duanni is sandier and rougher. Fired benshan duanni also has a somewhat sandier texture than benshan lüni. The fired clay also has small dark brown/purple spots on the surface – these are zini. 

Benshan Lüni.

Benshan Lüni.

Benshan Duanni.

Benshan Duanni.

Color

Depending on the firing temperature, duanni can appear in a variety of different colors: bronze, brownish-yellow, golden-yellow, greyish yellow. However, duanni will appear in a warm tone of yellow or an earth tone.

Benshan Lüni, on the other hand, will have a slightly colder tone, appearing in shades from cold, pastel yellow, to cold yellow-grey. Often benshan lüni is closer to a pale pear-yellow after firing.

Benshan Duanni Teapot.

Benshan Duanni Teapot.

Whereas both clays differ in color and texture from another, both are excellent for rounding flavour in tea. Teas that have strong storage aromas or that have a smokiness in their profile are good candidates for brewing in a benshan lüni or benshan duanni teapot.