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I have a teapot which has been in my family for about a century. Not knowing the Chinese language I tried to make something of the five characters text which is marked on it. With Google Translate I had not much success,apart from the last character which may mean (partly) spring. Altogether it should be a sentence but which one ? Thanks for any help .

Teapot

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The characters are 「石泉槐火」, which refers to the passing of winter and coming of spring. Specifically,

  • 「石泉」 means flowing of springwater (i.e. the melting of frozen rivers and streams)
  • 「槐火」 refers to a fire ritual involving the burning of the Chinese Scholar Tree (Styphnolobium japonicum)

In Ancient China, it is said that the monarchs conducted fire rituals involving the burning of different types of trees during the year, to protect against seasonal diseases.

《周禮・夏官》

司爟:掌行火之政令,四時變國火以救時疾。

Rites of Zhou, Offices of Summer

Officers of the fire rituals are in charge of the royal court's decrees on conduct involving pyromancy, changing the Tree-burning Ritual throughout the year to mitigate the spread of seasonal illnesses.

Later commentaries of the Rites of Zhou specified the seasonal trees to be burned:

春取榆柳之火, 夏取棗杏之火, 季夏取桑柘之火, 秋取柞楢之火, 冬取檀之火

During springtime, elms and willows are burned; in the summertime, jujube and apricot trees are burned; towards the end of summer, mulberry trees are burned; during autumn, oaks are burned; in the winter, scholar trees and rosewoods* are burned.

*The specific type of tree referred to is uncertain.

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    A most erudite and comprehensive answer. Thanks
    – Sigis K
    May 13 '20 at 12:00

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