With California still experiencing severe drought, I was shocked to see a new fountain–one gigantic teapot suspended in the air, pouring water incessantly–erected near a busy San Gabriel Valley intersection. I circled the block twice – it was a sight both disheartening and inscrutable. The two Chinese characters written on the teapot, 天壺, can be translated literally as heavenly teapot, or celestial teapot.
Any term that contains the Chinese character 天, or heavenly in English, should entail some epic-scale account of endeavor and triumph, for example, a mythical saga. Having predicted the string “heavenly teapot” in English would yield no meaningful search result, I accessed instead a popular Chinese search engine and was led to the fountain’s own Baidu page. Should I feel disappointed the structure was not inspired by a people’s prayer for rain that moved heaven and earth? This modern sculpture could only associate itself with some ancient passages that convey platitude, like how tea is poured ceaselessly and awaits friends to visit, like how anything bestowed by heaven, in this case water, not rain, is good fortune and must be treasured. Moreover, the new SoCal “heavenly teapot” I encountered is merely a non-exact replica of other commercial heavenly teapots, such as this attraction in Beijing, China.
What is more inscrutable is some netizens actually sought profound elucidation behind this crude creation. Were they curious about a fountain’s mechanical design, or about miraculous, supernatural phenomenon? Hopefully, it is not the latter.
During my latest visit to the Getty Center, whose garden is, very unfortunately, not drought-tolerant, all fountains were shut down to conserve water. A few months ago I called one city administrator to report its fire department’s massive usage of water to wash the fire truck. The drought is far from over.