Friday, November 30, 2012

The Classics of Tea

The Classic of Tea is the very first monograph on tea in the world, written by Chinese writer Lu Yu between 760 CE and 780 CE (age of Tang Dynasty). According to popular legend, Lu Yu was an orphan of Jinling county (now Tianmen county in Hubei province) who was adopted by a Buddhist monk of the Dragon Cloud Monastery. He refused to take up the monastic robes and was assigned menial jobs by his stepfather. Lu Yu ran away and joined the circus as a clown. At age 14, Lu Yu was discovered by the local governor Li Qiwu who offered Lu Yu the use of his library and the opportunity to study with a teacher. During the An Lushan and Shi Siming rebellion period, Lu Yu retired to Shaoqi (now Wuxing county, Zhejiang). During this period, Lu Yu made friends with many literati, including the calligrapher Yan Zhenqing and the poet Huang Pu Zheng and wrote his magnum opus: Cha jing.
For Lu Yu, tea symbolized the harmony and mysterious unity of the Universe. "He invested the Cha jing with the concept that dominated the religious thought of his age, whether Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian: to see in the particular an expression of the universal".

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Contents of the Classics of Tea - Cha Jing

Lu Yu's Cha jing was the earliest treatise on tea in the world. The Ch'a Ching is divided into the following 10 chapters:

Chapter 1.
This chapter expounds the mythological origins of tea in China. It also contains a horticultural description of the tea plant and its proper planting as well as some etymological speculation.
Chapter 2.
Tea Tools
This chapter describes fifteen tools for picking, steaming, pressing, drying and storage of tea leaves and cake.
Chapter 3.
This chapter details the recommended procedures for the production of tea cake.
Chapter 4.
Tea Wares
This chapter describes twenty eight items used in the brewing and drinking of tea.
Chapter 5.
This chapter enumerates the guidelines for the proper preparation of tea.
Chapter 6.
Drinking Tea
This chapter describes the various properties of tea, the history of tea drinking and the various types of tea known in 5th century China.
Chapter 7.
This chapter gives various anecdotes about the history of tea in Chinese records, from Shennong through the Tang dynasty.
Chapter 8.
This chapter ranks the eight tea producing regions in China.
Chapter 9.
This chapter lists those procedures that may be omitted and under what circumstances.
Chapter 10.
This chapter consists of four silk scrolls that provide an abbreviated version of the previous nine chapters.
The Classic of Tea

By Explore Cultural China

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Taiping Houkui Tea

Taiping Houkui, or Monkey Picked Tea produced in Xinming Town, Huangshan City, is the crown of famous Chinese teas and one of the Top Ten Famous Teas in China. With two leaves and a bud, the tea is flat and straight in shape covered by obscure white down. The tea leaves assume smooth dark green color on the face and light green on the back, with reddish green in the veins. When brewed, the tea leaves, suspended or sunken, free themselves in the clear tender green water, like many a monkey vigorously stretching their neck and tails and playing with you. The tea tastes fresh, mellow and sweet and smells a long-lasting refreshing aroma. The crystal clear green tea water can provide you a tasty and refreshing experience feasting your throat, eyes and spirit.

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Biluochun Tea

Known as one of the top ten teas in China, Biluochun tea is mainly produced in Dongting Mountain of Taihu Lake in Wuxian County of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, hence its other name "Dongting Biluochun". According to historical records, Biluochun tea enjoyed a good reputation way back in the Sui and Tang Dynasties over a thousand years ago. Legend has it that Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty tasted the famous tea that is green in color and shaped like a spiraling snail. The emperor lavished his praises on the tea and named it "Biluochun" (literally meaning "Green Snail Spring").
Due to the unique geographic environment of Dongting Mountain, the area is blessed with blooming flowers all the year round and tea trees and fruit trees are planted in alternation. As such, Biluochun Tea has a distinctive flower fragrance. The finished product is characterized by its tightly rolled shape, slender leaves, soft green color, refreshing fragrance, thirst-quenching effect, clear and jade green liquor, evenly-distributed leaves and a sweet aftertaste.
By Explore Cultural China

Friday, November 23, 2012

The legend of Huiming Tea

As the legend goes, once a merchant in Jingning was traveling south by boat, he met a shabby-dressed old monk and gave him a lot of money and pieces of goods. The monk had nothing to give in return but the white tea and tea seeds he carried along, while telling the merchant that a cup of the tea would cure acute diseases. When the merchant returned home, he preserved the white tea without thinking too much. A couple of days later, his mother suddenly lost her sight without getting any better after seeing many famous doctors. The merchant was so anxious that one day he thought of the white tea given by the monk and decided to have a try. Miraculous enough, his mother got completely healed after drinking the tea!
The merchant was so happy that he ordered to cultivate the tea seeds with all care. After the tea plants grew up and tea leaves being processed, the tea was promoted and spread to other places. Since the tea could cure blindness, it was named "Huiming Tea" (会明茶), or Brightening Tea by the merchant, which then became “惠明茶” as it was spread around.

By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Huiming Tea

Huiming Tea, or "White Tea" in ancient China, is a traditional famous tea in Zhejiang Province, which is also called Jingning Huiming. It is produced in Huiming Village on Chimu Mountain, Hongken District, Jingning She Nationality Autonomous County. According to documents, tea plants were first planted in Jingning during 847 to 859 A.D. In 861, monk Huiming built a temple on Nanquan Mountain and planted tea plants surrounded it. Named after the monk, the tea produced there was superb in quality and has had a history of over 1100 years till now. Today, there still remains an ancient tea plant on the right side of the temple. The tea features yellowish ivory young leaves and assume white color after steeped, boasting fine color, aroma and taste. It's thus called White Tea, Superb Tea or Orchid Tea.
The Huiming tea is stout and tight in shape, verdant and smooth in color with visible white hairs on tea leaves. It tastes fresh, sweet and mellow tinted with the aroma of orchid and fruits. The liquid appears clearly green and limpid.

By Explore Cultural China

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chaji - Tea Table

The tea table (chaji) was a new furniture form introduced and popularized after the end of the Ming dynasty. Incense stands are illustrated in some Ming paintings, and they were used to hold handscrolls, albums, fruit plates, teapots, censers and religious objects. In the Qing the tea table seldom stands alone. It is smaller and slightly lower than the incense stand, and is usually placed between a pair of armchairs on each side of the main hall. A tea table of medium size could also be used as an incense stand.

By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chinese cultural conventions of tea drinking

Serve tea: Serving tea to the guest is a traditional Chinese convention lasting for more than 1000 years. The host must serve the tea respectfully using both hands to hold the tea cup. Those who are dainty usually will put the cup onto a saucer or tea-tray, and, when offering the tea, they will use two hands to hold the saucer or tea-board before the chest while saying softly “Enjoy your tea”. The guest, at the same time, should slightly move his body forward and express gratitude.
Present tea: If the guest likes the tea he has drunk, the host will commonly present some tea to the guest to show his great hospitality.
Making salutation by knocking the desk: When the host serves tea or add water for his guests, some guests will knock the desk rhythmically using the bended middle finger and forefinger of their right hand to express their thankfulness.
Covering cup to thank the host: It is a convention for the host to serve tea and add water for the guest. If the guest has drunk his fill and wants to leave, he will usually flatly spread out his right hand with the centre of the palm downwards onto the tea cup, indicating, “Thank you. I don’t need more tea.
Free tea: Free tea, mostly offered by Non-government charity organizations, is popular in rural areas of Jiangnan (south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River) of China. Generous people raise funds out of their own wills to set bowers and tea canopies, where they heat water, brew tea and offer to passengers free. In some areas, names of contributors will be carved on the stele. In old times, some nunneries also used to offer free tea for passengers, and these nunneries were called “Tea Nunnery”.
Substitute tea for wine: The tradition of substituting tea for wine has existed for more than 2000 years in China. In the Zhou Dynasty, a prohibition was decreed by Emperor Wuwang, who knew that the Shang Dynasty was just defeated due to alcoholic addiction and corruption. So people began to offer tea to the emperor, while the noble and common people substituted tea for wine too. The custom has come down until today.
Tea food: Tea is not only a kind of drink, but also can be added into food to become a mellow, appetizing tea food. Tea food can be used to relieve people's hunger without feeling too full. There are some relative tea foods, such as sesame sweet tea produced in Changsha of Hunan Province, smoked bean tea produced in Zhejiang Province, ghee tee produced by the Tibetan, and Babao oil tea produced by the Miao minority.
Tea after or before dinner: To clean the mouth and get up the appetite, people usually drink clear, sweet, mild green tea or scented tea before dinner. A short rest should be taken before drinking tea after dinner. Sweet, greasy-removed tea like oolong and Puer tea is preferred after dinner, for it has the functions of digestion promotion, anti-alcohol and anti- halitosis.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tea - drinking for health and beauty

Tea for medicinal purposes has a history of 2,700 years in China. Many books, like Shen Nong's Herbal Classic (Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220)), and Classification of Tea (Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)), all recorded the tea's effect for medicinal purposes. Tea Classics, written by Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty, recorded 24 examples to show tea's pharmacology effect Tea contains more than 5,000 biochemistry ingredients closely correlated to human body. Tea not only can refresh the mind, clear heat, and help people lose weight, but also has certain pharmacology effects on some modern diseases, like radiation sickness,  cancer, heart disease, and blood sickness.
Green Tea is the Best Choice for Office Workers
People who always work in places with air conditioning may face skin problems such as easily dry skin and the growth of small wrinkles. Therefore, the moisture content of their bodies needs to be supplemented.
Among all the drinks, green tea is the best choice. Because there are four primary polyphenols (natural chemicals that are beneficial to health) in green tea and they are often collectively referred to as catechins (types of flavored chemical compounds).
Also, green tea, like makeup, can prevent computer radiation.
Winter is the Season to Drink Black Tea
Chinese medicine believes that different people should drink different tea according to the different characteristics and tastes of each kind of tea.
Black tea can warm the stomach, refresh the mind, and accelerate digestion. Therefore, drinking warm black tea in the cold winter is a most suitable choice.
Do not Drink Thick Tea
Strong tea may make the human body excessively excitable and can badly affect the cardiovascular as well as the nervous system. For a person who has cardiovascular disease, to drink overly strong tea may induce heart and blood pressure disease, or even the relapse of old illnesses.
Do not Drink too Much Tea When You are Eating
Drinking too much tea or strong thick tea may affect the absorption of many constant elements (like calcium) and trace elements (like iron and zinc). Also, people should not drink tea with milk or other milk products because the caffeine and tannin (a kind of complex organic compound) in the tea may reduce the nutritional value of milk products.

By Explore Cultural China

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Teapot, an integral part of a tea set, is used for making tea. Some people may directly use small teapots for both infusing and drinking alone. Since there are nuances in the handle, cover, bottom and shape of pots, there are nearly 200 basic forms of teapots. When brewing tea, the size of the teapot shall vary according to the number of guests. Teapots are made of various materials, while the ones we generally use are mostly purple clay pottery or porcelain teapots.

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Boiling dumplings in a teapot

"Words stick in the throat", "fail to express one’s meaning" or "have a bone in one's throat" can be expressed simply by the Chinese proverb "Boiling dumplings in a teapot - no way to pour them out" (It is a pun. The Chinese characters "pour" and "speak" have the same pronunciation). If we use a teapot for boiling dumplings, we have to put the dumplings in from the top, yet have no way to pour them out from the teapot mouth. Therefore we have the connotation - no way to pour them out - to indicate that under certain circumstances it's hard to explain everything clear, for that we are uneloquent and clumsy in speaking, or that we feel uneasy or awkward to speak out the real truth...This is a very common proverb among the Chinese.

By Explore Cultural China

Friday, November 9, 2012

Japan Edo Period: Waste Water Bowl

Seto ware serving bowl or tea-ceremony wastewater bowl
19th century

Edo period

Stoneware with ash glaze; gold lacquer repairs
H: 9.7 W: 15.8 D: 15.8 cm
Seto, Japan 
Tea ceremony waste-water basin
mid 17th century

Nonomura Ninsei , (Japanese, active ca. 1646-77)
Edo period

Stoneware with ash glaze
H: 8.7 W: 17.4 D: 13.9 cm
Kyoto, Japan

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1911.397

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

England 19th Century: Slop Basin

Place of origin:
Leeds, England (made)

1800-1820 (made)

Leeds Pottery (maker)

Materials and Techniques:
Black Basalt

Credit Line:
Given by Mrs Kate Bentley

Museum number:

Gallery location:
Ceramics Study Galleries, Britain, room 138, case 12, shelf 3

Slop basin
John & William Ridgway Enlarge image
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John & William Ridgway

Shelton (Stoke-on-Trent)

Ceramics Study Galleries, Britain & Europe, room 139

Ceramics Collection
Slop basin

Place of origin:
Shelton (Stoke-on-Trent), United Kingdom (made)

ca. 1820 (made)

John & William Ridgway (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques:
Bone china, painted in underglaze blue, enamel colours and gilt

Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Mr R. E. Jerome

Museum number:

Gallery location:
Ceramics Study Galleries, Britain & Europe, room 139, case 17, shelf 2

Monday, November 5, 2012

England 18th Century : Slop Basin/Bowl

Place of origin:
Staffordshire, England (probably, made)

1760-1765 (made)

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques:
Earthenware, with moulded decoration and stained lead glaze

Museum number:

Gallery location:
British Galleries, room 53a, case 1

Place of origin:
Chelsea, England (made)

1759-1769 (made)

Chelsea Porcelain factory (maker)

Materials and Techniques:
Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamel colours and gilt

Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Miss Emily S. Thomson

Museum number:

Gallery location:
British Galleries, room 52b, case 2

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Tea Service Complement - The Waste Bowl

Originally this particular tea implement was a huge silver piece used at a table into which bits of bone, rind and piths were flung into while the diners were eating. It was adorned with 2 handles on either side of the dish. These dishes or rather implements were used since ancient times. Among the many names that it went by were slop bowls, alms-dishes, voiders, waste-pots, or waste bowls. They came in varied shapes and sizes, made of different material. They were meant as containers into which scraps of unwanted food were put in so that the plate was cleared.
Slops bowls are more often misidentified and designated as a sweetmeat  bowl or a sugar bowl sometimes even a centerpiece bowl.
This particular utilitarian object was adapted and added to the equipment necessary for serving tea. These objects began to take its place in the formal tea service by the middle of the 18th century in the shapes of small circular or octagonal bowls. These bowls became standard equipment on the Tea table evolving from their ancestral cousin that stood as large bowls on a pedestal. In the 19th century the bowls lost their handles, remained circular, without a lid and was 2x as large as the sugar bowl in the Tea Service Set. The difference between the design of the sugar bowl and the slop bowl was that the slop bowl has a wide, projecting rim so as to prevent splashing during use.
They were called Slop Bowls and were used for pouring out the remaining cold tea from cups and teapots before a fresh brew was served.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shui Fang/ Cha Yu - Waste Water Bowls - 茶盂

Waste water bowls are called Shui Fang or Cha Yu - water bowls. They are receptacles for used tea leaves, water and used tea brews, particularly in the Gongfu tea preparation method. In pre-Ming Dai practice, it is a bowl for storing fresh, unboiled water for tea preparation.
This is a tea tool that is part of the Gongfu tea setup as well as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
In the English tea setup, these are called slop pots or slop basins. Their function is to collect cold tea brews, waste water as well as used tea leaves.
They are generally made of ceramic, like the traditional Zisha clays, or of porcelain with various glazes and silver.

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