Chinese Tea Culture

Last Update: 2008-6-20; By chinatravelservice

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Tea culture is an important part of Chinese traditional culture, which covers a wide field and is rich in content. It not only has the embodiment of spiritual civilization, but also the extension of ideological form. No doubt it is beneficial in enhancing the cultural accomplishment and level of art appreciation among the Chinese people.

Tea books

The ancient tea history of our country creates tea scientific technologies for mankind and also accumulates the most abundant literature of tea history for the world. Among the vast cultural classic books, there are not only books specially discussing tea, but also a large quantity of records about tea life, tea history, tea law and production technology of tea in historical books, local records, notes, textual studies and ancient books of calligraphy. 

Tea journal

Tea journal refers to a serial professional publication of tea that has a fixed name, is numbered by volume and issue or in the order of year and month, and is bound into a book. According to incomplete statistics, there are twenty two tea journals in our country after reorgnization. The large number of tea journals is incomparable to other tea production nations.

Tea and wedding

Simply speaking, the relationship between tea and wedding refers to applying and assimilating tea in the wedding or tea culture as a part of etiquette. Wedding is not merely a form of proclaiming to the society or requiring the society to admit marriage relationship, but also is actually a "reception" held for the bride and bridegroom to regonize relatives and meet friends. Therefore, on the festive wedding day, which is generally also the day of big gathering for close kins and good friends of the two families that establish a marriage relationship. When visitors come, tea is presented to them. In this way, wedding has bore an indissoluble bond with tea. Hence, from this point of view, the relationship between wedding and tea can be traced back as early as the era when drinking tea began to come in in our country. However, what I am saying here is not entertaining guests with tea during the process of establishing a marriage relationship but all kinds of etiquettes that directly use tea as rites during the wedding ceremony. 

Tea and sacrifice

As for when tea began to serve as a sacrifice, our ancestors seem to have never done special research. It is generally regarded that the use of tea has developed from medicinal use through drinking to a series of cultural pheonomena of tea, that is to say, only after tea became an item in daily use, has it slowly been used or assimilated into the etiquette system of our country including the funeral. 

Tea and Buddhism

   The relationship between Chinese tea and Buddhism is interative. Buddism, especially Zen Buddhism needs tea while this prevailing custom of addiction to tea also promote the development of the tea industry and tea culture of our country. Apart from choosing a quiet environment as the monastic room, the sitting meditation of Zen Buddhism in our country also requires attention to five coordinations, namely, food coordination, sleeping coordination, body coordination, breath coordination and heart coordination. It is very obvious that the five coordinations talked about here, especially the sleeping coordination, have a certain relationship with drinking tea. Perhaps just because tea plays such an important role in Buddhism and sitting meditation, later some Buddhist followers didn't hesitate to adopt the methods of making up myths or stealthily substituting one thing for another and do their utmost to describe tea as the favor of Buddha and the merit of Buddhist monks.

Tea and poems

China is both "the homeland of tea" and "a nation of poetry". Therefore, tea has permeated the poems since a very early time. From the earliest tea poems (such as Poem on Lovely Young Girls written by Zuo Si) to the present time, lasting one thousand and seven hundred years, a large number of poems and litterateurs have created many graceful poems about tea.

Tea songs and dances

As in the case of tea and poems, tea songs and dances are a tea cultural pheonomenon deriving from the primary culture of tea production and drinking. They not only appear at the later development stage of songs and dances in our country, but also are merely seen after the tea production and drinking has become frequent content of social production and life in our country. 

Tea and Chinese traditional drama

China is a nation that creates tea culture and also the sole nation that produces the independent type of drama "tea-picking drama" from the development of tea industry in the world. The tea-picking drama is a type of Chinese tradional drama popular in provinces such as Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi. In each province, owing to different districts it goes current, a distinction is made between them by naming it after the places, such as "Yuebei tea-picking drama" in Guangdong and "Yangxin tea-picking drama", "Huangmei tea-picking drama" and "Jichun tea-picking drama" in Hubei, etc. This drama is common especially in Jiangxi and has many genres. For example, the genres of Jiangxi tea-picking drama include "Gannan tea-picking drama", "Fuzhou tea-picking drama", "Nanchang tea-picking drama", "Wuning tea-picking drama" and "Ji'an tea-picking drama', etc. Though these types of drama have a multitude of items, the time of their development is generally at the stage from the middle period of the Qing Dynasty to the late Qing Dynasty.

Tea and fine arts

Fine arts is a "design art", which creates visual images through the devices such as composition of a picture, design and using color, etc. Therefore, apart from the generally regarded painting and sculpture, its extent or content even include architecture. The sculpture technique in tea culture is mainly concentrated on the tea set such as pot, bowl, cup and calyx, the form of tea ball and cake and their facing. For example, the dragon and phoenix tribute tea of Beiyuan in the Song Dynasty were very particular about the patterns of their facing, which were frequently changed. In the palace, there were also activities of adding other ornaments to the tribute tea, which was then called "embroidery tea".     

Tea and couplets

The tea couplet is a dazzling fresh flower in the treasury of couplets in our country. There is no limit on the number of characters but it requires antithesis, neatness and coordination in the level and oblique tones. It evolved from the form of poetry. In our country, in all the sites with the theme of "keeping up a friendship with tea", you will often find tea couplets with the content of tea life hanging in the courtyard or on the stone pillars of tea shop, tea house, tea room, tea leaves shop, tea spa, on the wall of the halls where tea lore, tea art and tea etiquette performances are conducted and even in the living room of tea lovers. They not merely have the beauty of primitive simplicity and elegance, but also present a feeling of "social morality and honesty and uprightness", provide people with association, add temperament and interest to tasting tea. 

Tea proverbs

Tea proverb is another cultural phenomenon derived during the development of tea culture in our country. According to its content and characters, it approximately belongs to the two categories of tea drinking and tea production. In another word, tea proverb mainly originates from tea drinking and production practice. It is a generalization or statement about tea drinking and production experience, which is preserved and goes round through the form of proverbs by the method of handing down by mouth and memorizing by heart. Therefore, tea proverb is not only a precious heritage of tea science or tea culture of our country, but also a beautiful flower with strong and pervasive fragrance in the folk culture of our country from the perspective of creation or literature.

We can see from the above narrative that tea has a close connection with all the aspects of people's life either in the history or in reality and has become a unique treasure of Chinese culture

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