Serena Ren / Orchard Hills 7th
Tea culture has had a lasting effect all around Asia dating back to ancient Chinese traditions and has continued to be an integral element of many lives around the world. On the other hand, a traditional tea ceremony has a long-lasting history of bringing a magical essence to the process of making and enjoying tea. Easily said, a tea ceremony is a way of preparing and presenting tea, including graceful movements and bringing a gentle and serene atmosphere to all participants.
However, a tea ceremony is also an art respected by many. Today, tea ceremonies continue to share many common principles as they incorporate philosophies of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism which emphasize respect for nature and need for peace; however, after traveling to many places such as China, Japan, Korea and more, tea ceremonies have branched into many vibrant, singular and diverse styles.
Imagine a graceful movement of the wrist or a serene flow of water from a teapot to teacup: each gesture is like a gift from nature. Tea ceremony blends these aspects into a traditional art form. The book Chinese Tea by Ling Yun, introduces that tea art has its own unique aesthetic style.
For example, the movement in Chinese tea ceremonies value the concept of being graceful and gentle yet continuous, while the tea sommelier prepares. Analogies have been made to this dancelike ritual, such as “while she fetches a tea utensil, you are seeing her fingers move like seeing the first blossom of a lotus flower. When she holds the cup and moves it, it’s like an orchid floating in the air.” (p.70) This illustrates how one can intimately feel the process of a tea ceremony.
Furthermore, a tea ceremony involves a tea sommelier or tea master who is responsible for preparing tea, a helper of guests, and an active audience to witness the process. The materials or tea sets in a tea ceremony may vary according to the styles; however most ceremonies often include a boiling kettle with a stove, a tea pot or gaiwan, a cup for sniffing the scents, tea cups, tea bowl, a small dish for appreciating dry tea, tea caddy, a fair mug with the filter, duplex layer basin, tea tray, tea towel, teaspoon combination, basin, and more. Even fine details coming down to how the rim of a teacup appears can affect the spirit of the tea ceremony.
Tea originated in China, then traveled to Japan, becoming popular around the Muromachi Period (1333-1573) as the simple, spirituality-emphasized, Zen-inspired, tea ceremonies gradually developed.
Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies are strict in rules from the simplicity of the dress-code, to every gesture, and the ratio of water to tea leaves. Additionally, the environment is also thoughtfully taken into account, including its surrounding garden, the flooring and of course, the tea room itself. The Japanese tea ceremony often emphasizes Zen meditation. The practice of preparing tea is done in silence with only mere sounds of the boiling water or the pouring of tea. As this is a careful and precise practice, there are multiple schools covering Japan which focus on this type of skill. The Japanese tea ceremony may often use a whisk for their powdered tea, (also used often during Chinese period of Song and Tang Dynasty). According to japan-guide.com, “the host typically prepares the tea in front of the guests. The main equipment includes the tea whisk (chasen), tea container for the powdered green tea (natsume), tea scoop (chashaku), tea bowl, sweets container or plate, and the kettle and brazier.
Each piece of equipment was carefully selected according to circumstance and has its specific place.” This once again shows the significance of materials in a tea ceremony; without a specific utensil, the ceremony may not be whole, whereas, with an excess utensil, the ceremony may be in a jumble. The Japanese tea ceremony puts much thought and energy all around, paying close attention to detail and procedure.
Variously, Gong Fu tea or Kung Fu tea, is a more popular Chinese style of tea ceremony, said to originate in Chaozhou-Shantou District of Guangdong Province in South China.
The way of Kung Fu tea challenges one’s skill, efforts, dedication and art abilities, in which the word “Kung Fu” acts as to say “brewing with great skill.” It is a type of tea culture dating back long ago to the Qing Dynasty when people used it to self-cultivate, focusing not only on the concluding taste of the tea and its aroma, but also remaining conscious and graceful while performing the artistic movements of brewing tea (‘cha qi’ tea energy). “Teasenz.com” explains that the practice of Kung Fu tea ideally grants people to have a connection spiritually and mentally with themselves and their tea, and has a lasting effect for one to grow as a mature individual.
Materials are said to affect the way the tea tastes, so the choice of the instruments are also quite critical; however, according to the book “Chinese Tea,” the four main utensils include a “special clay stove with matching kettle, the Yinxing small teapot and thin white porcelain cups.” With materials as simple as this, the performance may proceed.
Once again, imagine the movements of one whose wrists seem to dance, where each gesture matches one’s breath, and a naturally tranquil sensation builds in the air. In this traditional culture, brewing tea does not need to be complicated, but it is surely elaborate in each step, varying in styles but continuing the common legacy of its principles, such as connecting the mind and body with the activity. Today, the tea ceremony is practiced as a hobby, and there are places where tourists can experience it. If practiced with attention, it can indeed bring an inspiring sense of life to all individuals.
<Serena Ren / Orchard Hills 7th