TEA DRINKING IN CHINA
Chengdu Teahouse Many people drink tea in a bowl without a handle. Throughout China you will see people on the go with thermoses and water bottles with leafy, unstrained tea, which is consumed all day long. Hot tea is usually served plain, or with sugar or milk. Tea drinking customs include: 1) refill your friends cups; 2) turn the pot lid upside down to request more tea: and 3) say thank you to the waiter by tapping four times on the table. Tea ceremonies somewhat like those done in Japan are performed in the Anhui province of China.
“When speaking of tea, Chinese often use a palindrome that translates as "it can also purify the mind" to cite the wondrous effects of this drink. Tea houses have traditionally been places where people met and socialized, serving as neighborhood gathering places the same way pubs do in Britain. In the Cultural Revolution tea houses were closed because they were considered places where rightist and counter-revolutionary thoughts were hatched and spread. Many tea house have traditionally served green tea.
During the long train trip from Lhasa to Shanghai, which I took, my compartment mates wiled away the hours drinking leafy tea in lidded glass cups. One guy would periodically take out a small foil packet containing tea and put in a cup. At that point the tea looked like low-grade marijuana. When he added a small amount of water the densely-packed buds expanded like sea monkeys in a petri dish and when the cup was filled to brim a miniature kelp garden formed in his glass cup.
Tea Culture in China
China is the homeland of tea, and it is a general practice for Han people to drink tea. Serving guests a cup of tea is a traditional courtesy among Han people. Tea has a long history in China. As early as in the Jin Dynasty, people carried pots and sold tea in the street. In the Northern and Southern Dynasties, small tea houses started to be set up. In the Song Dynasty, tea houses were common sights on streets and lanes. The custom of drinking tea became especially strong in the Qing Dynasty. In the tea houses, people ate pastries and sweets as well as drank tea. In this atmosphere the folk arts of ballad singing, storytelling and cross-talk. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~]
Small pot of oolong tea The famous Tang poet Lu Tong (790-835) wrote:
The first cup moistens my lips and throat,
The second up breaks my loneliness,
The third cup searches my barren entrails
but to find therein some five thousand volumes of cold ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration — all the wrong of life passes away through my pores,
At the firth cup I am purified,
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals,
The seventh cup — ah, but I could take no more!
Some tea houses have been set up at beautiful places for people to relax and view beautiful scenery while savoring tea. Some people discuss business and solve their disputes in tea house. In this way tea house serve political and economic functions as well as cultural ones. Many emperors, ministers and writers have written down beautiful lines of poetry while in tea houses. There are tea houses all over China. They often feature different styles of tea drinking, of which the most famous are the covered bowl tea of Chengdu in Sichuan Province and the congou of Chaozhou in Guangdong Province. ~
Making Chinese Tea
Aki Omori wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “In the art of making tea, the teapot and cups are first warmed by pouring hot water in them. Iwasaki says that after the water is poured out, about five grams, or two teaspoonfuls, of tea leaves should be put in the pot. The lid is then placed on the pot to let the leaves steam for a few minutes. When the lid is removed, a refreshing and crisp scent fills the air. [Source: Aki Omori, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2011]
At this point, just enough hot water to cover the leaves is poured into the pot and then poured out after a short time. "You can drink it then if you want to, but the first batch of hot water is to make the leaves open," Iwasaki said. She advises that hot water be poured in again, and the tea is ready when about 70 percent of the leaves open. The hot tea in the pot should be poured into a separate container, called yuzamashi, before being served in cups. "You can enjoy the scent in the second serving, flavor in the third and a pleasant aftertaste in the fourth." While taking in the beauty of the light green tea, you can enjoy the slightly sweet, mellow taste, Iwasaki says. After drying, a pleasant aroma will remain in the cup.
In Taiwan, a special slim cup is used to enjoy the tea's aroma. After the tea is made in the cup it is moved to another container and the aroma remains in the empty cup. I tried it with a cup that was once filled with oolong tea and I picked up the sweet, vanilla-like smell. "While enjoying the color, scent or flavor, you can also delve further into the art by studying tea utensils or growing areas which may bring you closer to Chinese culture itself. The good thing about this particular aspect of the art is that there are few limits. It is up to you which leaves you use and how much time you spend to enjoy the tea," Iwasaki said.
Ngong Ping Tea House Cool Chinese tea made by mizudashi, or brewing with cold water, is recommended for hot summer days. Iwasaki served a Taiwan oolong tea that was harvested in summer and brewed using the mizudashi method. "Tea brewed in cold water makes for a mild taste." You can make mizudashi tea by adding eight to 10 grams of oolong or other leaves to a liter of water and keeping it in the refrigerator overnight. Drain the leaves after the water darkens. Mizudashi tea can also be made with regular green or black tea.
Tea Etiquette in China
Chinese express thanks for a serving of tea by tapping bent fingers on the table. After someone pours you a cup of tea you should tap the table lightly twice with your first two fingers. For most Chinese this is an unconscious act and there is no need to pause conversation and acknowledge this subtle form of thanks. In southern China, tapping two fingers on the table can be a general expression of thanks but often done when drinking tea to show gratitude for a refill. Some people in northern China, however, may not be familiar with this gesture.
Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in “CultureShock! China”: “Tea in China is typically served loose leaf, which means that as it is poured, you will have floating tea leaves in your cup. The trick in drinking tea with loose leaves is to wait until the leaves have settled into the bottom of your cup before trying to drink it. Gently blowing on the leaves at the top of the cup to move them away from where you are sipping is an acceptable strategy. Inevitably, you will end up consuming a few leaves and stems. If so, either swallow happily (many great dishes are made with tea leaves) or if you have little sticks of stems in your mouth, discreetly transfer them to your hand or a napkin as you would the shell of a nut. [Source: “CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]
Pouring Tea in China
According to the Fowler Museum at UCLA: In China the teapot is placed on the table before every meal so guests refresh themselves while waiting for the food, and afterward to aid in digestion. It is not served with food unless a guest asks for it. Many recall the beauty of Yixing clay teapots and the allure of green, oolong, and jasmine teas served in elegant teahouses. Some of you may have attended a.Gongfu. style tea ceremony. In some areas of China tea leaves are put into a tea cup and boiling water is added, or a small tea pot and cups are used to enjoy the flavor and scent of the tea. [Source: “Steeped in History: The Art of Tea” exhibition, Fowler Museum at UCLA, August 16-November 29, 2009]
Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in “CultureShock! China”: Throughout China’s history, making tea has been considered a delicate art. A full tea ceremony is a show of grace. A standard teapot is a round white porcelain pot with a short spout. Different regions have variation to their teapots. When eating at restaurants whose food origin is along the silk road, they have pots that look as if they came directly from an Arabian nights story, complete with its own genie. These pots are a direct result of vibrant trade through the ancient Silk Road. [Source: “CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]
“When used in a restaurant, pouring is a cross between an athletic event and an art form. There is usually one person who is the designated server of the hot water that streams from the very long spout of this pot. It is used to pout hot water into cups of ba bao cha, eight treasures tea. To pour, the server pumps the pot with a gentle rocking motion until it has enough momentum built to shoot out the spout and create a hissing hot stream into your tea cup.
“After the waiter or waitress has pouted the first round of tea, the teapot is placed upon the table. It is customary to pay close attention to the cups of those sitting nearby and to pour fresh tea for them as their cups empty. When the teapot runs out of hot water, signal to the waiter or waitress to add water by placing the lid of the pot upside down and at a slight angle on top of the pot of tea. The waiting staff knows this is a signal to refill the pot. They will typically just add hot water to the pot, using the old leaves. Whether in your teacup or in a pot on the table, one batch of tea leaves is usually good for up to three rounds of tea.
Sichuan Tea Houses
Tea drinking is an especially important part of the culture of Sichuan Province, particularly the city of Chengdu, which is famous for its tea houses. The people in central Sichuan like to drink tea with a lid-covered teacup. The lid-covered tea invented in Chengdu is unique. [Source: expatsinchina.com /~]
Sichuan Province is one of the oldest tea production spots in China, so the activities related with tea are quite rich. The tea houses in Chengdu are famous. There were around 700 of them before China’s liberation in 1949. Covered bowl tea is characteristic of these tea houses. In a traditional Sichuan tea house, a tea master serves the tea in red copper teapot with a tin saucer, and a covered bowl made of Jingdezhen porcelain. The stools and bamboo chairs in the tea house enable customers to savor their tea in sitting or lying positions. After the guests come in, they can view and admire the tea making. The tea master displays the tea set on a table. Then he carries a large teapot in one hand, and turns over the cover with the other hand, making the tea and covering the teacup. The whole process is surprisingly fast and no single drop of water is spilled on the table. The covered bowl tea set not only keep the tea hot, but also allows one regulate the temperature through opening and closing the lid. One can immediately drink the tea, or savor it slowly. The strong tea fragrance warms the hearts of Chinese as much as drinking the tea itself. ~
Congou Tea Drinking
Drinking the congou is a tradition of Han people in Chaozhou of Guangdong Province as well as their first custom of receiving guests. Today, overseas Chaozhou people take "congou" as a symbol of being Chinese. The great Chinese writer Liang Shiqiu wrote: "The strong and thick flavor of the congou should not be compared by any other kind of tea." The tea set is particularly exquisite and the little pot looks more like toys. "The tea has a function of neutralizing the effect of alcoholic drinks. When drinking it, it feels like chewing olive, and a little astringent in the root of tongue. After drinking several cups, it seems that the more you drink, the thirstier you become. It requires time, tea set, and attendant when drinking congou."
The tea set of congou is exquisite and beautiful, The making technique is also refined. The congou tea set is generally made up of three cups and a little pottery pot made in Yixing. On the tray there is also a little kettle and a small charcoal stove. You can make the tea whenever the water is boiled. The congou uses black tea, Tie Guanyin being the top grade. The making process of the congou is clean and scientific. When pouring the tea, you had better not make the cup full. The tea should be offered to elders and guests first. Others drink in the next round. The tea is only added after several rounds of drinking. Drinking and chatting takes some times and the congou gains its name from that.
Image Sources: Mostly Wiki Commons plus 1) Columbia University, University of Washington, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html, Julie Chao
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Chinese Tea Vessels
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “The wares and utensils associated with tea have changed along with the nature and art of tea itself — from the tea brewed from finely pulverized tea leaves in the T'ang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties to the roasted and slowly steeped varieties appreciated in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911). [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“In "Classic of Tea", the T'ang dynasty tea lover Lu Yu describes the set of utensils for boiling and drinking powdered tea, thereby establishing the precedent for the importance of the wares and utensils used in tea ceremonies. Descriptions of ice-like Yueh ware celadon tea bowls and snow-white Hsing ware porcelain tea bowls in the "Classic of Tea" reveal the level of aesthetic appreciation that existed for tea wares even at this time.
“The Song Dynasty was the golden age of powdered tea. The unique whisking method of preparation along with refined tea competitions brought the art of tea to its pinnacle of refinement. The lines of poetry "Clouds swirling on the surface of partridge-feather bowls, snowy depths at the bottom of hare's-fur bowls" shows that, in addition to celadon and white wares, black-glazed bowls with partridge feather, hare's fur, oil spot and applique decoration became prized wares in tea competitions. Tea bowls and bowl stands were paired as sets and ceramic and lacquer bowl stands in various glazes became common.
“In 1391, the founder of the Ming dynasty, the Hongwu emperor, decreed that tributes of compressed tea cakes were to be replaced by loose-leaf tea. This meant steeping became the main method for preparing tea. Tea pots for steeping and bowls and cups for drinking were the most important tea wares in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Tea caddies also became an essential item as they helped maintain the fragrance and flavor of the tea.
National Palace Museum, Taipei’s collection of Ming and Qing tea ware is mainly imperial. These various types of teapots, bowls, cups and caddies are recorded in official documents and can also be compared with examples described in painting and other texts. The enameled tea wares of the Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1736-1795) reigns, produced at Ching-te-chen and in the court workshops, are particularly prized because only one pair was made for each design.
History of Chinese Tea Vessels and Art
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ “For centuries, the custom of preparing and drinking tea has been a fundamental part of daily and social life in China. The collection of the National Palace Museum includes numerous texts as well as works of painting and calligraphy that detail and record the many methods of tea preparation and consumption. They also describe the various specialized objects and settings for drinking tea through the ages, revealing the central importance that tea played in social discourse and the lofty ideals of scholars on this subject. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), whisked tea and tea-tasting contests became increasingly popular. Molded cakes of tea as well as grinders, pots, and bowls for tea consequently were frequent subjects in the painting and calligraphy that survive from this period. Refined scholars and officials focused on all matters related to the selection, preparation, and consumption of tea. Great literary and artistic figures — such as Ts'ai Hsiang (1012-1067), Su Shih (1037-1101), Emperor Hui-tsung (1082-1135), and Lu Yu (1125-1210) — not only were astute connoisseurs of tea, but many of their works of writing, poetry, painting, and calligraphy dealt with this theme.
“In Ming dynasty (1368-1644) painting, tranquil landscapes were often depicted with a small cottage and a neighboring tea hut. Amidst the various objects and equipment associated with tea preparation found within, attendants frequently are shown by a stove with boiling water to make tea. The host in such paintings either sips tea alone or is in light conversation with like-minded friends, revealing the idealized setting for consuming tea among scholar-officials in the Ming dynasty. Such artists as Shen Chou (1427-1509), T'ang Yin (1470-1523), Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559), Ch'iu Ying (1492-1552), and Wen Chen-heng (1585-1645) in their works of poetry, painting, and calligraphy left behind many such elegant images of drinking tea.
“From the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Museum's paintings dealing with tea are opulent but by no means gaudy. For example, Leng Mei's "Tilling and Weaving" includes a work showing how tea was prepared in farming life. Chin T'ing-piao's "Tasting Tea Made from Spring Water" is an offshoot of the traditional scholarly theme of tasting fine tea. The court copy of "Spring Dawn in the Han Palace" also shows a typical elegant tea gathering among court ladies. Such works reflect the various forms in the art of tea then.
“The refined and refreshing art of tea appreciated in the pristine beauty of nature has filled the works of many artists in China through the ages. Through this selection from the Museum collection, it is hoped that viewers may learn more about the history and importance of tea as well as appreciate the beauty of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
Letter to Feng Ching: Song-Era Painting About Tea
“Letter to Feng Ching” is a 29.7 -x-39.7-centimeter album leaf, ink on paper made by
Ts'ai Hsiang (1012-1067) during the Song Dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Ts'ai Hsiang, a native of Fujian Province, was a famous calligrapher and one of the Four Song Masters. A learned scholar, he also made an important contribution to the history of tea with his "Tea Record (Ch'a lu)". The earliest Song text on the subject, it describes the production and transportation of "small dragon" tea as tribute to the court and is the first to mention the famous Chien ware "hare's fur" bowls. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“This work is a letter written to Feng Ching in the fourth month of 1051 on the day that Ts'ai Hsiang left Hangzhou. The contents express his regards to Feng upon embarking on his journey. Ts'ai also included a gift of "large dragon" caked tea and a Yueh celadon tea bowl. At the time, both were considered precious, especially the "large dragon" tea which was probably produced as tribute to the court at the time. Ts'ai Hsiang, when he was in office in Fujian in 1047, oversaw the production of "small dragon" tea for tribute to the court. Neither it nor "large dragon" tea were readily available to ordinary folk.
“In the mid-eleventh century, tea-tasting contests became popular, as evidenced by such prized items as "small dragon" caked tea and "hare's-fur" tea bowls. Though Yueh celadon tea bowls from earlier times were still in use, they were beginning to fade in popularity by this time. That is why Ts'ai wrote that the tea was "precious" but the celadon "slightly crude".
“This calligraphy in running script is steady and the characters beautiful. Some characters reveal elements of standard script while others verge on semi-cursive. The resulting mix gives this letter a sense of freedom and spontaneity that makes it a masterpiece of Ts'ai Hsiang's running script.
“Tasting Tea” is a 88.3-x 25.2-centimeter hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper made
Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559) during the Ming dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ Wen Cheng-ming came from a family of scholars in Soochow and spent much of his time traveling the hills in pursuit of nature. Many of his works deal with his experiences from life. He was also a connoisseur of tea and once wrote, "I have never touched wine, but I have always been intoxicated by tea." Typical for scholars, tea was not only a part of Wen's life but also a subject of his poetry, painting, and calligraphy. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“This work dated to 1531 shows a scene with his friends drinking "before-the-rains" tea. In an elegant thatched hut, two figures sit facing each other tasting tea and engaged in light conversation. On the table is a teapot and tea bowls. Outside, a figure comes across a bridge. An attendant in the tea hut fans flames to boil spring water for tea in this intimate gathering.
“The hut shown here is the one where Wen Cheng-ming often gathered for tea with his friends. Three years later in 1534, he did another painting on a tea gathering and included ten poems on tea utensils. The scene and hut in the two works is the same. It was in that year that Wen became ill and could not travel to Tiger Hill to taste tea, so friends brought him several varieties. He could thus appreciate "before-the-rains" tea, inspiring him to do the painting and compose the poetry.
“Wen Cheng-ming's tea hut with its pure forest setting represented the ideal for appreciating tea among literati of the Ming dynasty. This activity, among the other leisurely activities of the scholar, was pursued in small gatherings like this one.
Tea Gathering for Spring Water at Mt. Hui
“Tea Gathering for Spring Water at Mt. Hui” is a 66.6-x-33.1-centimeter hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, made by Ch'ien Ku (1508-1578) during the Ming dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Ch'ien Ku did this work in 1570 as a record of an elegant gathering with friends on a trip to Mt. Hui in Wu-hsi to gather spring water for brewing tea. Here, an attendant gets water from a hexagonal well at the Hui Spring and two others are below a pine tree fanning flames to prepare tea. The spring water at Mt. Hui is famous for its fine and clear taste. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
It has been praised since the T'ang tea connoisseur Lu Yu in "Classic of Tea (Ch'a ching)" called it "the second spring under heaven". In the Song Dynasty, the renowned tea-lovers and scholar-artists Ts'ai Hsiang and Su Shih were among those who went to taste Hui spring water. Emperor Hui-tsung even went so far as to have it included as tribute to the court. In the Ming dynasty, Soochow scholars gathered there to taste the tea brewed with this water. They often wrote poems and paintings on the subject. In the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong emperor also stopped at Mt. Hui during his sixth southern inspection tour to appreciate tea there. This is apparent from his poem written on this painting.
“This work shows four figures in conversation as three attendants are busy in the preparation of tea using spring water. Many of the trees were rendered using dry brushwork with darker areas occasionally used for the figures. Light and dark ink complement each other with the fine brushwork, revealing the easy-going aspect of life and art among late Ming scholars.
Tasting Tea Made from Spring Water
“Tasting Tea Made from Spring Water” is a 58-x-73.8-centimeter hanging scroll, ink and light colors on paper made by Chin T'ing-piao (fl. latter half of 18th c.) during the Qing Dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Chin T'ing-piao, a native of Zhejiang Province, excelled at figure, landscape, "pai-miao" (monochrome outline), and ruled-line painting. In 1760, during the Qianlong emperor's third southern inspection tour, Chin presented an album of lohans painted in monochrome outlines. Appreciated by the emperor, Chin was summoned to the court as a painter. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“This work shows a forest stream under the moon. A scholar sits leisurely on a curving tree trunk situated along the stream as he sips tea. An attendant squats on a streamside stone to get water as charcoals burn in the portable stove in a bamboo stand. The objects for brewing tea include a bamboo stove, teapot, four-level handled basket, water jar, water ladle, and tea bowl. The mottled bamboo stove stand has 4 strings knotted together for transport with a pole. The contents of the basket include items for brewing tea, such as tea leaves and charcoals. Obviously, these are objects associated with tea that were used for outings. The scholar sits alone sipping tea, apparently in deep thought.
“The landscape and figures in this painting with light colors reveals Chin T'ing-piao's mature brushwork. The figure is elegant with a scholarly air, and the drapery lines are twisted and strong as mentioned in records of "snapped reed brushstrokes".
Qing Dynasty Teapots and Bowl
The Square teapot in "fa-lang-ts'ai" enamels with floral decor on I-hsing ware body is 11.2 centimeters in height and has rim diameter of 6.5 x 6.5 centimeters and base diameter: 7.1 x 7.1 centimeters. It was made during the reign of Kangxi (1662-1722) in the Qing Dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “This square teapot has a straight rim with a curved square handle and a spout, flat bottom, short foot ring, and square lid and knob. The base of the square knob is decorated with lotus petals in blue and circled with red dots on white ground. The lid is decorated with monthly rose, chrysanthemum and narcissus. Each side of the plain body reveals one of flowers of each season — including peony, lotus, hollyhock, and plum blossom — done in the close-up "broken stem" manner. The hollyhock section is also set against autumnal begonias, chrysanthemums, and grasses. The dark clay body is slightly rough with impurities of black and yellow sand, including pit marks where the grains fell out. Enameled in blue against white on the bottom is the inscription "Made in the Kangxi Reign", done in standard script within a thick and thin outline square frame. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“Kangxi imperial I-hsing enameled tea ware was fired on I-hsing body ware. After select pieces were chosen, they were sent to the Bureau of Manufacture for court painters to decorate with enamel colors and then fired again at low temperatures. This square teapot is painted in such beautiful and refined color glazes. However, the surface is not covered with transparent glaze, making it unique among surviving examples and a rare type of imperial tea ware from the Qing court. This work may be the one mentioned in "Display Archives of Enamel, Glass, I-hsing, and Porcelain Wares".
“Teapot in "fa-lang-ts'ai" enamels with decoration of blue landscapes is 9.2 centimeters in height and has a rim diameter of 7.5 centimeters and base diameter of 8.1 centimeters. It was made during the reign of Yongzheng (1723-1735) in the Qing Dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “This teapot has a wide round body and a straight rim. The body is rather short and has a rounded handle, tubular spout, flat bottom, and convex foot. The jewel-shaped lid has a steam hole to one side. On either side are open areas, each with a different landscape painted in blue. One side has a line of verse reading "Trees merge with Southern Hills nearby" along with a painted seal impression in red reading "Hills High". The other side has a complementary line of verse reading "Mists envelop Northern Shores far off" along with a complementary seal painted in red reading "Waters Long". The filler space and surface of the lid are painted with flowers of the four seasons. The landscapes on the thin and translucent body are quite fine and delicate, and the glaze colors beautiful but not gaudy. Inscribed in blue on the bottom are two lines of two characters each in imitation Song script reading "Made in the Yongzheng Reign" within a double outline frame. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw \=/]
“The Yongzheng emperor appreciated large yet simple imperial teapots. The body of this teapot is short and the mouth comparatively large, which is a type often seen in the Yongzheng period. Monochrome glaze teapots of the same shape are also found. This piece is recorded in "Display Archives of Enamel, Glass, I-hsing, and Porcelain Wares".
“Tea bowl in underglaze blue with the imperial poem "San-Qing"” is 5.6 centimeters in height and has a rim diameter of 10.8 centimeters and a base diameter of 4.7 centimeter. It was made during the reign of Qianglong (1736-1795) during the Qing Dynasty. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ Buddha's-hand citron, plum blossom, and pine nuts are the main ingredients of San-Qing (Three Purities) tea.This tea bowl has a slightly flaring rim and stands on a round base. Along the top and bottom rim are "ju-i" bands in underglaze blue. On the body written in underglaze blue is the Qianlong emperor's poem "San-Qing Tea". Painted inside at the bottom also in underglaze blue are these Three Purities — plum blossoms, pine tree, and Buddha's-hand fruit. Underneath and written in blue are three lines of two characters each reading "Made in the Qianlong Reign of the Great Qing". This tea bowl was especially made for the Qianlong emperor to drink his favorite Three Purities tea. It also comes in an overglaze red version and both are recorded in "Display Archives of Enamel, Glass, I-hsing, and Porcelain Wares".
“The poem running along the outside was completed in 1746 upon the Qianlong emperor's return from an imperial inspection tour. After a snow, he had some snow melted to prepare Three Purities tea and then wrote this poem. The emperor enjoyed this tea on numerous occasions. Melted snow was used to brew plum blossoms, pine nuts, and Buddha's-hand, which were then infused with Dragon Well tea. The Qianlong emperor not only composed poetry but also had teapots and tea bowls specifically done for Three Purities tea. On one occasion at the end of a tea banquet, he presented Three Purities tea to officials. Other poetry by the Qianlong emperor indicates that this bowl was known as a "tea bowl with Three Purities poem". There were also Three Purities tea vessels in lacquer and carved red lacquer with this poem.
Last updated October 2021