Posted on | May 23, 2012 | 1 Comment
Tea Ceremony Celebrates the Drink’s Spiritual and Mystical Aspects
In Chinese culture tea is not just a beverage, it’s a way of life. Through the ages it has been an integral part of
Chinese culture and it is found woven throughout the people’s philosophy and spiritual beliefs. The Chinese Tea Ceremony is an intricate celebration of the drink and all it represents.
The Significance of Tea
In China, serving and drinking tea has been elevated into an art. Throughout the centuries all levels of Chinese society, from poets to aristocrats, have celebrated their love for tea. Poems and songs have been written about it and stories about tea are passed down from generation to generation.
The Tea Ceremony doesn’t focus on the tea, but rather the ceremony itself. The Chinese place great importance on its taste and smell as well as how one tea compares to another. Each round of tea drinking focuses on its varying qualities, flavors and essences. And each time the tea is served during this special ceremony, the ritual is performed a different way.
The Chinese attach much importance to tea because it is the country’s national drink, and serving it is a way of showing respect. When preparing it, the main ingredients used are lotus seeds and red dates. These two ingredients have a special significance for two reasons.
- In Chinese culture certain words are linked strongly to one another. The words “lotus” and “year” sound the same but have different meanings. The same is true for “seed” and “child” as well as “date” and “early.”
- In ancient China people believed putting these ingredients into their tea would ensure newly married couples would have children right away. The tea’s sweetness was considered a wish for a sweet relationship between the wife and her new in-laws.
The Tea Ceremony’s Spiritual Links
In ancient China tea was a tool monks used for teaching humility, peace and respect for nature. By serving tea the early monks believed they could achieve a state of peace, tranquility, enjoyment and truth. After a period of years the ceremony became customary in memorial celebrations. The ceremony has six components to it:
- A positive, happy attitude
- Selecting a tea with the proper fragrance and taste
- Using only fresh, clean water to make the tea
- Selecting the right teaware for the ceremony
- Holding the ceremony in a quiet room to provide a tranquil setting
- Using the proper serving techniques
Tea’s Link to the Marriage Vows
The day she is to be married the bride-to-be serves tea to her parents, holding the cup with both hands, before the groom arrives. This is her way of respectfully thanking her parents for the years they dedicated to raising her from a child. The tea served before the wedding does not yet contain any dates or lotus seeds.
At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony the newly-married husband and wife serve the tea together, holding the cups with both hands out of respect. They address the groom’s elders by their formal titles and invite them to drink tea. It is customary for the women being served to sit on the left and the men sit on the right while the bride and groom kneel.
The couple serves the tea in a specific order, beginning with the parents of the groom and going from the oldest to the youngest. This is the time when the dates or lotus seeds are added to the tea. Family members give the husband and wife red envelopes containing jewelry or money – tradition says the gifts bring the couple good luck. “Helpers,” normally women who are thought to be lucky by being blessed financially or with a happy marriage, also receive red envelopes.
Whether it’s oolong, green or scented tea, this drink holds a special place in the hearts of many Chinese traditionalists. Its spiritual and mystical associations may not be fully understood but they are powerful nonetheless. In China, taking part in a Tea Ceremony is paying homage to the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Renee Varney is a freelance blogger and occasionally writes for delivery.com a site she loves using to find local Chinese Take Out using their Delivery New York directory.