5. June 2017

Tea Ceremony

Chinese ancestors have experienced four processes of tea drinking, eat raw as medicine, cook thoroughly as a dish to eat, cook/boil to drink, brew to drink. The earliest way for ancient people to use tea was to chew raw food. Later, they made a fire to cook soup, just like cooking vegetable soup today. At that time, people only drank tea as soup or used tea as a dish.

Historians of Chinese tea culture distinguish mainly five historical schools of tea ceremony 茶道 [chá dào]: Boiled Tea Method 煮茶法 [zhǔ chá fǎ] boils drinking water and flavored it with tea leaves and herbal additives. In the Tang period, tea is mainly made of cake tea, which is roasted, cooled and ground into powder. The salt is added at the initial boiling point, and then added tea powder to the second boiling, and then it is stopped after three boiling. The first three bowls are the most suitable, drink tea while it is hot and clean the utensils in time. Since this tea liquid was added a pinch of salt, this method is also called “school of Salted Powder Tea”, the Fired Tea Method 煎茶法  [jiān chá fǎ].

An Tea Method 庵茶法 [ān chá fǎ], use some tea powder in a tea jar and brew it with boiling water, Tang people thought that using this kind of tea method tea was not fully cooked and could only be drunk but not eaten, so they called it half-cooked tea. A similar tea making method was gradually popular in Ming Dynasty, it seems to have something to do with this tea making method. The Tang Dynasty tea ceremony was focused on skills, and in the tea ceremony of Song Dynasty the artistic conception was more important.

During the Song Dynasty, the art of tea has been refined, the tea powder should be infused with hot water and beat up with a bamboo whisk until frothy, a master work was that foams remained as long as possible. This method is called the “School of the foamed Jade” Whisked Tea Method 点茶法 [diǎn chá fǎ]. It also commonly used in the tea fight, which can be carried out by two or more people, but it can also be fried, whisked and tasted by oneself. It brings people physical and mental enjoyment and can call for endless aftertaste.

In the Ming period, loose dry tea leaves were used, directly pour hot water on, this method is called the “School of the fragrant leaf” Infused Tea Method 撮泡法 [cuō pào fǎ]. Since Ming Dynasty, the processing method of tea in China has been reformed. The finished tea has been transformed from cake tea 饼茶 made by steaming in Tang Dynasty and cake tea 团茶refined and pressed in Song Dynasty into strip loose tea after roasting. In this way, people no longer need to “roast”, “grind” and “sieve”, but put the loose tea into the pot (bowl, cup) and brew it directly with boiling water. This method of brewing tea directly with boiling water is not only simple, but also retains the fragrance of tea, which is more convenient for the intuitive appreciation of tea. Kakuzo Okakura, a Japanese artist, once named “classicism”, “romanticism” and “naturalism” schools for tea ceremonies of Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty in his book <The Book of Tea>. Although some theories in his book obviously have limitations of the times and misleading predictions, he completely underestimate the inevitability of tea method in the Ming Dynasty as the development of Chinese history and ignore its important influence on tea processing and culture in China and the world. But it can be seen that “nature” should be the highest idea pursued by tea ceremony in Ming Dynasty. It can be said that this is a great pioneering work in the history of tea drinking in China, and it also creates conditions for tea drinking to pay less attention to form and pay more attention to taste, so it has been used by people today.

Related Tea Blog

What tea did the ancients drink?

What did ancient Chinese people drink tea with?

Related Tea Workshop

Tang Dynasty Tea Workshop

Song Dynasty Tea Workshop

Ming Dynasty Tea Workshop


Drinking tea is a part of the Chinese culture for thousands of years, tea was first used as medicine in China. The pharmacological function of tea was first recorded in 2780 BC, <Shennong Materia Medica 神农本草> , “Shennong tasted all kinds of herbs. He met 72 poisons a day and got tea to relieve it 神农尝百草,一日遇七十二毒,得茶而解之”. According to the legend, it is said that in order to cure the people, Shennong, the Holy Farmer would not hesitate to personally verify the properties of the plants. After experiencing 72 poisons a day, his tongue was numb and his head was dizzy. When his life was in danger, a cool breeze blew and brought fragrances continuously, several fresh tea leaves fell slowly. Shennong picked them up and chewed them in his mouth, he felt refreshed and relaxed. In this way, Shennong discovered tea.

Shen Nong Tastes Tea by Daoist Dezhong

Chinese family has a tradition of serve tea to guests, regarding to the Daoist Scriptures, this tradition is from Daoism (Taoism). In the Spring and Autumn period, when Laozi (Lao-tzu) left Hangu strategic pass, he asked the pass guard Yin Xi to welcome him at home and could serve him tea firstly “首献茗”, Laozi said, people who appreciate tea after eating, you are all on the same way, they should be all disciples of Daoism “食是茶者,皆汝之道徒也”. Laozi was the first person who treated tea as the daoists’ hospitality and brought tea into daoist and Chinese traditional rites. Read More

Laozi Chu Guan 老子出关- Laozi rode a green ox to the west of Hangu pass by Wenzhuo Liu

Tea existed in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-467 BC) when Laozi and Confucius lived. Although there are few records about tea in that period, the Confucianism founded by Confucius has a positive significance and important role in guiding people to carry out tea activities, leading the development of tea and deepening the connotation of tea culture, especially in tea art, tea ceremony, tea morality, tea customs and so on. Chinese literati in Han Dynasty regarded tea as an elixir of immortality, in the <伤寒论 Treatise on Febrile Diseases>, Zhang Zhongjing, a medical sage in the late Eastern Han Dynasty, wrote that “tea is very effective in treating pus and blood 荼治脓血甚效”. Hua Tuo, a famous doctor in the Three Kingdoms period, said “Drinking bitter tea for a long time, it can lift your spirits and strengthen your thinking. 苦荼久食益思意”.

Since 3000 years ago, Chinese have boiled drinking water and flavored it with tea leaves and herbal additives by the Boiled Tea Method 煮茶法. Tea leaves were normally cooked thoroughly with ginger, scallion, jujube, mandarin peel and mint etc., then people eat, drink and swallow them all. Lu Yu ignored this method of tea making and thought it was like sewage “斯沟渠间弃水”. From the point of view of food science, this tea making method certainly destroys the aroma of tea, but it is the most thorough use of tea nutrients. At least, adding some ginger can neutralize the cold nature of tea, which is good for people’s spleen and stomach.

Confucius 孔子 by Wenzhuo Liu

History shows that there was already a tax on tea during the Qin Dynasty (221- 207 B.C.), tea was then primarily used as a medicine. Du Yu’s <荈赋 Tea Fu> in Jin Dynasty, it s the first work in the history of Chinese tea to record the whole process from planting to drinking tea. It covers from the planting and growing environment of tea to picking season, and from the labor scene to tea cooking, water selection, tea set selection and tea drinking effect.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), tea was increasingly drunk as tea beverages using the An Tea Method 庵茶法 at the imperial court and thus introduced into the upper class, which had been shown on the painting “Tang Palace Musicians 唐人宫乐图”. Put some tea powder in a tea jar and brew it with boiling water, Tang people thought that using this kind of tea method tea was not fully cooked and could only be drunk but not eaten, so they called it half-cooked tea. A similar tea making method was gradually popular in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it seems to have something to do with this tea making method.

Tang Palace Musicians Drawing 唐人宫乐图 by anonymous

Another tea brewing way in Tang dynasty is the Fired Tea Method 煎茶法, put tea powder into water when it is first boiling, take tea soup to drink after the second boiling, and add salt to taste properly. Lu Tong’s famous poem <Seven Bowls of Tea 七碗茶> was written after he had tea with this fried tea way. He fried tea at home and enjoyed it alone, he praised both the quality of tea and the skill of frying tea. Read More

The picture of Tuning the Qin and Sipping Tea, it is easy to understand “tuning the Qin”. What is “sipping tea”? We all talk about “drinking tea”, “drinking tea” and “tasting tea”, but we seldom say “sipping tea”. Let the tea soup and air roll in the mouth to drink, this is “sipping”. Why sip? Because the tea is very hot. We know that the way of drinking tea in Tang Dynasty is different from that of brewing tea today, but cooking tea. The temperature of tea soup is naturally very high. The beauty in the painting obviously didn’t wait for the tea to cool, which can be seen from their tea drinking posture.

Tuning the Qin and Sipping Tea Drawing 调琴啜茗图 by Zhou Fang

Monks in Buddhist monasteries began drinking tea during their often long hours meditations in order to stay awake. It’s also true that the monks every morning drank tea and flushed their mouth as they had no toothbrushes, since the tea had a purifying and refreshing effect. This behavior is said to have been first introduced in the Yang Ling Monastery on Mount. Tai and have spread from there to other monasteries. After some time, the monks began to cultivate tea, the world’s first book on tea was written <the the classic of tea 茶经> by Lu Yu 陆羽 (733—804), who grew up as an orphan in a Buddhist monastery, his nickname “The Saint of Tea”. This Fired Tea Method was advocated by Lu Yu. He put forward Du Yu’s work <荈赋 Tea Fu>, which was more than 400 years earlier than Lu Yu’s tea classic, and mentioned Tea Fu three times in his book of tea classic, which is rare in his book. It can also be seen that Tea Fu has a very high status in the history of Chinese tea.

500 Arhat Drawing 五百罗汉图 by Zhou Jichang and Lin Tingwei

China is a country of poetry and tea, so tea has introduced into poetry for a long time. As early as the pre Qin and Han Dynasties, the written records about tea have appeared. But at that time, the description of tea was only about tea itself, which did not give tea more charm, artistic conception and connotation. Until the Tang and Song Dynasties, tea drinking became a prevailing custom and was loved by literati. They expressed their feelings and insights on life through tea art, tea ceremony and tea products, thus perfectly combining tea with poetry.

In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), most upper class families enjoyed 龙凤团茶 [lóng fèng tuán chá] tea cakes with dragon and phoenix patterns and Tea-  Competitions 斗茶 “Tea fights 斗茶图” became polular, in order to determine the best teas in the country. At the same time the art of making tea has been developed by the Whisked Tea Method 点茶法. Cha Bai Xi, Tea Acrobatics, is a unique technique which uses paste tea as raw material, with a teaspoon, use clear water to make the tea soup change its pattern. It is different from the method of coffee flower drawing which uses different colors. Cha Bai Xi was first seen in the Tang Dynasty. In the Song Dynasty, it was highly praised by Huizong of the Song Dynasty, ministers of the imperial court, and literati. After the Yuan Dynasty, the tea powder drinking method and Cha Bai Xi gradually declined, but since the Qing Dynasty, there has been no detailed literature on Cha Bai Xi.

Grinding Tea Picture 撵茶图 by Liu Songnian

“Grinding Tea Picture 撵茶图” was painted by Liu Songnian 刘松年 1155-1218). Su Shi 苏轼 wrote <Peach Blossom Tea 桃花茶> , described the beauty of tea harvest and this method. Read More The book written by Zhao Ji 赵佶  (1082-1135) – the 8th Emperor of Song reign, <Treatise on Tea 大观茶论> described the mainstream of tea ceremonies at that time. In the Yuan Dynasty, this method spread throughout the population.

<Pictures of Tea Set> in the late Southern Song Dynasty is a cultural crystallization in this “Whisked tea prosperous era”. The true identity of the author “Shen’an old man” can no longer be tested, but the creative “Twelve gentlemen” in the book is indeed a classic combination of Chinese tea ceremony, Confucian culture and the entertainment of scholars in the Song Dynasty. Twelve kinds of Dian Cha utensils were given surnames, first names, characters and numbers, and were granted different official positions according to the official system of the Song Dynasty.

During the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Quan, the 17th son of Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, who wrote the tea book <Tea Notes 茶谱> Read More  and led a reclusive life as a hermit, then founded a new school of tea ceremony, the Infused Tea Method 撮泡法. The book written by Xu Cishu 许次纾 (1549-1604), <Tea Commentary 茶疏> focued on tea artistic conceptions, and <Tea Theory 茶说> laid the the foundation of tea organoleptic evaluation in 1615 from Huang Longde 黄龙德 (late Qing reign).

Tea Tasting Scroll 品茶图轴 also callled Stop Qin and Taste Tea drawing 停琴品茗图, two people sit opposite each other, as if they were a host and a guest. The banana leaves pave the ground, the host sits on it, the side place teapot, the furnace charcoal fire is blazing. Guest sit on a strange stone, and another strange stone for the Qin stage, Guqin has been packed in the brocade set. At this time, the strings are resting, the tea is brewed, two people holding tea cup, four eyes looking at each other, smelling fragrance and sipping tea, as if the Qin music is still there. The pleasure is left to the reader’s reverie. After reading Chen Hongshou’s Tea Tasting Scroll, at least three informations about the tea ceremony in Ming Dynasty can be found.

Stop Qin and Taste Tea drawing 停琴品茗图 by Chen Hongshou

First, the Infused Tea Method of Ming Dynasty was popular. In Ming Dynasty, the mainstream of Chinese tea production was changed from round cake tea to loose tea, from steamed green to roasted green tea. As a result, the way of tasting tea was changed from cooking or whisking tea to brewing tea in whole leaves. In the painting of Tea Tasting Scroll, there is a single handle flat bottom teapot on the tea stove, and there is a Zisha teapot beside the stove. Obviously, the teapot on the stove is boiling water, the teapot beside the stove is making tea, and the tea tasting cup is on both hands.

Cooking Tea 煮茶图 by Wang Wen

Second, the teapot tea set entered the prosperous period. Yixing’s Zisha pottery can be traced back to the Tang and Song Dynasties, even earlier in the Eastern Wu and Western Jin Dynasties. But at that time, the Zisha pottery had little to do with tea, or it was just a kind of utensil for taking water and holding water. Zisha pottery flourished because of the need to produce and drink tea. With the rise of loose tea in Ming Dynasty, the new method of making tea was popular, and a teapot for making tea really appeared. Because of its good practical function, the Zisha teapot is popular with the literati and some of them participate in the design and production of the teapots. In the poems and paintings of Ming Dynasty, there are many praises or descriptions of Zisha teapots.

Talking about palace affairs 闲话宫事图 by Chen Hongshou

Thirdly, literati pay attention to the choice and construction of the tea drinking environment. The painting of Tea Tasting depicts a natural and elegant tea scene, its characteristic is to see nature in the artificial world. The strange stones for sitting, the wonderful stones for playing Qin, the big banana leaves and the lotus flowers in full bloom, they give people a natural and fresh feeling. The literati in Ming Dynasty pursued the cultural atmosphere and seclusion of tea realm.

Infused Tea Method 撮泡法 [cuō pào fǎ], which was also recorded in Xu Wei‘s 徐渭 (1521-1593 poem) <Seven Categories of Making Tea 煎茶七类>), this method is very similar to the tea methods nowadays.

Seven Categories of Making Tea 煎茶七类 by Xu Wei