Tea Customs and Teawares

Tea Pot

Teapots developed greatly in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Before that, all containers with handles were called “water pot” or “pot with handle”. Pot only for tea was in use in Ming Dynasty. Pot made for the shortage that tea easily went cold in bowl and caught dust. It also simplified the process of having tea, so it was greatly welcomed by people at that time. Although both with the current shape and handle, the Ming pot for tea was very different from the water pot for tea dripping in the Song Dynasty. The current shape of the tea pot in the Ming Dynasty was almost even with the pot mouth, so tea would not overflow from it. The shape of tea pot is in an “S” style, instead of a “steep and deep” one which was essential in the tea pot of the Song Dynasty. Tea pot in the Ming Dynasty was always small. And small ones were the precious ones as “Small tea pot will keep the smell from going away and is good for drinking”. The shape of the Qing tea pots followed that in the Ming Dynasty. However, they improved a lot in the material and there were many porcelain tea pots and purple clay tea pots.

Tea Bowl with Fitted Cover

In term of the shape of teawares, besides tea pot and tea cups, tea bowls with fitted cover were another unique feature of teawares in the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911), it included cover, bowl and base, which means “sky, earth and people” respectively, an ancient Chinese philosophy. The tea bowl with fitted cover could prevent the bowl from getting dust; also, it protected from being scalded. The base could hold the bowl and people could hold the base in order not to be scaled. In the Ming and the Qing Dynasties, Jingdezhen produced a large number of porcelain tea bowls with fitted cover, including celadon, five-color, clashing color, famille rose, underglazed red and single-color ones.

Tea washing container.

Since people in the Ming Dynasty used bulk tea which might catch dust during processing, washing tea became another stage before making tea. The tea washing container is a special utensil for washing tea. It looks like a bowl with two layers. At the bottom of the upper one, there are many small holes. People put tea in it and wash with water. Dust and grits will flow out from the holes with water. Some tea washing containers are made into a flat pot.

Tea boat

Tea boat, also called tea base, tea couch, bowl base, is made to prevent hands from being scalded. Since it looks like the shape of a boat, it is then named tea boat or tea ship. The tea boat was firstly developed from bowl base. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, tea boats with different shapes and materials like ceramic, porcelain, lacquer wood, silver or tin were popular.

Tea basket

At first, the tea basket was a utensil to collect and store tea made of bamboo. In the Qing Dynasty, it was also used to store teawares, similar to teaware containers mentioned in Lu Yu’s The Classic of Tea.

Gao Lian, a dramatist in the Ming Dynasty, enjoyed the sights of mountain and rivers and loved tea and teawares. In order to make drinking tea conveniently outside, Gao Lian designed a basket with handle himself. This was the tea basket. It had the tea pot, stove and charcoal inside, so people could enjoy tea at any time in any place. In ordinary days, it could be used to set teawares. In the Qing palace, drinking tea was very popular. Thus various teawares were welcomed by them. Emperor QianLong was very fond of tea. He had several tours in the south. In order to make it easy to take, he asked people to make a whole set of teaware which was convenient for tours. In addition, he also asked people to design tea basket (also called teaware box) to store all the teawares, including the tea pot, tea bowls, tea jar, stove and water wares. The tea baskets in the Imperial Palace were either made of rosewood only or bamboo together with wood. These tea baskets were delicate and each one was a very creative piece of art work.

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