Friday, 15 April 2016

Chinese tea setting 茶席

Recently, gastric, the surge of workload and planning for overseas assignments have taken too much of my free time that little is left for me to indulge in tea, books and blogging. Sometimes ago, I’ve promised my friends from Chanoyu Tea Art to blog about a new concept in tea setting; how the Zen and minimalist concept are incorporated into the new art of Chinese tea brewing, hence I am glad that today, I am able to deliver this long overdue blog.

Chinese tea setting for six - a plate, pot, poker, cups, a little green and tea mat.
When I was introduced to Chinese tea art (茶艺) more than ten years ago, I was told that I must first own two medium size purple clay teapots from Yixing with a few porcelain cups. Then, I must have a tea tray and a tea utensil set with a unique name of “six gentleman (六君子)” which that consists of:

1. a spoon/scoop to place the tea leaves in the brewing pot.
2. a funnel to facilitate pouring tea from the brewing pot into the sharing pot/teapot without spilling.
3. tweezers/tongs to lift the drinking cups and savour the tea's fragrance when they are too hot to handle.
4. a scraper to remove used tea from the brewing pot after use.
5. a poker to remove leaves that might have gotten caught in the spout of the brewing or teapot.
6. a needle to clean out the brewing pot. 

The next to have is an electric kettle or traditional alcohol purple clay stove. Then, add in the tea caddy, teapot brush, tea strainer and fair cup. For good measure, a tea pet made of purple clay in the form of auspicious figurines must be added to adorn the tea tray. With all these items, the Chinese tea art set is complete.

A tea setting for four, arrangement done in accordance with one's whim and fancy.
However, for the past year or so, a new type of Chinese tea art known as 茶席 or loosely translated as “Chinese tea setting” started to gain popularity and in come the minimalist tea setting that made do without the tea tray. The tools that are needed for tea ceremony are no longer being displayed in full within the confine of the tea tray. It can now be placed according to one’s whim and fancy of the day, as seen in accompanying pictures. And for replacement, a little green took over the role of tea pet's  in adorning the tea table. 

Calligraphy, arts and tea - always the perfect match. 
Besides that, one can include some beautiful fabric, tea mat or even a piece of rice paper inscribed with beautiful calligraphy or some casual painting to function as a table cloth. Since time immemorial, the combination tea, calligraphy, painting and poetry are inseparable.

In conclusion, the very essence of the original tea drinking art and its association with the literati class dating back to Lu Yu who wrote the Tea Classics (茶经) are brought back and reintroduced through this new arrangement. 

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