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Dolly Kao

June 9th, Sunday, 16.30

June 14th, Friday 16.30

Chinese Tea Ceremony 

China is widely known as the hometown of tea, with a tea history of around 4000 years. Tea ceremony originates in China, though, flourished in Japan. Therefore, when people think of tea ceremony, they first think the Japanese tea ceremony. Both Japanese tea ceremony and Chinese tea ceremony conform with the wisdom of oriental philosophy. Furthermore, Chinese tea ceremony reflects the central idea of Taoism, Confucian and Buddhism. That is, the peace. 

“The way of tea’, Chinese tea ceremony is not only to drink tea but also to learn and understand the traditional Chinese culture. Therefore, the tea ceremony is the core of Chinese tea culture. By preparing and drinking tea, the tea masters show their personal thoughts and spiritual world. 

There are three distinctive features of Chinese tea ceremony. First of all, from the way you practice tea ceremony, you show us what kind of person you are, your manners, personality, aesthetic view point, and even inner world. Secondly, Chinese tea ceremony requires peace and pureness. Thirdly, the tea ceremony in China calls for authenticity. The fine tea comes with the spring water, the natural environment, the authentic bamboo or wood tools, and the porcelain tea sets. 

A bit of history 

Legends state that the tea was accidentally invented 4753 years ago by Emperor Shennong, widely considered to be the ancestor of the Han Dynasty in China. A skilled herbalist and scientist, he (or more likely, his servant!) was boiling water in the garden when a stray leaf from a nearby wild plant drifted into the pot. The resulting infusion was delicious and refreshing, prompting the curious Emperor to find out more about this plant and discovering its medicinal properties. 

It is believed that tea drinking might have taken off 1000 years later during Shang dynasty, where it was drunk as a medicinal tonic first before it was being enjoyed for leisure. By the 7th century, tea was firmly established as China’s national drink and it received its own full length book, Cha Ching (The classic of Tea). However, it was only in 2016, where tea was buried in the mausoleum of the Han Emperor Jing Di, that we have factual evidence proving that tea is likely to have been drunk as early as the 2nd century. 

Since the early 1900s, Chinese weddings have modernized and partly following western practice. However, the tradition of tea ceremonies in Chinese weddings has remained, and is still highly treasured today. 

A wedding ceremony shouldn't be confused with a gongfu tea ceremony for appreciating tea. 

In a traditional Chinese wedding, the tea ceremony is one of the most significant events. It includes very formal introductions of the bride and groom and shows respect to their families. The earliest written record of tea ceremonies emerged during the Tang Dynasty over 1200 years ago. It was initially called cha dao (茶道)or the way of tea.

Given that tea is an important part of Chinese culture, it's not surprising that it's part of a traditional Chinese wedding. Both bride and groom are expected to serve tea in a gaiwan to both sides of the parents, representing an important moment in which members of both families become relatives of each other. In the very first documented versions of such ceremony, the couple would serve tea to the groom's family after exchanging vows. Then bride would have served tea privately to her own family that morning. However, such practice is rare today, and is only applied by very conservative families. 


Today, many couples choose to show respect to both the bride and groom's families by hosting tea ceremonies for both sides. 


The gongfu tea ceremony or kung fu tea ceremony (Chinese: 工夫茶 or 功夫茶), is a kind of Chinese tea ceremony, involving the ritual preparation and presentation of tea. It is probably based on the tea preparation approaches originated in Fujian and the Chaoshan area of eastern Guangdong. The term literally means "making tea with skill". Today, the approach is used popularly by teashops carrying tea of Chinese origins, and by tea connoisseurs as a way to maximize the taste of a tea selection, especially a finer one. 

In essence, what is desired in Gongfu Cha is a brew that tastes good and is satisfying to the soul. Tea masters in China and other Asian tea cultures study for years to perfect this method. 

Lou Smedts 

Ph.D. (DPhil) Philosophy 

Ph.D. Art & Science. (Arts, Humanities and Education) 

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