In countries like China and Japan, tea is more than something you serve to guests on chilly days, more than simply an accompaniment to an afternoon meal. You don’t just put on a teapot and grab random mugs out of your cabinet. Tea is a ritual, or a religious ceremony, reflecting the principles and practices of Zen Buddhism. The process of making and serving the tea, and the dishes and utensils used in the ceremony, are as important as the drinking of the tea itself—nothing about it is casual or careless.

Tea was first discovered in ancient China, where it was consumed for medicinal purposes and then for pleasure. In the 9th century, a Chinese author Lu Yu, strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism, wrote “The Classic of Tea,” which detailed the correct way to cultivate and prepare tea. This book had a tremendous influence on what is now known as Tea Culture, or “The Way of Tea,” in China and Japan.

In China, ceremonial tea, or “cha dao,” is served for many specific reasons, including to show respect for an elder or superior, to celebrate a family gathering, to apologize or show regret or submission, or, during a wedding, to unite the two sides of the family. Chinese tea sets may have tea containers, bamboo cushions, tea bowls (cha hai and cha he), a serving pitcher (gong dao bei), tea strainer, tea pot or kettle, aroma cup, taste cup, and gaiwan (covered bowl). Chinese tea tools include a needle for dredging the tea pot, tweezers, scoop (cha zhe), tea spoon, and tea funnel.

Tea migrated to Japan through Buddhist monks around the 12th century, and “The Way of Tea,” also known as chado, had a tremendous influence on Japanese culture. The tea ceremony, called “chanoyu,” has rigid rules regarding the tools and procedures, and the purpose of the ceremony is to bring the participants into the moment, so they focus on the details and aesthetics of the utensils, the serving dishes, the flavors and scents, and the ambiance of the room.

Over the years, a while range of tea schools emerged, including aristocratic, warrior, sencha (Chinese-style green tea), and merchant, but “wabi cha” is the most popular. In the 1400s, Sen Rikyu developed this school, intended to be humble and rustic. The idea was to remove the experience of tea from everyday life. The ideal tea room would have a small door requiring men to crouch to get through it, so that even warriors and aristocrats would be humbled. They would leave the trappings of their status—watches, jewelry, swords, and military regalia—outside.

A Japanese tea room features scrolls, a brazier, a kettle, a water pitcher, a slop bowl, a tea caddy, a water pourer, a bamboo whisk, a bamboo tea scoop, and the tea bowl. In “wabi cha,” all participants at a tea drink from the same tea bowl, while in “sencha,” each gets his own.

Tea utensils are stored in boxes within boxes, with handwritten labels. Boxes signed by a tea master are considered much more value than those that are unsigned—signed tea boxes indicate that the tools inside are of highest quality and craftsmanship. However, in some cases, it’s possible financial “gifts of gratitude” to the tea master might have had something to do with why they were signed.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj

“Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj” was the title of a 2008 exhibition at Columbia University’s Mi… [read review or visit site]

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 1899 Chinese Export Porcelain Tea Pot Cheng Wenhuan Late Qing DynastyImportant1800 Chinese Yixing Zisha Juan Blue Flambe Glaze Teapot By Ge MingxiangA Beautiful Antique Chinese Yellow Yixing Teapot 吳忻南 Wu XinnanLb7: Japanese Tea Bowl, Ohi Ware By Great Potter, Choraku Ohi, Kintsugi RepairInteresting Signed Chinese Yixing Zisha Clay Carved Wine Pot TeapotInteresting Signed Chinese Yixing Zisha Clay Carved Wine Pot TeapotLate 19th Century Chinese Yixing Teapot With CaliigraphyEstate Fresh Signed Chinese Yixing Zisha Spotted Clay Wine Pot TeapotA Pair Chinese Gilt Famille Rose Covered Porcelain Tea Caddies Tongzhi Mark Yixing Tea Pot Teapot Chinese Pottery Branch 19th Century Antique Landscape TextAntique Japanese Oriental Bronze & Pewter Large Tea Caddy Meiji PeriodChinese Antique Wucai Tea Bowl Birds & Flowers 18th Century Famille Verte QingGreat 19c Chinese Famille Verte Enamel Figural Puzzle Wine Ewer Teapot Kangxi MkFine Old Chinese Enamel Covered Copper Elephant & Immortals Decorated Tea TrayLot Of 8 Old Chinese Yixing Zisha Tea Cups And TrayChinese Nanking Cargo Shipwreck "tea Bowl & Saucer" Circa 1750 Christies LabelsTea Ceremony Scroll : Rinzai Sect Seki Seisetsu "kumo / Cloud" W/box @c513Exquisite Antique Chinese Export Orange Sacred Bird & Butterfly Dome TeapotG388 Great Korean Joseon Dynasty Pottery Tea Bowl Of Ao-ido-chawan W/double Box.Fine Small 19th C Japanese Satsuma Figures Teapot - SignedChinese Republic Tea Pot Iron Red Dog Of Foo & InscriptionAntique 18th Century Chinese Tea Caddy Very RareA Beautiful Antique Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Tea Pot 吳 錦泰 Wu Jintai 1908Vintage Signed Chinese Yixing Calligraphy Teapot W/ SealYongzheng 18th Cent. Chinese Export European Subj. Polychrome 3-piece Tea SetQing Dynasty Chinese Antique Octagonal Teapot - 17th Century - Kangxi Blue WhiteOld Chinese Yixing Zisha Teapot With MarkingsLe8: Japanese Tea Bowl, Kyo Ware By Human Cultural Treasure, Yasutaka ShimizuLa7: Japanese Hagi Ware Tea Bowl With Notched Foot By Seigan Yamane, Oni-hagi4 Fine Chinese Decorated Blue,white,gold 19th C Coffee; Tea Cup Twin HandledTea Ceremony Scroll 4 Pcs : Daitoku-ji Gozan,soen,ippo "calligraphy" @u197Chinese Export Porcelain Tea Cup Mug Tankard 19th Antique Blue And White Nanking19th Century Chinese Porcelain Teapot Butterfly Famille Verte Lf3 Japanese Tea Bowl, Shino Ware, National Human Treasure Potter, Toko NakamuraChinese Porcelain Tea Dust Vase Bearing (qianlong Mark)Lk9: Antique Old Korean Pottery Tea Bowl, 19c, JoseonJapan Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Kinrinji-natsume W/ Design In Makie. "bamboo"(f7)Pair Of Old Chinese Yixing Zisha Tea Caddies With Mark On BottomBeautiful Chinese 19th C Empress Dowager Style Turquoise Dragon TeapotQianlong 18th Century Chinese Export European Subject Grisaille Tea Poy MintAntique 18th Century Transfer Printed Blue & White Tea Bowl & Saucer C1780 NrAntique Japanese Meiji Satsuma Decorated Dragon Teapot Marked Orig Japanese Woodblock Print Set (4) 3d Architecture Plans For Tea House 19thc陸 奇南 Mark Yixing Zisha Teapot 20th Century Chinese Pottery 梅花香從苦寒來 CalligraphyAntique? Chinese Teapot Yixing Pottery Zisha Old Lid Mark Inside W/ Handle VtgEarly 20th C Century Chinese Pottery Bell Shaped Yixing Teapot Tea Pot AntiqueLa8: Japanese Tea Bowl, Hagi Ware By Famous Potter, Seigan Yamane, Blue GlazeSuperb Antique Chinese Export Orange Sacred Bird & Butterfly Dome Teapot - SquatFine Antique 18th C Chinese Porcelain Ribbed Teapot Imari ColorsChinese Antique 18th C. Poreclain Export TeapotTea Ceremony Scroll 4 Pcs : Daitoku-ji Priests And Tofuku-ji Bunjo W/box @c508La3: Japanese Tea Bowl, Hagi Ware By Famous Seigan Yamane, 3 Color GlazesSmall Yixing Chinese Asian Oriental Teapot Signed 19th Century Chinese Brown Clay Yixing Enamel Teapot / Signed .nrChinese Rose Medallion Porcelain Teapot And BoxQianlong 18th Century Chinese Export European Subject Grisaille 3-piece Tea SetTea Ceremony Scroll 4 Pcs : Daitoku-ji Kando,taido,yodo,and Kanshu W/box @c509Ll5: Japanese Wooden Teaspoon, Chashaku With Signed Wooden Box, Tea CeremonyGood Set Of 19th/20th C Shanghai Tung King Yixing Pewter Dragon Teapots & Tray Antique 18th Century Transfer Printed Blue & White Tea Bowl & Saucer C1780 Nr