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    

20th. Chinese Yixing Bamboo Form Tea Pot, Seal Marked Base And Lid19th C. To 20th Chinese Yixing Teapot Rounded Form With Marked Base19th-20th C. Chinese Yixing Famille Rose Dragon Decorated Teapot 12yk Japanese Antique Meiji Gold Repair Kintsugi Seto Ceramic Chawan Tea Bowl NrAntique Chinese Yixing Pottery Teapot Applied Seeds Nuts 19c Signed Wow RareVery Unusual Antique Islamic Indian Kashimiri Solid Silver Art Deco Tea Set 3pcRare Chinese With Figures Jar Vase TeapotJapanese Tea Ceremony Scroll : Daitoku-ji Nishigaki Daido "enso" W/box @w208A844 Japanese Old White Pottery Ware Tea Bowl With Repair As A Reference ProductRare & Elegant Qianlong 1736-1795 Armorial Famille Rose Tea Bowl Chinese AntiqueChinese Ming/qing Yixing Zisha Trapezium Teapot/cups-engraved-inscribed-signedAntique Japanese Satsuma Meiji Sake Tea Pot Signed Kizan Superbly Painted 4.5"wdSigned Chinese Yixing Pottery Teapot With Incised Calligraphy19th C. Chinese Yixing Teapots Inscribed And A Double Chamber Example (as Is)Antique Chinese Yixing Teapot Tree Form Seal Mark To Base And LidChinese Export Silver Tea Caddy Birds In Bamboo GardenChinese Yixing Double Barrel Teapot ŮAntique Indian Repousse Silver Tea CaddyFe5: Japanese Artistic Tea Cups By Emperor's Favorite Potter, Yasuyuki MizutaniJapanese Wajima Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Ivy Makie Rikyu-natsume (1205)Antique Chinese Hand Carved Ivory Coloured Cow Bone Tea Scoop Of A Hotei 1890Indian Silver Tea Set Manner P. Orr & Sons SignedTea Ceremony Scroll : Daitoku-ji Kobori Takugen "yume / Dream" W/box @w179Indian Silver Tea Set Cobra Handles Hunt ScenesAntique Chinese Yixing Pottery Pewter & Jade Hardstone Calligraphy TeapotA Nice 19c. Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Hundred-boys TeapotFc5: Vintage Japanese Hand-shaped Tea Bowl, Shino Ware, Wabi Sabi TasteA843: Japanese Old Misasa Pottery Ware Tea Bowl With Good Work And Taste A767: Korean Rhee-dynasty Style Pottery Tea Bowl Of Popular Ido-chawanA856: Japanese Old Kuro-raku Pottery Tea Bowl With Sign Of Kichizaemon StyleJapanese Traditional Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Willow Makie Natsume (1205)Japanese Oribe Pottery Green Glaze Tea Bowl ChawanFh9: Japanese Natural Bamboo Basket With Bamboo Vase, Ikebana, Tea CeremonyA847 Japanese Kuro Raku Pottery Tea Bowl With Good Sign Like Kichizaemon. KonyuA857: Japanese Wooden Storage Box For Tea Bowl. Popular Kiri. Shiho-zan 1A845: Japanese White Raku Pottery Ware Tea Bowl With Colorful Painting.Antiques Chinese Teapot Yixing 19 Th C.rareJapanese Samurai Koshirae Katana Sword Yajiri Arrow Armor Kabuto Tansu Teapot Bluish Black Dragon Pattern Cast Iron Japanese Teapot SetAntique Chinese Yixing Zisha Red Clay Teapot - Signed On BaseKangxi 1662-1722 Blue And White Jar Tea Caddy Oriental Antiques PorcelainThree 19th C. Chinese Famille Rose Teapots With Figural ScenesChinese Tea Dust Monochrome Glaze Vase Four Character Mark On Base H725: Chinese Porcelain Ware Teapot With Traditional Glaze Called Soba Antique Chinese Yixing Porcelain Tea Pot, Cups, Set, SignedJapanese Ceramics, Shimaoka Tea PotChinese Glazed Yixing Zisha Pottery Tea Tray 9" Plate Pre-1800Pair Of Early 20th C. Tea Dust Glazed Porcelain Bulb TraysR197:japanese Iron Mushikui Gotoku Tripod Three Legged Kettle Stand,tea CeremonyFine Chinese Zisha Purple Sand Teapot Marked Master Cui Yinxian No ReserveChinese Coral Red Tea Cups Calligraphy Tongzhi MarkedA846: Japanese Aka-raku Pottery Ware Tea Bowl With Good Taste By BirakuSuperb Vintage Collectable Old Handwork Rare Unique Cloisonne Flower TeapotFj8: Vintage Japanese Tenmoku Tea Bowl, UrasenkeJapanese Traditional Lacquer Wooden Tea Caddy Arabesque Makie Chu-natsume (1120)Fn9: Japanese Tea Bowl, Seto Ware, Famous Potter, Eichi Kato, Blue & BrownAntique & Rare Japanese Pottery Banko Oceanic Scene Pines & Seagulls Tea PotChinese Lidded Tea Cup Gaiwan Famille Rose Figures Tongzhi MarkedA848: Real Old Japanese Lacquer Ware Powdered Tea Container With Makie, ShifukuA858: Japanese Wooden Storage Box For Tea Bowl. Popular Kiri. Shiho-zan 2