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    

C1850 Chinese Export Gold Gilt Lacquer Tea Caddy Stands On Winged Dragon Feet Rare Japanese Sterling Silver Chagama Tea KettleFine 19th C Chinese Yixing White Jade Pewter Landscape Calligraphy TeapotMuseum Quality! Top Rare! Chinese Strait Antiques Porcelain Famille Rose TeapotRare! Marked! Chinese Circa 1898 Antiques Porcelain Famille Rose TeapotVintage Chinese Redware Yixing Zisha Clay Lobbed Brown Teapot Foo Dog Lid SignedNice Chinese Yixing Red Clay Teapot, 19th Century. Marked.A Superb Chinese 18c Powder Blue Glazed Teapot/cover-kangxiRare Large Chinese *yixing Tea Pot* Seal Mark Qing Dynasty Red Clay Metal HandlePair Of Marked Straits Chinese, Nonya Ware Tea Bowls. Guangxu Period.Nice Chinese Yixing Red Clay Teapot, 19th Century. Marked.Antique Japanese Kutani Tea Bowl Hand Painted Scholars Students Riding Carp 1910Smallest Miniature Chinese Yixing Teapot Enamelled C19th Century Antique RareChinese Yixing Famille Rose Foo Dog TeapotVintage Or Antique Chinese Yixing Clay Teapot5p Finest Antique 1920's Japanese Arts & Crafts Sterling Silver Sake Tea Cup SetC1850-1900 Meiji Period Satsuma Dragon Teapot Rare 18th / 19th C Chinese Qianlong Marked Blue White Tea Caddy W/ CalligraphiesAntique Chinese Yixing Pottery Gold Silver Teapot Signed-marked Marks 18-19th C.19th Century Chinese Yixing TeapotChinese Yixing Clay Bamboo Teapot With Calligraphy, Drawing & Signature!Japanese Bizen Ware Teapot By Ichiraku Fukuda/ Nice Style & Laze/ 6699Kangxi Clobbered Porcelain Tea Caddy With Silver CollarVintage Small Yixing Teapot Base Marked & Flower & Calligraphy Nice No RA Stunning And Rare Japanese Imari Tea Caddy,meiji Period.signedSuperb Collection Handmade Decoration Cherry Bark Expensive Tea BoxesVintage Or Antique Chinese Yixing Clay Teapot With Dragon SpoutAntique 18th Century Chinese Enamel Lidded Tea Bowl Figural- Small. Rare. Chinese 18thc Antique Famille Rose Mandarin Tea Bowl C1750 QianlongLarge Islamic Dallah Arabia Arab Arabic Eastern Arabian Coffee Tea Pot TurkishSigned Original Antique Chinese Enamelled Yixing Stoneware Teapot, A/fNice Perfect Chinese Porcelain Tea Caddie, Figures, 18th Century.Japanese Tea Ceremony Scroll : Daitoku-ji Fukumoto Sekio "konichi" @f256Five Chinese Porcelain Kangxi Style Blue & White Tea CupsIndian Silver Teapot C1890 In The Manner Of P. Orr & Sons 1800's Qing Porcelain China Trade Export Blue White Tea Pot Nanking Nanjing YqzExquisite Chinese Antique Qing Dynasty Porcelain Top Handle Teapot Ta567kLate 1800s Meiji Shippo Cloisonne Pair Tea Set Creamer Milk Sugar Bowl Cover YqzAntique Chinese Tongzhi/guangxu Teapot Inscribed Decoration Chinese CalligrapyChinese Yixing Pottery Stoneware Teapot With Calligraphy Mark To Base Tea Pot Nice Old Chinese Peach Form Teapot Turquoise Aubergine Glaze CadoganNice Chinese Yixing Teapot, Tree Design, 20th Century. Marked.Good Vintage Chinese Yixing Teapot Beautifully Made Signed With Poem To SideAntique Meiji Japanese Satsuma Tea Trio '1000 Butterflies' Pattern Artist SignedA1165: 1930's Japanese Tin Elliptical Tea Cup Tray/saucer Chataku 5sets, Auto20th Century Small Yixing Teapot With Blue EnamelsAntique Sahelian Islamic Low Grade Silver Tea Caddy Canister Box; Kano C1930 Signed Japanese Porcelain Satsuma/fukagawa Lidded Persimmon Box-tea Caddy/kogoJapan 1900's Tight Banko Ware Pottery Tea Pot Masks Folk Festival Characters YqzPair 19th Century Chinese Blue & White Tea Cups With Covers And Holders, MarkedA1183: Japanese Iron Tea Kettle Teapot Nambu Tetsubin Sangando Made, SenchaA1215: Japanese Tin Weight-shaped Tea Cup Tray/saucer Chataku 5sets, AutoJapanese Old Copper Kettle/ Tea Ceremony/ Nice Style & Pattern/ 6731Japanese Hanging Scroll "japanese Tea Pot And Cup" @f292Nice 18th Century Qianlong Porcelain Tea Pot With MonogramsNice Chinese Porcelain Republic Teapot, Figures, Ca. 1900. Marked.6 Antique Japanese Kutani Tea Cups & Saucers Secret Geisha To Base Japan C1920sFantastic Antique Hand Painted Japanese Teapot Export Ware Made In The 1800sChinese Old Porcelain Collectable Handwork Painting Chook Tea Bowl Cup Ornament Solid Silver Rare Chinese 3 Piece Tea Set Wang Hing 1890c Hand Made 863 Grams