Chinese Tea Ceremony Gong fu Cha

by WriterArtist

China is the homeland of tea and Gonf fu Cha. Potteries and tea ceremonies were commonplace in the Tang dynasty. Poets and Tea Masters perfected the art of teamaking at that time.

China unequivocally has the origins of ancient tea. Some Chinese documents go back as far as 5000 years to show Chinese people drank tea with fervour. One of the popular and most consumed beverages in the world, the documents also show early traces of origins and their interpretations to the neighbouring countries like Thailand, Japan and India.

An interesting anecdote dates back from the time of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung when a wild camellia sinensis blossom fell into his cup of boiling water. Dried leaves falling into the water gave rise to an intense flavour that was unmistakably heavenly and exotic. A simple infusion of tea was born.

What a coincidence it was, incidentally, as it was the first introduction of wild tea. From there, the beverage hasn’t shied away to take bold steps in capturing the hearts of people who have taken fancy to the tonic tea leaves. Tea took by leaps and bounds to spread in the world like a wildfire.

Image Credit – Wikimedia, Public Domain, Author : Neptunati
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Gongfu Cha Ceremony

Chinese Tea Culture

The Chinese Tea ceremony Gong fu Cha is an age-old technique carefully preserved in some forms in texts and with tea masters who outlined the making, offering and drinking of tea ceremony. There are 21 steps to be followed methodically and diligently. The old-fashioned ceremony involves a Chinese tea set, tea table, a kettle, Gaiwans (usually 3 or more teacups), a set of tools to aid in serving and making. The tea used in the ceremony is always oolong tea. This is the tea preferred by Chinese people.

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Preparation of Tea and Utensils Used

Chinaware

 

To prepare tea, people might have started with earthen and wooden pots. They were in search of a vessel that would not alter the properties of tea leaves. It was a time when people were experimenting with wood, earth, metal (iron and copper), clay for tea making. Later porcelain came into picture. Porcelain got good acceptance in China and carries a good reputation today from ancient eras.

Even today, tea is prepared in various earthen pots. Stainless steel is a choice for modern tea lovers. To prepare tea, porcelain is not the first choice. Expensive porcelain is reserved for making teacups. People would rather drink from porcelain cups than use it on stove. In some parts of China, porcelain is used for boiling tea too.

Gaiwans and Zisha

Tea Making Vessels

 

Gaiwan and Zisha are not as popular as teapots in the world. But, in China, gaiwans are the preferred vessel for everyone, from rural folks, farmers to highly skilled Tea masters. It would be interesting to note that ancient gaiwans were larger than today and usually used for soups. Sometime around the size shrank, till then, the tea leaves were pushed back in gaiwan to sip tea.

 

In China, do what Chinese do. Unless you drink and make tea in Gaiwan, you can’t be termed a serious Chinese Tea fan. Gaiwans are made from porcelain, these special utensils allow a high concentration of tea leaves and therefore the brew it produces is highly potent, thickened and undiluted. Needless to say, it is rich in flavour and retains original taste of tea leaves.

 

Zisha requires an expert tea master to bring the best of tea making. The utensil itself does not hold any promises. Like art, it needs years of practicing which tea, what amount of water is required to make a good tea. Pouring from zisha to teacup also needs to be mastered.

Mud and Earthenware


To keep the taste as original and genuine, many utensils were tried out. My personal experience with earthenware is amazing. I cannot forget the taste of tea in earthen pots I first had in railway stations when I was a small kid. Those concoctions were delicious. After drinking tea one could just throw the cups. They would disintegrate with nature better than plastic cups present everywhere today. After all they were mud.

Decorative Art in Chinese Tea


The search of enlightenment in mundane arts like flower arrangement and tea ceremony depicts that any art can reach the zenith of spirituality and embraced aesthetics.


Calligraphy, painting, theatre, poetry, music and martial arts go hand in hand with tea mastering. In China, traditional painting and calligraphy made a scholar learned. Learning musical instruments and mastering chess were also considered art. These art when practiced by a scholar would earn him honour and respect during Tang and Song dynasty.

In mid-18th century, poetry and art flourished. The famous poet Luwuh saw a golden opportunity in blending tea service with art. He saw the same harmony and order in teamaking as in poetry. In his celebrated work “Chaking” (The Holy Scripture of Tea), he composed the Code of Tea. He has since been revered as one of the prominents tea connoisseurs.

 

Chinese tea pot from the Early Republican Period (1912-1930), but used by a peranakan family in Singapore

Produced by Zhong Hua Min Guo according to the mark stamp. Exhibit in the Peranakan Museum, Singapore.
Chinese tea pot from the Early Republican Period (1912-1930)
Chinese tea pot from the Early Republican Period (1912-1930)
Author Bjoertvedt. This file is licensed under the Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Updated: 06/03/2021, WriterArtist
 
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Do you wish you could have attended Chinese Tea ceremony of ancient times?

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WriterArtist 27 days ago

Dear DerdriuMarriner,
Your interpretations are correct. Nowadays Chinese people use a varieties of tea, they use white and black tea as well. They might not have kept their tea ceremony as formal and traditional as the Japanese people. Japanese love to preserve their culture and art. Well, Indians do not engage in traditional tea ceremony, not that I know of any. Indians generally prefer black processed tea with milk and sugar. They may add spices to make Masala Chai.

Decorative arts went hand in hand with tea ceremony. We have Poets, Painters and Writers turned into Tea Masters. Chinese martial arts and chess were also considered as art to acquire.

There were many routes from India to China. The old Silk Route is an ancient hilly-road that used to connect Lhasa in Tibet via the Jelep La Pass to India. India did invent Ancient chess called 'Chaturanga' which passed on to China.

DerdriuMarriner 28 days ago

WriterArtist, Thank you for all the practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Yes, my time-travel list includes being able to attend the first tea ceremony ever (and then over intervals to see how it changed and standardized).
You indicate that the Chinese tea ceremony always uses oolong. Would an Indian tea ceremony always use one tea or would it vary by region?

In a related direction, you indicate that "Calligraphy, painting, theatre, poetry, music and martial arts go hand in hand with tea mastering. In China, traditional painting and calligraphy made a scholar learned. Learning musical instruments and mastering chess were also considered art. These art when practiced by a scholar would earn him honour and respect during Tang and Song dynasty." It makes me think of that Tarim River Basin corridor of cultural transmissions from India to China. Chess started in India by no less than 1,600 years ago. It would have been China-ized as xiangqi within 300 to 500 years later if it was started during the Tang Dynasty.

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