Start prepping for the Games one sip at a time
The China National Tea Museum is hosting an exhibition of 125 tea-related artifacts from several Asian countries until November 12, coinciding with the 19th Asian Games.
China's tea industry enjoyed massive successes during the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, when the country also saw economic growth.
Tea drinking became popular during the Tang Dynasty with the release of Lu Yu's book "The Classic of Tea." Lu, known in China as the "sage of tea," made significant contributions to the cultivation, production, and consumption of tea.
Tang-style tea ceremonies included a series of performances, procedures, and specific criteria for using tea leaves and containers. People used a variety of metals, jade, or porcelain to create various vessels, which enriched Chinese tea culture.
A Tang Dynasty silver saucer on display could represent the classic design of tea utensils from that period. This antique was discovered alongside other 950 silver handicrafts near Dingmao Bridge in Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province.
Due to its high economic value and exquisite malleability, silver has long been a prized material by craftspeople. The then-royal court permitted private mining and unfettered trade. Previously inaccessible silver was made available to the general public.
This silver saucer has smoother lines, a thinner texture, and a flowery shape.
Tea became the mainstay during the Song Dynasty, and from high-ranking officials in the imperial court to ordinary villagers, everyone consumed it on a daily basis. Song people pioneered a novel manner of consuming tea by creating finely crushed powder from processed green tea, which was completely different from modern-day drinking habits.
The exhibition features a teapot produced in Song Dynasty Wuzhou, which is now Jinhua and Quzhou cities in Zhejiang Province. The Wuzhou Kiln was at its peak during that period. Unlike most Wuzhou porcelains, which are sandy beige in color, the teapot on display is covered with a layer of brown glaze. It is thought to have been used in doucha (斗茶), a folk evaluation contest involving a number of rigid procedures to select top-notch tea leaves.
The aromatic tea leaves were transferred to different regions and countries in ancient times via the Ancient Tea Horse Road and Silk Road and gradually found favor with nomads. Because the tea helped people digest red meat, it became a staple alongside salt and grains.
Nonetheless, their eating habits differed from those of the Chinese Han people. Instead of simply brewing tea with water, they blended tea leaves with salt and milk and occasionally added dried meat and fried rice.
The display also includes a Tibetan copper tea vessel engraved with silver dragon motifs. It was made in modern Tibet and represents the classic design of tea containers among nomadic people.
Eventually, tea became the mainstay throughout Middle and West Asia, where the dominant religion restricted the use of alcohol. The displayed containers, cups, and teapots have intricate designs and flashy ornamentation, reflecting people's appreciation of tea.
Tea drinking traditions were simplified and diversified under the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Modern-day consumption habits emerged during that era.
During the Ming Dynasty, the imperial government sent Zheng He to the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to establish sovereignty, foster foreign exchanges, and develop friendly relations with neighboring countries.
During his seven travels, he visited approximately 30 countries and regions in Asia and Africa. Tea was a popular commodity in the maritime trade during expeditionary missions.
Following the growing marine trade, merchants from Fujian and Guangdong provinces started the tea business in Peninsular Malaysia. Their descendants are today's Baba-Nyonya, who live in Malaysia and Singapore.
Nyonya refers to ladies, while Baba refers to men. They have retained most of their ethnic and religious identities. A set of Baba-Nyonya teacups exemplifies the confluence of Chinese and Malaysian cultures.
Date: Through November 12, closed on Mondays
Address: 88 Longjing Rd