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Tea-drinking Customs
A Chinese proverb goes like this-the first seven things a day are firewood, rice, oil, salt, catsup,
A young girl of Bai Nationality is cooking tea.
vinegar and tea. Tea is an indispensable part in the life of Chinese  people. The first six of the seven things are used either as fuel or condiment for cooking, having something to do with feeding people. Tea is the only drink£®Although it ranks last in the first seven things, it occupies a special position.
It was a popular Chinese custom to entertain one's guest with tea to show great respect to him. People in different areas had various ways of serving tea.
Wealthy and influential families in North China (the Huanghe River Valley and the region north of it) served their guests with three courses of tea. The host first led the guest to the central room. After greeting each other, the host would ask their servants or children to serve tea. The first course of tea, which was presented when the guest had just arrived, served only as a formality. The guest either left it untouched or took a sip. The second course was served as host and guest talked animatedly with each other. The guest tasted the wonderful tea carefully. They talked while drinking, exchanging their feelings. The third course was served after they had finished  talking, and the tea had become weak. The guest then took his leave, and the host saw him off. However, close friends did not adhere to these formalities when they wanted to talk to their hearts' content.
People in regions south of the Yangtze River have entertained guests with the best tea and food to give blessing and show respect to them since the Song and Yuan dynasties. Hunan people entertained guests with tea containing fried soya beans, sesame and ginger slices. Besides drinking the tea, the guests chewed beans, sesame and tea leaves. Instead of using chopsticks, they patted the rims of teacups to suck the tasty morsels out. Villagers in Hubei Province drank plain water at ordinary times, and entertained guests with tea made of popcorn. Sometimes they added malt and tinosporaes to show special respect to their guests. In regions south of the Yangtze River, people offered their guests yuanbao tea during the Spring Festival to wish them luck and bring wealth and treasures in the coming year. It was made of Chinese olives or kumquats which had been cut open, and looked like yuanbao (a shoe-shaped gold ingot).
    Tea and Marriage
Ancient Chinese considered marriage as the origin of all ceremonies. Zhou Yi-the  classic book of Confucianism-said, "sky and earth give birth to all beings, all beings give rise to couples,  couples give rise to fathers and song; fathers and soils give rise to kings and ministers, kings and ministers give rise to the order of high and low,  and high and low give rise to mistakes in ceremony. "Marriage is regarded as the footstone of the entire moral system, so the durability and stability of marriage has been considerably stressed, as is said in "the principle of marriage is eternity as opposed to ephemerality" From courtship to wedding, certain rules and formalities have to be observed and certain gifts have to be presented. This not only shows respect to marriage£¬but implies people's good wish to the future married life.

     In Tang Dynasty, custom went so that tea was treated as betrothal gift. Since Song Dynasty, tea was even more closely related to wedding. Betrothal gift was also "tea gift," and to present betrothal gift was commonly called to "present tea." If a girl accepted the gift, that was "drink tea." To return the gift ,fruits were usually chosen, sometimes together with tea£¬called ¡°order tea; "Even

"San Dao Cha" tea ceremony is the highest ceremony to treat gueste as far as the people of Bai Nationality in Yunnan.

today, the countryside in many parts of China, engagement is still called "accept tea" and the cash gift in engagement is called ¡°tea cash.¡± If both the boy and girl were willing, they appointed a time to get married. Many guests were invited to attend the wedding,  during which tea, wine, music and opera were four necessary ingredients. In Qing Dynasty, the wedding ceremony developed to the systemized ceremony of ¡°Three Tea¡±, namely ¡°present tea¡± when proposing, ¡°settle tea¡± in wedding, and ¡°join tea¡± on the first night of marriage. According to Lu You¡¯s Notes from Hut of Old Knowledge, in some southern regions at Lu You's time, single boys and girls got together to sing. Boys started with a song with "girls are flowers, come for tea sometimes." So tea was a good excuse for a date. In Hunan Province of mid-south China, tea was also the best tool for boys and girls to communicate.


     When a boy went to a girl's home on a blind date, the girl would serve him tea in person if she

Tea ceremony is still kept in marriage custom in many tea-planting areas of China.

was satisfied with him. And the boy would accept the tea if he was also satisfied. The story didn7t stop at this. Match making, blind date and bridal night were all accompanied by tea to add some fun. The custom of using tea as a matchmaker Was not limited among common folks, either. It even influenced the aristocrats. When a royal marl got married in Song Dynasty, he had to present 50 kilos of tea leaves as betrothal gift. The connection between tea and marriage was so intimate that it's almost "no marriage without tea." Emperor Kangxi(1654; 1722)of Qing Dynasty used to send ministers to south China(south of Yangtze river)to choose wives for him. Girls there all hurried to get married to avoid the widow-like life in the imperial palace. Nevertheless, however poor they the boys were and however hurried they Were, tea was by no means dispensable.


     Even after marriage, tea could not be done without. It played  a role of stabilizing family and promoting conjugal emotion. In Ningbo of Zhejiang Province, there was a custom of "tea of new Son-in-law." When the son-in-law went to his wife7S home for the first time after marriage, his parents-in 1aw would lavishly entertain him with many dishes. Moderate family generally presented tea two or three times, and rich family could present as many as seven or eight times. The girl¡¯s family put their expectation for the 80n-in-law in the tea. Local people believed that even though discords occurred between the Couple, as long as the husband remembered how well

The farmers of Lahu Nationality in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province, are picking up spring tea.

his parents; in-law once treated him, he would treat his wife kindly.

    Tea with Friends
    Western people are accustomed to treating guests with coffee while Chinese people prefer tea."Present tea as wine to a guest arriving on a cold night while water is boiling in the bamboo stove-on reddening fire. Host presents a cup of fragrant tea to show his hospitality.Generally, apparatus for guests to drink tea should be clean, and the rule of "tea 50% full and wine l00% full" Should be observed when serving tea. Because hot tea tastes better, and it will get cooler if the guest cannot finish a full cup of tea. When there is only l/3  of water left in the cup. host should re-fill the cup. As tea can help people digest, it is bad for the stomach if one drinks it with an empty belly. So when treating guests with tea, host usually Serves some delicious snacks as accompaniment.

     To treat guests with tea not a custom confined to Han nationality. Ethnic groups do so,too. For

The boiling water pouring pouring from a high point can cool down slightly so as to warm the tea leaves perfectly.

the Bai nationality of Yunnan, the most respectful way of treating guest to serve "Three-course Tea "which has a parlance of "firstly bitter, secondly sweet, and lastly aftertaste; ¡¯implying the vicissitude of life. When honored guest arrives, the hospitable Bai people lead him in to sit in front of a fire. After the water boils, host takes out the special grit jar for tea making, puts it on the fire, and adds leaves into it. Host will shake the jar to evenly warm the leaves, and add boiling  water later. When the water enters the heated grit{ar, the steam will make an enormous thunder like sound. so this tea is also called "Thunder-sound Tea. When the tea is ready, it is served to each guest. This is the first course-bitter tea. The first course has the color of amber and tastes bitter and acerbic, but leaves a mouthful of after fragrance, totally dispelling the journey exhaustion. Right after this the second course is  presented. Based on the first course, it has brown sugar, honey, walnut powder, pine  nut, and other condiments f so it is called "sweet Course y tasting sweet and mellow.

  Both host and guest sing and dance together, enjoying themselves to their hearts  content. The leaves, cups and plates for "Three-Course Tea" are all specially made, and the decorum of serving tea involves l8 steps. Each course is served by two girls or boys, one of whom holds the plate and the other takes it ¡®tea serving¡± bow to the guest first and then holds the cup with both hands to the height of his or her eyebrows, to show his or her respect for the guest.


Heating Flower-and-Grass tea.

    Tea is not only to show welcome but refusal as well. in the world of officials in Qing Dynasty, there was a custom of "serving tea and showing the door. When a guest came to an official7s home, he was generally treated with tea£®But tea drinking was different from wine drinkin9. Host might persuade guests to take tea, but he wouldn¡¯t raise the cup for a toast like in wine drinkin9. If the host didn7t like the visitor, or he had urgent affairs in hand, he would raise his own cup and asked the visitor to drink, hoping that he would leave as Soon as the tea was finished£®The guest normally understood and took his leave£¬without actually drinking up the tea£®

     Elegance in tea cup
     Men of letters in the past all had indissoluble relation with tea. Every year, when tea picking time Came, they would send the newly picked leaves to their relatives or friends living far away, showing that they missed them. When men of letters gathered for a party, tea and wine were the best accompaniment for poems and Couplets, tea being particularly esteemed£®In the latter half of Tang Dynasty, men of letters emulated monks to hold tea parties. Also in Tang Dynasty, Purple Bamboo Shoot Tea and Sun.
As an art, tea-drinking requires a special environment. In ancient times there were many participants in large tea parties and imperial tea feasts. For example, emperors Kang Xi and Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty held top-grade tea feasts in the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City, and there were thousands of participants at each feast. However, according to the theory of traditional Chinese tea ceremony, it is unnecessary to have very many participants. The theory required one to drink tea in elegant environment, such as by clear springs or in bamboo groves on mountains, in ancient temples and small pavilions, or in one's own garden while appreciating flowers, snow or fish. Many artists of the Ming Dynasty painted such environments. For example, the painting Tasting Tea drawn by Tang Yin depicts some tea devotees drinking tea in a bright hay-thatched hall surrounded by ancient trees and a growth of green plants under bamboo fences on a lofty green mountain. In the Ming Dynasty, most tea enthusiasts built teahouses in their own courtyards and villas. They would burn incense to purify the air in the room, and wash all the teasets before drinking, and then invite friends to drink tea while writing poems, painting or having a long talk under the moon. Generally speaking, the tea's quality, the drinkers' moral quality and the environment should harmonize. People could let nature take its course while a whole family or a couple drink tea at home.

    Tea is the object of past scholars praise and description. In all ages there are numerous poems,

A part of tea utensils made from bamboo to hold tea food.

paintings, and calligraphic works about tea. For scholars, tea is  noble and leaves much room for reflection, embodying high morality. A dialogue between Su Shi and Sima Guang in Song Dynasty well demonstrated this. Sirea Guang asked Su Shi.

    "Tea and Chinese ink are quire opposite in nature because tea needs to be white while Chinese ink needs to be black, tea tends to be Strong while Chinese ink tend to be light, and tea is better new while Chinese ink is better old. How come you like them both so much?" Su Shi answered the question very cleverly.
    "Tea and ink have things in common, too. Rare tea and good ink both emit nice  smell and both have hard shell, so they are quite similar in virtue. They are like two men of honor. In appearance one is black and ugly while the other is white and  beautiful, but they are actually equally lofty at heart. What Su Shi said was approved of by Sima Guang.
Not only friends and acquaintances used tea to improve relationship, even strangers became best friends for mutual fondness of tea.The famous essayist Zhang Dai(1597-1679)wrote such a story. He often heard from friends that an old marl whose surname was Min was very good at cooking tea, so he went to visit him. Seeing Zhang Dai, Old man Min suddenly remembered that he had forgot his walling stick, Bo he hurried back while Zhang Dai waited patiently. Returning with his walk Stick, the old man Was fairly surprised to see Zhang Dai soil there. Zhang Dai told the old man his purpose and refused to leave until he drank a cup of tea cooked by him.
     People like Zhang Dai-loving tea, understanding tea, and enjoying tea are not few. One of them is the great poet Bai Juyi (772; 846), who is perhaps the most mass-friendly poet in old China. Every time he finished a poem, he would read it to art old lady. If she didn't understand he would modify the poem until she did. Bai's poems were highly popular among the contemporaries. Even geishas prided themselves on being able to Sing his ode on Lute. Bai Juyi was addicted to tea, often took tea with local monks during his tenure in Hangzhou and delighted therein. He had written over 20 poems on tea and even wrote biography for tea, comparing it to a noble and capable  minister. Many people copied Bai's poems to trade for tea in the market. For Bai,  who was devoted to tea his whole life  his must have been a big comfort.
     Li Qingzhao(1084-c.1l51)of Song Dynasty is a most eminent female poet in Chinese history; She also stand for the tea-loving females. Li and her husband had a lot in common, both loving reading and tea. Li was Very knowledgeable and could trace the origin of a quotation to the exact row of an exact page in an exact book. She often betted with the husband and the winner got for drink tea first. Li qingzhao won the bet more often and would laugh heartily with a tea cup in hand. But the tea often spilled out because of her laughing and she ended up drinking none. Later, Song Dynasty was threatened by ethnic groups and lost the territory in the north of Yangtze River. Li Qingzhao¡¯s husband was killed in the wartime chaos¡£Losing both a family and a country, Li¡¯s poems were filled with sadness and bitterness. The once pastoral life of tea, poem, and music could only come back in memory