A Chinese Tea Ceremony

China is mysterious place, as is evident through the traditions and concepts that the people practice and value. There is a sense of curious sorrow in seemingly beautiful acts.

The reportedly most famous tea-house in Guangyuan, a city situated near the historically treacherous valley leading to Sichuan Province, is named after the only female emperor that China has ever had.

Wu Zhao Tea Artistic Trade Co. LTD. is a small tea house in the third floor of a tall retail building nestled amongst a cluster of other like structures with a multitude of street vendors lining the surrounding walkways. After passing through an alleyway and going in what appeared to be the back entrance, an elevator with various unmatched pieces of plywood tacked upon the interior opens on the third floor to an elegant wooden carved display table with a golden Buddha busk and red tapestry.

The lobby is full of shelves lined with tea paraphernalia and tiny pottery. There is a black bird with red eyes who is perched in a cage just above head. He laughs when others laugh and says “Ni Hao” enthusiastically.

The proprietor of the establishment walks us through the facility explaining the traditional significance of each specifically designated tea room. A lady dressed in a bright yellow costume demonstrates the long pot pouring ritual. The tea pot has a spout that is nearly as long as the young woman is tall. She twirls and flips the pot and pours tea posing in differing acrobatic positions. The origin of this method is derived from water temperature control.

We are sat at a small table enclosed in carved wooden canopy with red and gold threaded decor hanging in the circular entrances. There is a soft music playing from a speaker off to the right of me. A woman demonstrates a traditional tea ceremony with dainty flicks of her fingers and swivels of her wrists through each step of the process. Her Chinese explanation is translated to us by our contact Ares. First the tiny tea cups are lined up and rinsed. There are equally small but slightly taller cups used for smelling the tea. The tea leaves are gently poured into a small clay tea pot where they are rinsed with fresh hot water. Once the tinted water is discarded, the pot is refilled with fresh water and the contents are then strained into a clear miniature pitcher before being individually served to each of the guests at the table. We are shown how to hold our tea cups in the ancient manners assigned our particular genders. We smell the tea with the flute like cup then sip from the appropriately designated drinking cup.

The fresh warm tea, the soft voices of the tea house staff and the music beside me sweep over me in a calm wave of relaxing peace.