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Cha Dao and Tea Culture


 
 
Wuyi Oolong Tea Ceremony
 
 
 
Literally, Cha Dao (茶道) means the Way of Tea. “Dao (道)” is the supreme concept in Chinese philosophy, and roughly refers to the underlying essence, principle, or order behind the natural world. Cha Dao stands at the heart of Chinese tea culture. For the Chinese, tea drinking is about much more than simply soaking tea leaves in hot water. Instead, it is often something to be taken seriously.
Tea is a method of self-cultivation; it helps the drinker settle his mind and achieve an inner peace.

To get the most out of tea, the Chinese do not rest content with its health promotion function alone, though tea was indeed initially used as a sort of herbal medicine. Tea is a cultural activity that embodies the philosophical value of the Chinese. It is a method of self-cultivation by achieving inner peace through the simple act of preparing and savoring tea. This is why tea is particularly well liked by the Taoists and Buddhists, (especially the Zen Sect). It takes a good mood for the drinker to fully savour the subtlety of tea aroma, taste and flavor. The drinker had better develop a leisurely and care-free mind, free from such worldly pursuits as fame and gain. It is believed, only through inner peace can one’s soul, just like a mirror, see through the ways of the natural world. Therefore, an elegantly simple and quiet environment is often the ideal setting for tea drinking.

Sharing tea with guests, particularly bosom friends, is an important activity in Cha Dao culture. Serving tea is a gesture of politeness, and the friendship is just as natural and agreeable as tea aroma.

Cha Dao, the Way of tea, is at once the way of human life.

The virtue of tea, as summarized by the late Prof. Zhuang Wanfang, a much revered contemporary scholar on tea, includes:
    -廉 (lian, literally meaning honest and clean), as tea helps the drinker develop a calm and peaceful temperament, purifying the soul and warding off disturbances;
    -美 (mei, literally meaning aesthetic appeal), as tea brings the enjoyment of beauty, both sensual and spiritual;
   -和 (he, literally meaning harmony), as tea is often an enjoyable conversation between friends; and,
    -敬 (jing, literally meaning respect), as serving tea to either guests or seniors is a gesture of politeness.

Cha Dao, then, whatever form and ceremony it may take, manifests such virtue of tea, which is the core of Chinese tea culture. The way of tea bears a lot of similarity to the way of living as a human being. Savoring tea is at once savoring the essence of human life.
Cha Dao in Japan leaves the impression of being much too ceremonious and strict.

It is usually easier for a foreigner to associate Cha Dao with the Japanese tea culture (known as sado) in which tea is prepared and served with such strictness and ceremony. Chinese Cha Dao differs from that in Japan in certain aspects. The Chinese Cha Dao does not designate any “orthodox” set of rules, ceremonious procedures, etc., in tea-drinking practice, and instead, attaches importance to the naturalness and ease in enjoying tea. The Japanese sado features, and is, therefore, more impressive for, a higher degree of standardized formality and ceremony.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Traditional Tea Ceremony with Soft Background Music
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Basics of Chinese Tea Ceremony, Part 1: Getting Started
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Basics of Chinese Tea Ceremony, Part 2: Getting Started
 
 
 


 

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