Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Chinese Art of Tea

"Popo's Teapot" - oil on canvas

In Chinese culture, tea plays a significant role. The preparation and serving of tea is a deep-rooted tradition that is often a metaphor for honor, respect, submission, gratitude, love and family. People make serious apologies by serving another tea as a sign of regret and humility. In the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, the bride and groom serve their parents tea out of honor and gratitude. Families will gather to drink tea, and to pass down culture and tradition to the younger generation. Tea is ingrained in many important facets of Chinese heritage.

This past summer I visited my grandmother. One day as she was lamenting all of the clutter in her house that she was trying to sort through, she asked me if I wanted to have one of her teapots. Yes, yes I would, I said (sidenote: when a Chinese grandmother offers you something, you take it). The teapot that she delicately removed from a basket was beautiful. It was gold-plated porcelain, painted with intricate designs of dragons and clouds. It was used, but not worn...just well loved as evidenced by some small tea stains on the inside. "This was actually your great-grandmother's before she gave it to me," my grandmother said as she put it in my hands.

There was something profound for me in that moment. Growing up as a fourth generation Chinese in Hawaii, much of my family's original Chinese heritage has been forgotten. But as my grandmother handed me this teapot that had belonged first to my great-grandmother and then her, I felt a sense of connection to my family, and to previous generations of Chinese, all linked through culture and tradition and legacy. Thank you, Popo.


  1. It are these little things and moments that make us who we are. I feel sad for those that miss out on them or rush by them without reflection.

    I'm glad you have that tie to your family and heritage!

    And I love tea. LOVE!! I had this amazing Organic Jasmine Golden Butterflies or something like that last week. It was fantastic. There's something soothing about tea. I wish American had tea times like in Europe!!

  2. that is a wonderful story. have you made tea in that pot yet? i bet it comes out delicious.

  3. I honestly don't know if I feel any connection to our Chinese ancestry.