can anyone help me understand my fascination with zhonghua [china]? [part II]
china and the aesthetic of ritual. . .
riding my motorcycle to ottawa for my cousin’s wedding was a great idea. walking around the open-air market in my full motorcycle gear on a hot august afternoon was not. as i struggled with the heatstroke that inevitably befalls anyone foolish enough to walk around with 20 pounds of cowhide, i noticed a small chinese store. with an eye on some beautiful dragon-themed tea cups, i made my way inside, being careful not to knock over the $200 teapots that were perched along a half-wall.
i spent some time admiring the different tea pot designs, and finally settled on a beautiful tea set that featured red dragons with a blue paper cut style background. to my partial delight and partial terror [i am shy around strangers], the owner of the small shop insisted on showing me the proper way to make tea. not only was it important to use the tea set in the correct manner, [one must first pour the tea into the ‘tall’ cup, cover it with the tea cup, and quickly flip it over so the tea can be enjoyed from the tea cup], it was critical to not completely boil the water. “most people drink their tea too hot,” he stammered in stilted english. he went on to explain that this can burn the tea leaves and spoil the flavour.
finally, it was time to drink the tea. as we sat on the floor, i struggled with flipping the tall cup over [i have a tremor in my hands and head]. but as tea dripped from my fingers and pooled on my bug-stained leather pants, i marveled at the chinese ability to find ritual in something as simple as a cup of tea. though this ‘proper’ method of making tea takes far longer than it takes to actually drink the ounce of tea that fits inside the tiny teacup, the ritual of it makes drinking chinese tea, the chinese way, less about ingesting not-quite steaming blandly-flavoured water, and more about finding the beauty, the aesthetic soul, that is hidden away in everyday life. . .