by Claire Hou
The host will be the one person preparing all the teaware, steeping the actual tea, and serving everybody. One important custom is called the the finger kowtow, or in simpler terms, finger tapping. Guests tap two fingers on the table as a silent thanks after being served tea. This habit originated from Emperor Qianlong, and has endured ever since.
You may notice that in a Chinese tea ceremony, your cup will be refilled straightaway after you finish it. This does not mean that you are obligated to immediately drink that cup as well; it is important to take your time and relax. Drinking tea is meant to put people at ease, and the main focus of the event is to talk and socialize, not purely to drink tea.
Tea ceremonies not only provide people with a chance to engage one another in conversation, but also in themselves hold a lot of symbolism and thought. Etiquette, art, and zen are important components of tea ceremonies, as well as the teachings of Taoism. These ceremonies are illustrations and celebrations of the rules and rituals of society, and acknowledge that one’s emotions and health must be managed.
The custom to never fill the tea cup completely and leave 20-30% of it empty is demonstrative to Confucian’s teaching that there is always space to gain more knowledge, and that people should not be filled with judgments, ideas, and assumptions.
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