Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Simplicity for a Cha Xi

In Taiwan, the aesthetic pleasure of a tea preparation has been influenced by the Japanese sense of presentation of their tea ceremonies. The seasons play a strong part in these displays because the tea traditions were established when Japan and China were agrarian states. (Japan originally found its tea inspiration in China). Much of the country's prosperity depended on the weather. The purpose of (religious) ceremonies was keep the harmony between heaven and earth.

Another Japanese element that is even more imitated is the sense of zen like simplicity and beauty. Below, is the first Cha Xi I made this weekend: 
When looking at it, I didn't feel sufficiently at ease. So, together with my wife, we simplified the Cha Xi. The exquisite blue and beige Cha Bu (made by my mother) can be better appreciated below. Even the color of the Hung Shui Oolong becomes brighter in the flat cups (vs the high cups):
These 2 pictures of almost the same Cha Xi are a good example of how small changes can have a big aesthetic impact. With this second Cha Xi, my mind felt much more free and 'zen'.
But a Cha Xi's purpose, raison d'être, isn't simply based on aesthetics (or the seasons). In his book, Cha Xi - Mandala, Teaparker has proposed the mandala as a unifying concept for all Chinese tea displays. The mandala is a picture of a harmonious world. Similarly, for the brewer, the Cha Xi is his world for the time he's brewing tea. Each item has its function, has its place in his display. Depending one the tea that is chosen, we choose the wares that will best bring out the flavors, mood of this tea.

For roasted Oolong, for instance, we achieve the best results with the Chaoshan gongfu cha method. This is why I'm using a zhuni teapot and small 'ivory' dragon cups from De Hua.
The Cha Xi transforms tea into a liquid art, enjoyed by body and soul!

6 comments:

Steph said...

Subtle but moving differences. Beautiful.

Marilyn said...

Beautiful illustration. I could definitely see the difference and what you were explaining. Thanks!

Jakub Tomek said...

Hmm, I am not sure I'd describe the second setup as simple either :) But it is very nice nevertheless.

Maybe it depends on how many people will be drinking tea with you too - I can imagine the first setup serving quite well to a larger company - each person "taking" a bit of the Cha Xi, thus each one not having too much things...
Jakub

Stephane said...

Thanks Steph and Marilyn!

Jakub,
we were 3 or 5 (depending if kids joined or not). You are right to point out that the number of cups is usually more a question of number of drinkers. (On the other hand, Chashan tea always used exactly 3 cups, as a symbol for the chinese character 品, Pin, tasting.

Ido said...

Talking about religious cermonies, this reminded me at our Passover plate... .

When will the rest of us find out what you were doing in a suit? (exhibition? where was it? stories...we want details!)

Stephane said...

Ido,
OK, I will write about it in English.