Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

I wish all my readers in the US and all over the world a happy Independence Day! By a wonderful coincidence, this is also the day I arrived on Taiwan 18 years ago. And I wouldn't have succeeded here if not for a year of studies in Pennsylvania, where I graduated with a MBA diploma. But most importantly, in my adult years, I have learned to appreciate the good the US stands for. And I wish and pray that the US will rise to the challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century. Despite being European (French AND German!) or maybe because of it, I believe that the world needs American leadership.

Tea Happiness is always multiplied when you give a strong purpose and significance to your occasion. On this 4th of July, let's brew a great tea to lead us towards perfection.

So, I choose this Wuyi Yan Cha: a Shui Xian Oolong from 100 years old bushes. It's from spring 2011 and I have stored it in the porcelain 'Double Happiness' above for quite some time. It's still a young tea, but it has great quality, mostly thanks to the deep roots of the old bushes!
I found this old flag at an antique shop in Taiwan. It must have come to the island when Chang Kai Shek was America's close ally. This flag has 48 stars and was used from July 4th, 1912 to July 3rd, 1959 (when Alaska became a State). It's the flag that won 2 World Wars and brought peace and freedom to (Western) Europe. Respect.
Tea is an offering to life, my pursuit of Happiness.

What do we have on this little island? An old Yixing teapot.
This zisha is so old that it belongs to the reign of Qianlong (1735-1796) who might have heard something about 13 colonies seceding from Great Britain!... Another symbol connects this teapot to this day: the lion painted on the teapot! It's a symbol of Great Britain! Pouring tea from the lion teapot into the white cups on the American flag can be seen as a transition of power and life between one country to the other... 
It would be cool to use a silver (US currency) kettle with a phoenix to represent the American eagle! My silver kettle has no such carving, but it feels like one, perched high above the ground on this tall white Nilu.
I pour carefully in the cups to avoid staining the flag. But since I don't view tea as something dirty but noble, I feel it's OK to take the risk and use this flag as a Chabu.
At first, the taste is almost tasteless and disappointing. It's so smooth and easy to swallow and doesn't produce any fireworks in the mouth. What's exceptional about this tea? (Beside the fact that it is several times as expensive as Taiwan Oolong.) Wait a little bit longer. Now I can start feeling the silky and sparkling aftertaste. A deep, warm and reassuring feeling arises. The whole body feels relaxed in its embrace.
A light shines on the world.
E Pluribus Unum.


jpr54_ said...

It is disrespectful to use the American flag as a tablecloth-

Stephane said...

Thanks for your comment. You are correct to point out that the flag merits respect and isn't supposed to be used as tablecloth or bed linen...

Technically, I use this flag not on a table, but on an elevated wooden platform. It's not a tablecloth, but a chabu (tea ceremony fabric). The flag isn't used for something common (eat, sleep), but for a very dignified ceremony, using great tea and teaware.

Since I used the flag as a Chabu on the 4th of July only (and not on any other day), it also shows that I didn't use the flag in a way that is common and banal.

I agree with you that I didn't use the flag as it was originally intended. But, by composing this Chaxi (mandala), I felt that this creative use of the flag served the purpose of celebrating the 4th of July and the US. I surely didn't wish to offend my American readers.

How do you feel?

Marilyn said...

Some people might think it is disrespectful, but I actually liked every photo. I have a 48 star flag also and didn't even bring it out of hiding. What a lovely idea. Thanks for the photo celebration with tea.

Stephane said...

Thanks for your perspective, Marilyn. I'm glad you liked the photos!

Patrick said...


I think your use of the flag as a chabu was quite tasteful, and beautifully executed. A masterfully integrated chaxi in form, function, and intention. Was that the same sui xian we had with teaparker?

Hope all has been well with you!

Patrick Penny

Stephane said...

Thanks for your comment.
Yes, I think it was the same Shui Xian we had on our last event at Penn State. This adds yet another American dimension and memory to this tea!


jpr54_ said...

will you be doing the same with the French Flag on Quatorze Juillet Bastille Day? I doubt it.

I didn't say they photos weren't well done-

Stephane said...

I don't have a French flag (and I don't have a German either!) Shame on me!!
I think that would be a nice concept Chaxi for Bastille Day, though.
It just happened that I would find this old flag and I like to preserve and use old beautiful things.

Steph said...

Lovely photos. I know that some people don't care for this use, but being a fellow student of tea, I can't think of a more respectful way to showcase its beauty. A chaxi featuring the flag is most respectful. Well done! And thank you for your encouragement of the USA. Sometimes we all need a little encouragement to be our best selves.

Stephane said...

Hi Steph!
Thanks a lot for your kind words, as usual. Enjoy the summer!