On Tea, and What Makes a Man

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Today the best thing ever happened.
I was walking down a footpath heading to Yu Yuan Garden (pictured above) when I was stopped my two girls and a guy who wanted their photo taken in front of a tree. When I’d taken their photos we all introduced ourselves to each other and chatted for a while.
After chatting for a few minutes they invited me to a traditional tea ceremony they were on their way to, and I happily accepted.

We walked for a while through the city chatting merrily until we came across a random business looking building and headed inside and were met by a woman in traditional dress. She took us through reception, down a hallway and into a small beautifully decorated room with a table set low to the ground.

We sat and listened to the beautiful sounds of the traditional ancient Chinese music, just like the kind you hear in Chinese movies like ‘Hero’ really beautiful stuff. The woman stood before us and offered samples of tea for us to smell and decide between, we were able to pick 6. Nothing in this process was random.
This ceremony was undertaken in the same way as it was done for the Emperor of China as far back as the Tang Dynasty. We had to pick how many teas we wanted, and each number represented good fortune in an area of our lives. 11 would have meant a life with good romance, 10 a well rounded life, 9 a long life etc. We all voted and the winner was 6, a life of good luck.

Now I’m not saying that I’m now Buddhist, or having taken up Taoism or anything religious like that, but I do believe in treasuring the traditions and values of other nations. Plus having the opportunity to take part in such beautiful and ancient culture and being intimidated out of doing it would have made me unworthy to leave the small town I come from.
If ever become unwilling to take part in something for no more reason than intimidation of cultural difference I give anyone permission to burn my passport.

Back on topic, the woman proceeded to pour us tea into small cups and tipped it out, we then smelt the cups, held them against our skin and our eyes (for good health) and rolled the cups against our faces. It felt awesome.
She then poured the tea into drinking cups, then once again poured it out. Two reasons, to heat the cups and flavour them but also it was done traditionally so that if the tea was poisoned then that first cup wouldn’t have killed the Emperor.

We then drank our tea holding the cup with three fingers, even the way we held them was different for men and women. The woman told us the health benefits of each tea and who drank them in history for what reasons (my new friends translated it all for me, so awesome they are). The tea pots were made up of 3 parts and the containers holding the tea leaves also three parts, starting to see patterns?

Even western tea pots have three parts, the lid, the main part and the base. The symbolism is ancient and Chinese, the lid represents the sky or the heavens, the base is the Earth and the pot is … you guessed it, us.
We are the part in the middle that balances the forces on either end, and within the pot is the tea leaves, the leaves represent our families. Because even the the pot may stray, it will always contain the leaves.
So too we may stray from our homes, but we always carry our families in our hearts; I thought that was pretty awesome.

So we drank the various kinds of tea and discussed the differences in our cultures, there was never a dull moment and lots of laughter. Myself and my new friend Oscar (his Chinese name is very long, but he loves being called Oscar) discussed what it means to be a man, and how I fit so few of the 5 sides of men. He told me that traditional Chinese men value five things,
1. Food,
2. Alcoholic drink,
3. Gambling,
4. Women (sex)
5. Smoking.

The only real thing I craved in the list was food, and he found that very funny. The women at the table joked saying that even though I was not a real man, that I was more desirable for women by being ‘not a real men’ because I would live longer and smell better. I laughed a lot over that.

Overall we parted friends and I promised to sign up for QQ which is some Chinese equivalent of Facebook so that we could stay in touch, we are gonna meet up again and Oscar promised to teach me Mandarin properly ha.

Anyway thats my story of today, please subscribe to hear lots more. I’m loud and I love chatting to random people so these kinds of experiences may happen again soon haha, if you’d like to join in the fun regularly then please do! We’d love to have you.

Have a really good weekend. Sia Jien!

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4 thoughts on “On Tea, and What Makes a Man

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