• by vinux

Recently, with the hot broadcast of a certain drama, coupled with the “Meng Niang Legend” becoming the “Big Head Legend”, Tang culture has once again become a hot topic in public opinion. The love story of Emperor Tang Taizong, the ascending history of Emperor Tang Gaozong, the costumes and hairstyles of women in Tang Dynasty, the division of ranks in Tang harem, etc., have all become topics for people to talk about after dinner.

Apart from the mediocre plotting that goes on in the palace, the period drama has been able to show us the opulence of Tang culture. Unfortunately, despite all of the scenes featuring drinking tea, there was no showcasing of the most representative artifact of Tang culture – their tea sets. The prop master should have contacted Meng Hai Tea Factory Da Yi Guan earlier; at least then we could sponsor a full set of “Famen Temple Underground Palace Tang Dynasty Court Tea Set”!

The “Imperial Court Tea Sets of the Tang Dynasty in Famen Temple Underground Palace”, currently housed in the Dayi Pavilion of Meng Hai Tea Factory, is a 1:1 restored replica.

Tea culture of China has been reflected as early as the Hemudu Culture which dates back to 6,000 years ago. In the archaeological site of Tianluo Mountain in the Hemudu Culture, evidences of artificial planting of tea trees were found. The tea trees were not growing on natural land but in man-made pits dug out with labor. Whether this tree was used to make tea or just for landscaping and shading is unknown. What can be determined is that it is the earliest cultivated tea tree by human beings. From its 6,000 year old ancestor to the Tang Dynasty established in 618 AD, drinking tea evolved from simple form to sophisticated one. Compared with earlier stages, drinking tea during Tang Dynasty was more concerned about skills and tastes. As for Gongting Teatime which represents the culture of Tang Dynasty, its grandeur ,beauty of teaware and excellence in artistry is self-evident.

In 1987, a large number of precious cultural relics were unearthed from the Famen Temple in Shaanxi, among which was a set of tea sets. According to the inscriptions on the teaware, these tea sets were made between the 9th and 12th years of Xiantong reign in Tang Dynasty (AD 868-871), with the words “Made in Wen Si Yuan” inscribed on them. Wen Si Yuan was an imperial workshop that specialized in making gold, silver, rhinoceros and turtle crafts. This indicates that these tea sets were specially made for the royal family as court tea sets. On the teaware such as Cha Luo Zi, Silver Scoop and Long Handle Spoon, etc., there is also a “Wu Ge” inscription engraved by hard objects (Wu Ge is the nickname of Emperor Xizong from Tang Dynasty when he was young), which confirms that this set of teaware were indeed imperial wares.

No matter how glamorous the empresses of the Tang Dynasty once were, they have long since disappeared without a trace. Fortunately, in the gaps of history, the tea sets left behind can let us really touch the atmosphere of that era. Today, Yixin Jun will take you all to appreciate this world-class imperial gold and silver tea set and feel the brilliance of the Tang Dynasty!

Gold-plated teapot mortar and pestle

The tea crusher is a tea grinder, used for grinding cake tea when brewing tea. This tea machine is 7.1 centimeters in height, 27.4 centimeters in length, 3.4 centimeters in depth, 20.7 centimeters in length of the plate, 3.0 centimeters in width and 1168 grams in total weight. It has a rectangular shape, consisting of crushing grooves, plates and slots. The axial blade has parallel grooves; the axial rod is round with thick middle and thin ends; the axial hole is decorated with chisel clusters around; and the outside is decorated with wavy patterns. The axis can rotate back and forth.

A golden immortal riding a crane is embossed on the door of a teapot stand, with luo zi.

The Cha Luo Zi, also known as the tea sieve, is used for sieving tea after it has been ground into powder. It consists of a lid, body, base, basket and drawer, decorated with patterns of mythical figures riding cranes. The basket has two layers, an inner and outer one, with a fine mesh in between. There is a handle on the drawer. Tea leaves falling through the bottom of the basket are collected in the drawer for retrieval when brewing tea. It is 9.5 cm high; its basket is 13.4 cm long and 8.4 cm wide; all made of sheet metal with gold plating decorations. On top of the lid are two celestial beings facing each other, surrounded by flowing clouds; there are four harmonious clouds around the edge of the lid. On both sides of the basket stand two figures riding cranes; on the other two sides are mythical cranes in flight against a backdrop of lotus petal patterns.

A cage of gold and silver cords knotted together.

This teapot is 15.0 cm in height and weighs 335 grams. It has a lid, a straight mouth, a deep belly, and a flat bottom with four feet. The lid is dome-shaped and the cage has a beam for carrying; there is a chain linking the lid to the beam. The entire basket is woven with extremely fine gold and silver wires. Mainly used to bake cakes after tea, it can be filled into paper bags as an container for temporary storage.

A three-legged silver salt stand with gilded Capricorn patterns.

Tang people eat tea, with tea powder put into the container to cook, add seasoning such as pepper and salt, mix into paste and eat together. Salt tai is used for a special container for condiments. It is engraved with the pattern of “Mojieyu”, dragon head and fish body, which represents the “God Fish” that can swallow everything in Buddhism.

Gold plated pipa music silver tuning dazis

The Tiao Da Zi, a type of teaware, is mainly used for serving and drinking tea. It measures 11.7 cm in height and 5.6 cm in diameter at the top. The cup is 5.8 cm tall and has a mouth of 5.4 cm in diameter, with a foot diameter of 6.3 cm. Its straight mouth features a deep cylindrical belly with a flat bottom and a trumpet-shaped high foot rim. The cover is lined with vines, the edge decorated with water ripple and lotus petal patterns, centered by a pearl-shaped knob surrounded by lotus petals. On the base are circles decorated with patterns featuring mandarin ducks, birds, etc., with three musicians playing music and dancing set against vines in the middle part of the belly wall. On the upper part of the foot rim there are four flat bun flowers and lotus leaf veins on the lower part. This Tiao Da Zi’s pattern is exquisite and unique. This kind of teaware was popular during ancient times but is no longer used today.

A porcelain tea bowl with five petal-like patterns and a secret color on the bottom of its foot.

This tea bowl, known as the Five-petal Chrysanthemum Mouth Bowl, is a utensil for drinking tea. The mouth of the bowl is in the shape of five-petals chrysanthemum, with gold and silver floral decorations on its outer wall and white color inside. The glaze is greener than general Yue Porcelain products and the body is thick but even. The height of this bowl is 9.4 cm, mouth diameter 21.4 cm, depth 7.0 cm, foot height 2.1 cm, bottom diameter 9.9 cm and its belly slightly downward curved with no pattern on it; it has both lively feeling and elegant beauty which breaks the pattern of flatness in Tang Dynasty or before.

Silver tray with a golden cross and folding flower branches

The object is 1.9 high with a diameter of 10 cm, hammered and patterned with flat-chiseling and gold painted decoration. It has a kuikou rim, shallow belly, and ring foot. The interior bottom is decorated with a round flower composed of four branches, the inner wall is decorated with five “廿” shaped branches, and the edge is decorated with lotus petal patterns. Many of these have been unearthed in Famen Temple sites. Scholars have mostly agreed that this was used for serving tea.

The tea utensils treasured in the Famen Temple Underground Palace are not only the above mentioned, but also various shapes of teacups, wind furnaces, and tea tools with precious material and exquisite workmanship. They have distinctive shapes and high ornamental value, and they are known as national treasures among tea utensils. They are integrated representations of the flourishing tea culture of the Tang Dynasty and concentrated expressions of the prosperity of court tea ceremonies.

Lawrence Temple Underground Palace Tang Dynasty Court Tea Utensils

The Tang Palace Banquet Scene, depicting the actual scene of court banquets in the Tang Dynasty.