- by vinux
China has a long history of tea culture. Since ancient times, people have been using various vessels to make and enjoy tea. The development and evolution of Chinese tea sets follow the changes in tea-drinking habits.
During the Tang Dynasty (618–907), the royal court used a silver-plated bronze pot for making tea. This tea set was made up of several items including a pot, a filter, a scoop, and other utensils. By the Song Dynasty (960–1279), Gongfu Cha ceremonies had become more popular within the imperial court, so more specialized vessels were created such as Yixing clay teapots with matching cups, gaiwans (lidded bowls), strainers, and scoops. These items form the basis for today’s Gongfu Cha tea sets.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), porcelain teaware became increasingly popular among both upper class citizens and commoners alike. During this period, many beautiful shapes and patterns were designed for use in traditional Chinese teahouses. Today it is not uncommon to find these patterns in modern day teapots as well as on other ceramic items such as cups or plates.
By the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) glassware had become popular among wealthy citizens for its delicate beauty and transparency. It was also during this time that larger teapots were developed which allowed for multiple rounds of brewing without having to constantly refill a smaller pot. With each dynasty came new innovations in cup size, shape, materials used, and craftsmanship which continue to evolve even today in modern Chinese tea sets.
The emergence and evolution of tea sets and the development of tea making industry, the changes in tea drinking methods, the degree of popularization of tea drinking, and the development of ceramics are inseparable. Initially, tea sets were not dedicated but mixed with tableware, water utensils, and wine utensils.
At the time, people used tea just to gather fresh leaves for brewing soup, even if later the leaves were made into cakes, dried and stored, they were still cooked and eaten with food utensils made of clay, wood, metal, etc., without any strict distinction from wine utensils.
As tea evolved from food, medicine to drink, when it became part of daily life, special tea-drinking utensils also became an indispensable part of the tea-drinking activity.
The earliest record of tea utensils appears in Wang Bao’s “Tongyue” of the Western Han Dynasty, in which “cooking tea with all utensils” is understood as “cooking tea and cleaning the tea utensils”. During the Jin Dynasty, scholars loved drinking tea and advocating clear talks, which promoted the folk drinking culture and the emergence of specific Tea Utensils. Du Yu recorded in his “Yanfu” that “the pottery is selected from Dongyu. Scoop with a scoop, take shape like Gong Liu”, among which the pottery and water scoop are all tea utensils, indicating that the Tea Utensils at that time had already taken shape.
The development and evolution of tea ware is closely related to the improvement of tea ware processing technology and the improvement of tea production methods, which also reflects the comprehensive drinking methods, tasting art and aesthetic taste in different times.
During the Qin and Han Dynasties, people’s method of making beverage was to crush tea cake into powder, put it in a pot and pour boiling water. Then seasoning like green onion, ginger and tangerine were added for flavoring before drinking. As such, only simple ceramics were needed.
From the Qin and Han Dynasties to the Tang Dynasty, with the spread of tea customs, the expansion of tea-drinking areas, people’s understanding of the efficacy of tea gradually improved, ceramics developed greatly, porcelain appeared, and tea utensils also became delicate and exquisite.