- by vinux
China has a long history of tea drinking, with the practice dating back to at least the 10th century. Over time, teaware has evolved from simple vessels used for boiling water to elaborate collections that are appreciated for their beauty and craftsmanship.
During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), tea-drinking culture was flourishing in China. People began using special tools for making and serving tea, as well as for storing it. The traditional Chinese tea set consists of five items: a pot, two cups, a bowl, and two spoons.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), pottery became popular among tea drinkers due to its heat-retaining properties. They also began to pay more attention to the aesthetics of these pieces, which led to the development of various styles and designs.
By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), porcelain had become one of the most prized materials for making teaware. Craftsmen created elaborate sets featuring intricate patterns and vivid colors. Collectors were willing to pay high prices for these works of art, leading many factories to produce delicate hand-painted pieces in unprecedented numbers.
Today, Chinese tea sets remain popular around the world. From classic porcelain pieces to modern interpretations, these objects are still appreciated for their beauty and craftsmanship.
From tea utensils for brewing tea to tea sets for making tea, the history of Chinese teaware has evolved.
Before drinking tea in ancient times, the tea leaves had to be put in a stove for cooking. The method of drinking tea before the Tang Dynasty was to grind the tea leaves into fine powder, mix them with oil paste and rice flour and make them into tea cakes or tea biscuits. When drinking, it was broken up and cooked with seasoning. When did the cooking of tea leaves start? This has been a debate since the Tang Dynasty. As Song Ouyangxiu said in his “Collection of Ancient Records: Tail” : “It has been around since the Wei and Jin Dynasties.”
It can be seen from the “Shoukan Shu Tu” of Wei period that there was a “tea maker”. Therefore, it is believed that tea making began in the Wei and Jin Dynasties. According to the “Nanchuang Ji Tan”, tea drinking began in Liang Tianjian (502 AD). And according to Wang Bao’s “Dongyue”, there was a saying of “cooking tea completely”, which shows that tea leaves need a set of utensils for cooking. It can be seen that there were already tea-making utensils in the Western Han Dynasty. By the Tang Dynasty, with the vigorous development of tea culture, steaming, boiling and other technologies matured. According to the records of “Huaman Lu”, in Zhengyuan (785 AD), Changzhen was appointed as Jianshou Cishi and began to steam and research it, called Yan Gao Tea. Later it was slightly shaped into cakes, so it was called one string. Tea cakes and tea strings must be cooked with tea utensils before they can be drunk. This undoubtedly promoted the reform of teaware and entered a new age of teaware.
Starting from the late Middle Ages, in the Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties, tea was brewed using a copper-made “teapot”. According to “Changwu Zhi”, since Song and Yuan Dynasty, the tea brewing utensil was called “teapot” or “Fengpot”. Lu You’s poem “Over Zeng An Shi” reads: “The teapot smokes to know joy, chess sound sparse knows bitterness.” Therefore, there was already the name of “teapot” during Lu You’s period in Song Dynasty. In Yuan Dynasty, the famous teapots were called “Jiang Zhu Teapots”. As stated in “Zun Sheng Ba Jian”, “In Yuan Dynasty, two families named Jiang Niang Zi and Wang JI of Pingjiang County were experts at casting technique whose names were well-known at that time.” They mainly focus on removing wax from thin pot surfaces to make them smooth and beautiful, as well as delicately crafted patterns on teapots. Furthermore, it is said that they use “ancient techniques” and have “beautiful styles”; “refined copper…sometimes gilded”. This shows that the teapots of Yuan Dynasty were highly elaborate. By Ming Dynasty, people generally used “copper teapots” which valued craftsmanship such as carving skills. Among them a luxurious bronze pot called “Tao Tien” was especially popular in Ming Dynasty. “Tao Tien” is a beast name in ancient times which can often be found engraved on ancient clocks and tripods. It is an exquisite carved decoration. From this we can see that most of the teapots in Ming Dynasty imitate ancient ones while their engraving skills are very outstanding.
In China during the late Middle Ages, apart from using a tea canister to boil tea, there was also a special container called “soup bottle” used to boil water. It was then commonly known as “tea spout” or “kettle”. It was also referred to as “chain pot”. In ancient times, our ancestors mainly used tripods and cauldrons to boil water. The Huainanzi (Sayings of the Mountains and Seas) states: “One mouthful of meat, one knows the taste of a cauldron”. Gao You commented: “If you have enough days for a tripod, you don’t need a cauldron for each day”. (In the Ming and Qing Dynasties some areas in southern China called the “cauldron” a pot). According to historical records, it wasn’t until the late Middle Ages that the ancient method of boiling water with tripods and cauldrons gradually began to be replaced by soup bottles.