“Pasted into this leatherbound volume are the original watercolours for one of the earliest illustrated books on Chinese customs to be published in English. At the back is the author’s manuscript together with details of the publisher’s and printer’s quotes and a newspaper cutting announcing the publication.
The watercolours were purchased in Canton in 1789. They are of a type produced in workshops for sale chiefly to foreigners, for whom they functioned as records of the exotic. George Henry Mason published them under the title Costumes of China yet they equally record trade and leisure activities.”
Woman preparing tea, Guangzhou, 1789
I will never get tired of looking at old tea bowls.
“In Japan the discovery of tea has also been attributed to Bodhidharma, an itinerant Indian monk who brought Zen Buddhism to China — even though tea was certainly in production when he arrived. Steven D. Owyoung writes that Bodhidharma was a man “uncouth and unattractive … monosyllabic and miserly with his words … coarse featured, hirsute, and typically brooding or scowling,” nonetheless, a great and devoted monk. The story goes that once, deep in meditation, Bodhidharma allowed his eyes to close. Disgusted with his weakness, he took a knife and slashed off his eyelids to keep it from happening again. His eyelids landed on the ground, and from them sprang a tea plant – a stimulant that kept subsequent generations of monks awake and alert as they meditated.”
- From “Origin Myths” at Little Red Cup Tea Proper.
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). Yaozen Restaurant at Sanya from the series Grand Series of Famous Tea Houses of Edo. Japan, Edo period, ca. 1839-1842. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper.
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), a leading ukiyo-e artist who designed poetic Japanese landscape prints, also created a print series depicting fine restaurants in Edo. Hiroshige portrayed upscale places that served special meals, followed by tea ceremonies. The restaurants also functioned as meeting places for cultural activities hosted by connoisseurs. Hiroshige’s depictions, accompanied by his trademark beautiful landscapes, inspired even more people to travel to Edo to experience the sophisticated delights of the city for themselves.
Dipping Water From The River and Simmering Tea
Living water needs living fire to boil: Lean over Fishing Rock, dip the clear deep current; Store the spring moon in a big gourd, return it to the jar; Divide the night stream with a little dipper, drain it into the kettle. Frothy water, simmering, whirls bits of tea; Pour it and hear the sound of wind in pines. Hard to refuse three cups to a dried-up belly; I sit and listen—from the old town, the striking of the hour.
Su Shi (苏轼), translated by Burton Watson