“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.
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
Robert Fortune, Tea Thief
Robert Fortune (16 September 1813 – 13 April 1880) was a Scottish botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India — a story recently told by Sara Rose in For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History.
“Among Fortune’s tasks in China, and certainly as critical as providing Indian tea gardens with quality nursery stock, was to learn the procedure for manufacturing tea. From the picking to the brewing there was a great deal of factory work involved: drying, firing, rolling, and, for black tea, fermenting. Fortune had explicit instructions from the East India Company to discover everything he could: “Besides the collection of tea plants and seeds from the best localities for transmission to India, it will be your duty to avail yourself of every opportunity of acquiring information as to the cultivation of the tea plant and the manufacture of tea as practised by the Chinese and on all other points with which it may be desirable that those entrusted with the superintendence of the tea nurseries in India should be made acquainted.”
Read more at the Smithsonian.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
“Completely build [sic] by hand without the use of any power tools, the Teahouse was constructed in Dushanbe, Tajikistan as a gift to their sister city, Boulder. It was disassembled, crated up, and sent halfway around the world to be rebuilt in Boulder as a symbol of friendship and cultural exploration. The elaborate and creative teahouse now sits as a reminder to the citizens of Boulder to value cultural diversity, global cooperation, and international friendship.”