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Museum showcases Chinese tea ware, poetry and paintings

China has a long history of tea drinking. In the middle of the Tang dynasty (the 8th century), tea became a national drink, and was widely promoted by the literati, making tea gatherings a popular leisure pursuit in such circles.

To give the public an in-depth understanding of the unique Chinese tea culture, the exhibition, “Poetry and Ceramic Art: Collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the K.S. Lo Collection of the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware”, opened today (March 15) at the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. The exhibition will run until March 5, 2007.

The exhibition features more than 120 pieces of Chinese tea ware and related vessels from the Tang dynasty to the 20th century, accompanied by inspiring poetry and paintings related to tea drinking, offering visitors a fascinating insight into the art of Chinese tea culture while appreciating “tea in poetic lyrics and teapots embellished with poetry”.

Most important in the establishment of Chinese tea culture was the influential exposition, “Chajing” (The Culture of Tea) written by Lu Yu (active c. 760–800), a well-known tea connoisseur of the Tang dynasty. It was the first comprehensive essay on tea and China’s tea-drinking culture.

Before the Tang dynasty, wine was the preference for poets in stimulating creativity and many poems were written on the subject. Bai Juyi (772–846), an influential poet in the Tang dynasty, enjoyed both tea and wine. Both beverages became important subjects in his poetry. In the Tang dynasty, tea was appreciated by many scholars and was regarded as the best drink for savouring moments of elegant pleasure, stimulating artistic inspiration and refining one’s temperament.

After the mid-Tang period, tea gatherings became a fashionable social activity among the literati, and by the end of the dynasty, tea was closely associated with China’s circle of poets. These elegant gatherings formed the setting for the creation of countless poems on the subject in the Tang period and succeeding dynasties.

Fine tea served in exquisite tea ware and activities related to tea drinking became a bountiful source of inspiration in literary works. The vast treasure trove of tea-related poetry not only exerted a considerable influence on Chinese literary circles of successive dynasties, but also made a valuable contribution to the recorded history of Chinese tea culture.

The Tang dynasty poet, Bai Juyi, and Song dynasty scholar Su Shi (1037–1101) (960–1279) wrote poems on the excellence of tea. Under the edifying influence of Chinese tea culture, the Khitan poet, Yelu Chucai (1190–1244), praised tea in his poems and depicted with great animation his sensation of floating on air after drinking tea.

Emperor Qianlong (1736–1795), a fervent tea lover, composed more than two hundred poems on tea. In expressing his fine appreciation of tea culture, many of his poems make reference to plucking, processing and preparing tea, and magnificent tea ware. The vast amount of literature written by scholars and emperors making reference to the tea culture proves its overwhelming popularity in ancient Chinese society.

Due to the accessibility to sources of water, many tea production areas were in close proximity to kiln sites where ceramic tea ware was manufactured. The manufacture of Chinese ceramic tea ware accelerated as tea culture evolved and was enriched by literary associations.

Significant numbers of tea vessels were produced with stylistic nuances that became characteristic of different dynasties from Tang to Qing. The fantastic range of tea-drinking vessels was the product of the fruitful merger of function, aesthetics, and creativity. The sophistication of the tea-drinking culture and refined craftsmanship of the potters underlie the achievements of China’s ceramic artisans.

To complement the exhibition, an educational corner with interactive games and graphic panels has been set up in the gallery to enhance the visitor’s appreciation of ceramic art and understanding of the “Chajing” and the tea poetry of different eras.

Located at 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong (inside Hong Kong Park), the Museum of Tea Ware is open from 10am to 5pm daily and is closed on Tuesdays. Admission is free.

For more information, visit the Museum of Tea Ware's website at , or call 2869 0690 or 2869 6690.

Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2006

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