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(Homework)Dr. Volker Heubel's tea class

Dr. Heubel ‘s class provides a good opportunity to have a general idea of tea development abroad especially in Deutschland.He introduced Kakuzo Okakura  and Duchess Anna Amalia which is totally unfamiliar for me.

The first topic is “The East Style Tea space”. I was inspired by those tea house pictures from Venice, Japan and Taiwan. I have two personal opinions about this topic.

1, Is there any public tea space in China?

Dr. Heubel said there are public tea spaces nowadays in Japan and Taiwan area but none in China. According to his PPT, I think public tea space is a place serving tea ( or you can make tea by yourself). You can read books, discuss with friends or spend a whole day working there.

As far as I know, there are many public tea places now in China. Among these spaces, there are several kinds.

The first style is like a coffee bar,  you visit the “Tea” bar alone or with friends , you can order tea or get a tea set to make your own tea. Usually you can have dinner there. There are many “Tea” bars in Shanghai. Owners will spend a lot of time decorating the space and you can ask host to play music you like.

The second style is club.  It’s a public or private place where you can stay and do your own business.  Usually members in the club know each other and it’s a place for socializing. I myself often visit a club attending their salons about history and culture. I will also invite some friends play “GO” there. I can order tea, coffee, juice, wine, rice, toast etc. There are several lovely cats in the club and you can play with them a whole day. You can hold your own salon and show your special skill or idea.

The third style is tea party. It’s serious events. People who are fond of tea will meet and discuss tea together. They will compare different kinds of tea and different skills during tea party. Some temples will also organize tea meditation. I attended a tea party in Cheng Du with other 8 people, we tried 8 kinds of tea and exchanged our feel about them.

2,What should we focus when visiting a tea hut

Dr. Heubel showed some pictures about tea huts. Designer pays much attention on visual effect such as empty/full, round/square, light/shadow. Those huts looks beautiful and peaceful.

I think these tea huts are not for public social activities, because too many people will destroy the peaceful environment. People visit tea huts for spiritual experience. As Dr. said : “It’s a place where you meet yourself”. Usually a tea hut can serve 2~3 people.

I have a question:  If we want to meet ourselves in a tea hut. What should we focus on? The visual beautifulness or auditory pleasure?  Or our inner world.

Tea is a very important tool in Confucian, Taoism as well as Buddhism. So I will just discuss in Chinese Traditional Culture’s scope.

Buddhism has one theory:  Organs like eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin just accept basic information from outside. It’s our mind that deals these information and generates corresponding consciousness. Mind is always changing so consciousness is unreliable. We should control/restrain the thinking activity of our mind. When our brain think nothing, further wisdom appears and our energy will restore.  If we focus on making tea, our mind will not think other thing (the taste and energy of tea could make people peaceful and comfortable) , our inner power increases. If you have no idea in your brain (Buddha), you do not need tea any more.

Confucian teaches people how to be a good gentleman. Man should keep his kindness all the time and help others. Gentleman do everything in the middle, not too active not too negative. After Song dynasty scholars learned a lot from Buddhism and Taoism. They developed original Confucian. Spiritual practice  also became important.

 Taoism has its own system explaining our universe. You need a peaceful and sensitive body to percept energy nearby.

So my conclusion is : From Chinese Traditional Culture point of view, there is no need spending so much attention on decoration of tea hut. We can image the beautiful environment in our mind (daydream is not advocated but you can obtain same joviality by imaging you are in a beautiful tea hut). We should focus on tea itself and the inner feel when brewing tea. I think it’s Chinese way of studying tea.

After the first topic, Dr. Heubel replied student’s question which inspired me a lot. He said:” Today, we are in a pluralistic society, know different tea cultures can help to develop our own tea culture ”

He introduced the tea salon hold by Duchess Anna Amalia during 18 century. I think tea is treated as a drink in Europe. So western tea culture pursue tea’s taste and sociality. Quality of the tea is not so important.

As time is limited, Dr. Heubel gave a brief introduction about tea culture in Germany nowadays.  Social rhythm become faster and faster, family concept fade away, contact between friends increase, reading party become popular etc. I learned a lot.

Thank our colleague for inviting Dr. Heubel and thank Dr. Heubel for giving such an instructive class.