The Bottomless Cup of Tea
Chinese teahouses are wonderful places to relax, think, talk, and people-watch-all while sipping wonderful hot tea. We recently went to a teahouse located in the Wengshu Temple, a Tang-dynasty monastery, in Chengdu, on our 3-day weekend for the annual Dragon Boat Festival holiday. Talk about peaceful! We had already toured the monastery, read some wonderful writings about Buddhism.
We saw many monks, and then we had a choice of not one teahouse, but two; to sit, sip tea, and soak up the peace and tranquility of the place. We were not not the only ones, crowds of Chinese were doing the same!
As you can see, it is not fancy. It is quite simple, with bamboo chairs, wooden or bamboo tables, a few umbrellas if the sun is too hot. That, and one item on the menu-tea! Actually, there are a number of different teas, priced at either RMB 15 ($2) or RMB 20 ($3). You go up and order your type of tea, pay, and they give you a cup, saucer, lid. They open the packet of tea and dump it in your cup. You then take your cup back to your table and seat. Then a tea-kettle waitperson comes and fills your cup with hot water. When it is empty, or just “not full,” they come and fill it again, and again…for as long as you are there….so in effect, you have a “bottomless” cup of tea! So, you might think $2 is a lot for a cup of tea, but if you stay from the morning to night, and have as many cups as you want, it’s quite a deal!
There is a lot that goes on. Some people were talking, some had brought food with them to have with their tea. One fellow was having his ears cleaned by the itinerant ear-cleaner who walked around chiming two long metal rods, that advertised his presence and were also used in his work!
The people were great to watch, and the surrounding scenery was beautiful too. We find it refreshing that Chinese enjoy simple pleasures like sitting, resting, talking, having tea, eating some instant noodles. They do not seem to need so much stimulation from the outside world. We did notice that some people are looking at their cell-phones, or ipods, or whatever, but the majority do really relax in the teahouse setting. According to the Lonely Planet China Guide, “The ‘art’ of drinking tea dates back 3000 years,… Sichuan (province) represents the culture of tea better than anywhere else in China…Sichuan’s teahouses have long been the neighborhood centers of social life.” We would agree!
The teahouse probably does stop serving at some point. The selling of tea had stopped at 6 pm, but they still came around with hot water, until we left at 6:30. We left at that time, because we met a young Chinese fellow who said the monks come and sing chants in the temple at that time. He said we should go hear them, as, “It makes your heart feel better.”
He was right. We listened to the monks chanting, watched incense burning, and we did feel better. We would recommend Chinese teahouses and Buddhist temples to everyone!