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Four Aesthetic Theories of the Chinese Tea Ceremony

The Chinese Tea Ceremony aesthetics mainly includes "harmony between human and nature; people and objects spiritually know each other"; "wisdoms know water, and the benevolent know the mountains"; "Eliminating the impurities and preserving the true flavour"; "Following the natural in order to maintain harmony". These are the basic Taoist aesthetic ideas and also serve as the essentials of the Chinese Tea Ceremony and aesthetic forms of the Tea Ceremony.

Harmony between Human and Nature, Objects and People Spiritually Know Each other

"Harmony between human and nature, people and objects spiritually know each other" is the philosophical foundation of the Chinese Tea Ceremony. Aesthetics is the reflection of life philosophy of the tea drinkers, is the concentrated summary of the spirit and life of the Chinese Tea Ceremony-the view that everything is alive and the concept of sympathy.

"The harmony between human and nature" is a Common philosophy of all the three religions of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, is the mainstay of the Chinese Traditional Culture. Zhuang Zi thought that "heaven and earth are symbiotic with me; people and all things are one." The Book of Changes elucidates this philosophy many times as well; the aesthetics of Tea Ceremony also propose that: "Humans are actually the first of the five-elements, the heart of heaven and earth." The feelings and behaviors of human and the culture creation should follow the principle of natural world, return to the natural origin of ourselves. This is also what human is actually merged into one."

The objects and people spiritually know each other" is complementary aesthetic concept with "harmony between humanity and nature", "Object" refers to the aesthetic object, "people" refers to the aesthetic host, "spiritually know each other"means that the aesthetic host with harmony between from the bottom of his soul, sincerely love the aesthetic object, and strive to go beyond the physical limitations of human beings, and break the limits between humanity and objects, to communicate with the objects completely. Through inspiration of each other, they understand of each other, and finally reach the state of the "thinking matches the environment" and "emotion matches the scene", and "know truly with Tao". To reach the "harmony between humanity and Nature, people and the objects spiritually know each other" in tea activities, generally, you must experience the three phases of blessing into the nature, be absorbed in nature, and immerge into the nature.

First, bless in Nature.

The Chinese character of "tea" is a fantastic character, "grass" is on its toP, "wood being the lower part and "person" in the middle. Therefore, the character of tea actually demonstrates to us that "human being are in the very middle of grass and trees," which actually means that "human being are embraced by nature." Tea drinkers get the cultivation through tea, and most of them are eager to attribute their feelings to nature, and seek the beauty of the Tea Ceremony in nature.

Prime Minister Li Deyu in the Tang Dynasty wrote in his Poem about Missing Tea:

Warm spring valley, gradually missing picking tea.

To the Qing Ming day, to dispel peopled drunkenness.

The tea leaves floating and the aroma flying in the bowl .

After the tea drinking it is really good to have a walk near the river.

A Yuan Dynasty Great calligrapher, scholar Zhao Mengfu wrote Thoughts about the Hui Mountain:

Southern temple in front of the Hui Mountain, wrapped the tea to visit the second spring.

Should go to the North when thinking of you, want to stay in the wild flowers and birds sining.

These two poems both describe the High Officials and rich people who are tired of their life environment and lifestyle, engaged in nature and savored tea. It well reflects the love of nature by tea drinkers.

Second, be joyful in Nature.

Being joyful in Nature and savoring tea is a popular theme that tea drinkers

mention about,there are a lot off famous works about this.

Tang Dynasty poet Liu Deren's The summer vacation under the Grace Temple Pagoda:

True monk makes me quiet, clear water makes tea aromatic.

A long sit and watch from the East tower, the bell vibrates the sunset.

Lju Deren did not write about mountains or water. Yet he was so peaceful that for a long time he sat under the Grace Temple Pagoda, and forgot the time, until the alert of the "bell vibrates the sunset". This beautiful and subtle poem has a thick Zen thought Poet Yelv Chucai in the Yuan Dynasty wrote Sit and Play the Lisao:

Playing a Lisao by a bowl of tea, what is the flavour of it?

The incense and candles are burning down and my cottage is cold, but the star and moon still enjoying this with me.

The scene he wrote in the poem was great and huge: the weather being cold, the stars and moon shining. Although the candles and incense are burning down, thepoet was still enjoying the music and the scene, which is very distinctive.

Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi's Re-title the East Wall of my New Home:

Under the long pine tree near the little river, spot a deer with a white fur.

Tea and herb garden is my industry, wild deer and crane birds are my friends.

The clouds near my bavin house wet my clothes, you could see the family lights shining in the hill A new spring is my favorite, its clear water flows around.

In this poem, the scenery of medicine and tea garden with beautiful natural views of Xianglu hill formed a beautiful painting. In the medicine garden under the Xianglu hill filled with tea fragrance, clouds and spring water, what a paradise. Poet has forgotten about himself, making friends with deer and crane. It seems that he is not just enjoying this for the moment but for his whole life. No wonder he calls himself "Distinctive tea drinker".

Liu Deren forgot about time, Yelv Chucai forgot about the world, Bai Juyi forgot about himself. These are all models of enjoying nature when drinking tea.

Third, immersing into Nature.

Lao Zi, the founder of Chinese classical aesthetics, thought that the "great sound is often unheard, great image is often invisible". Beauty is originally from Taoism, of which Tao is the highest level of beauty. Immersing the heart into nature to experience beauty and gain enlightenment, which can only be felt, yet difficult to explain in words. The sages' words are a way to help to explore this.

Since ancient times, the amount of the poems that make the heart immerge into the nature is not that big, which the most respected poem by people was written by Su Shi when he was 65 years old and exiled to Hainan Island, Brewing Tea with Water from River Ji:

Flowing water needs live fire cooking,

I took the clear water from the Ji River by myself.

A Big spoon to take the water into my tank

which although Just a few spoon of water into my bottle.

You can imagine that the water like snow brewing with tea, sounds like the pine leaves falling by the wind.

I am taking it a lot that not desperately to change the three bowls rule, sitting listening to the time bell in the lonely town.

In the poem, Su Dongpo deeply understood the spirit of the Tea Ceremony. He went to the Ji River to get the water by himself and brew tea freshly. The beautiful scenery, where he took water from the river under the moon light, is quiet and mysterious as a beautiful paradise. In this paradise, the poet is just like a sage. In the whole colorful screen, there are the sound of water, wind and the bell from the town, which is a dynamic combination of admirable scenery. To take water from Ji River, Su got the favour of the nature; but to brew tea, Su was getting the spirit of the harmony between humanity and Nature. Su Dongpo completely immersed himself into the scenery. Southern Song Dynasty poet Yang Wanli praised this poem "Every word is distinctive, and every sentence is distinctive. "Because this poem reflects that Su immersed his heart into the scenery, and reached the "harmony between humanity and Nature" atmosphere.

The highest level of the "to know the objects spiritually" is to get the Zen ideas from the live scenery, to reach the unlimited from the limited, to get the rhyme from the abstract, to see the spirit from the emptiness. At this moment, human and nature fully integrated into the individual's life. I am tea, and tea is me. I am immersed with Nature. This is exactly what Su had said "An open air, a fast wind", and also the same as Lu Tong said "the clear wind breezes from my two axillaries." With this mind, understanding the "supreme beauty" of the nature, the hearts of tea drinkers would be pleased and moistureless. Modem medicine thinks that "the harmony between humanity and Nature" is the basic of the physical and mental health, which is not only the highest level of aesthetics, but also beneficial to people's physical and mental health.

Wisdom Enables the Enjoyment of Nature

Confucius proposed that "Wisdom enables the enjoyment of Nature", which created the aesthetic of "virtuous comparison" theory, and served as the basis of aesthetic anthropology of the Chinese Tea Ceremony.

The Ideological Content of the "Virtuous Comparison" Theory

Confucius thought that "beauty" must comply with the requirements of Confucian ethics. He said "Wisdom enables the enjoyment of Nature" aesthetic ideology. Wisdom is the sages. Why say this? The big Confucian scholar in the Song Dynasty, Zhu Xi's interpretation is "The wise man in the sense of flow without stagnation, follow the rules of water, hence enjoy the water; the benevolent emphasizes the thick moral principles, like mountains, hence enjoy it." In other words, the wisdoms are very active people, thinking like water, so he preferred water. The Merciful people are as strong as hills, so he preferred the mountain."This shows that a clear process of selective preference with their own moral and character development, in the main aesthetics. This aesthetic choice later developed into a classical Chinese aesthetics "virtuous comparison" theory.

The "Virtuous Comparison" Phenomena in Tea

First, peo "Virtuous comparison" theory. They were anthropomorphic to tea. Du Mu's poem "the South East Mountain is the best, and tea is best of plants". Shi Jianwu's poem Tea is the trouble cleaner, while liquor is the worry freer. Hu Qiao's poem "The old name bad for teeth is a sweet thing, but breaking night sleep tea is the best".

The most distinctive article is Su's Anthropopathic way to praise tea, wrote the well-known "Biography of Yie Jia", in which Yie Jia is on behalf of nice tea leaf, he praised nice tea leaf as "pure flavor, sweet innocence, appearance like iron, strong quality, quite reputable and generally good to people." He praised the "nice leaf" through the mouth of the Emperor, "the first sight when I saw it, it was nothing special, but after a long taste, it became attractive. I feel the soul and spirit awakened by it." However, the names "head of nice grass' "trouble cleaner", "like sleepless", "master bitter mouth", "nice leaf", "fairy olive" and "duke pine" are all the reflection of "drtuous comparison" in tea brewing time

Second, examine the water by the "virtuous comparison" theory. Probably because life was from water, the continuation of life could not do without water for any moment. Human has a special feeling about water, while the Chinese loves water the most profoundly. There is a dialogue in Liu Xiang's Talk Garden Words:

Zi Gong asked "The gentlemen would watch big river when they see it. Why?" Confucius answered: "Because water has the quality of Virtuous comparison', generous to give, this is selfless. Help the life, which is the benevolence; water always flows downward or and never stop following the law of nature, which is the loyalty; no matter deep or fleet, it is wise; it goes to the miles deep without hesitation, which is braveness." From this dialogue, we can see that Confucians love water because they found a lot of similar personality between themselves and water.

Third, use the "virtuous comparison" theory to creat the atmosphere. To create an environment for tea, the choice of plants is very important. The ancient tea drinkers think highly of the pine, bamboo, plum and orchids, which are known as the "four gentlemen".

drinkers love pine. There are a lot of poems about it.

"Pine leaves floating in the bowl, the orchis aroma is flying" (Tang Dynasty .Li Deyu) "The well water is sweet because the flowers fall into, the pine shadow is straight because people facing the moon"(Tang Dynasty. Wen Tingyun) "After a race chat, would like to persuade pine tree to drink more" (Song. Lin Bu) "Boiling the spring tea under the two pine trees" (Yuan Dynasty . Ni Yunlin) "Savoring slowly under the pine tree" (Ming Dynasty . Shen Zhou) "Walking slowly into the quiet temple, the shadow of old pine falling into the tea cup" (Song . Yang Wanti)

Tea drinkers love pine because pine is old and mature, has a strong body, does not care where to live, what to face, just like tea, as well as human. Accompanied by pine to savour tea, it is more meaningful, more highly regarded.

Tea drinkers love watching pine or even listening to pine. Bai Juyi in the Nine Old People Meeting in Luozhong wrote:

Brewing wild tea when the autumn figs are green, even the rosy clouds are fresh by the jade cup.

Flowers singing like girls laughing, the sound of pine is like heavenly music.

When Bai Juyi was savoring tea, he felt that "the sound of pine" he heard was better than music. In tea drinker's hearts, the sound of brewing tea in the pine tea pot is just like the sound of pine tree. No matter which pine sound, they are both the sound of 'Enlightenment in Nature'. Listening to the pine sound thoroughly when brewing tea, you would forget the pine gradually. The wind, the tea, or even yourself would be forgotten. Tea drinkers could reach the atmosphere of "knowing spiritually with the objective natural world, to enjoy the "heaven joy", of tea brewing.

The tea drinkers love pine and bamboo as well as plum and orchids. The tea drinkers love plum blossoms because the plum blossom bloom in the cold winter, in snow and ice. It has characters of pride, independence and brave. Plum is the first flower blooming in spring, which is not afraid of cold, with 5 petals, on behalf of the "Five happiness". The tea drinkers take the plum flowers as the "mascot of the early spring"; plumb's fragrance is elegant and thick, even when grinded and mixed with dust or mud, still fragrant as before. Therefore, in the "virtuous comparison" theory, the plum blossom is like the gentleman keeping its principles, as a symbol of National spirit". What a match of the "National spirit" and "National drink".

The tea drinkers love orchids because Confucius once said, "the orchids grow in deep valleys, and never stop sending off their fragrance even when no one is nearby smelling; gentlemen's principles and virtue should not change because destitution."

Qu Yuan compared the orchid to a gentleman, and wrote Lisao, Nine Songs, Nine chapters and other great poems. Chinese tea drinkers take orchids' magnanimous fragrance as gentleman's mind.

'Virtuous comparison" theory manifested the Traditional Chinese Virtues. Under the influence of the "virtuous comparison" theory, the Chinese Tea Ceremony formed a "truth, goodness and beauty" tradition and a "truth, goodness and beauty" artistic performance style. To promote the "virtuous comparison" theory will help tea drinker's cultivation, to build a good social environment and to achieve the "Taoist heart care" and "morality increases life".

Eliminating the Impurities and Preserving the True Flavor

"Eliminating the impurities and preserving the true flavor" is the methodology basis for the aesthetics of the Chinese Tea Ceremony.

Lao Zi in the Virtuous Classics wrote: "Eliminating the impurities, can it be perfect?" which includes two levels: the first level is to require a thorough clean-up, to exclude subjective desires and prejudices, abandon all dogma and superstitions, all the "truths" that being forcefully imposed on us, to be selfless, to reach the heart with completely emptiness, spotless, dustless, peace to create a phase with a bright and clean mind. The second level is to allow the heart to realize the aesthetic views.

Aesthetic viewing is not a passive perception of the aesthetic object, but a positive aesthetic experience. It is to take the infection from the aesthetic object through watching, experience, perception and imagination, to feel an instant emotional satisfaction and joy of the soul in order to purify the mind and get the enlightenment through the feeling of beauty.

Following the Natural Orders to Maintain Harmony

"Following Nature in order to maintain Harmony" is the basic aesthetic manifestations rules of the Chinese Tea Ceremony.

"Following Nature was originally from Lao Zi, The Virtuous Classics. "Humans follow the earth; the earth follows the heaven; the heaven follows the Tao; Tao follows nature. The intent of this statement was to interpret the depending relationship of them. Here, "Nature" means "unconscious, aimless and inaction." Tao follows Nature" is that Tao" takes nature as the ultimate goal, Tao" is purely natural, the property of is a natural, which is not changeable by human minds.

To achieve the beauty of "Tao follows Nature" from the methodology, Zhuang Zi put forward a "true" word. He said "True, extremely sincere. If not sincere enough, it would not move anyone." Zhuang Zi is the first person in the Chinese Aesthetics History who proposed "truth" as beauty. Here the "truth", does not mean the objective truth, but the extremely sincerity in peopled hearts and it being naturally expressed.

In the Aesthetics of the Chinese Tea Ceremony, "Tao follows Nature" is the first manifestation principle of tea art. In the tea art performance and day-to-day tea activities, "Tao follows Nature" means the simplicity and plain style, returning to innocence, pure and natural, without any decoration. Only natural thing is the true thing; only in a natural way can you see the truth; only with natural inaction could follow the human nature; only natural "self forgetting" could really feel the beautiful sentiment; only natural and simplicity can be the most beautiful.

In history, there were a lot of people who have got the aesthetic level of "Tao follows Nature".

For the beauty of pastoral nature, Ming Dynasty poet Zhu Yunming, one of the "four talents in Wuzhong" wrote in A Walk in the Shonxia Mountains that,

reen plums, yellow plums, busy with growing vegetables, wheat and sericulture. The hill monk sees the tea ready when passing the jebel, the village lady is busy warming wine.

About the beauty of meeting friends with tea, Wen Zhengming in the Lu Zichuan's Visit wrote, The deep green hill is no dust at all, wo windows opening to the water.

Tea is really good after the Guyu day and I have friends just when the water is boiling.

With the aesthetic principle of "Tao follows Nature", no matter it is plain like spring or brilliant like sunset glow, everything can be easily dealt with.

Achievements of the Confucian's proper beauty formed the tea drinkers temperament and mentality. The current market economy brought over the prosperity of material life, but also exacerbated some fickleness for human. They are subject to the temptations of the outside world, with an insecure soul and restless heart, unscrupulously to pursue fame and material things. People in ancient times said "Image arises from heart". These people look restless, flighty, confused, greedy and angry. But the tea drinkers, with a balanced mind, are calm, peaceful and simple by the influence of the tea ceremony aesthetics. They have thankful faces, a contented and peaceful look, serene manner, and distinctive personality in the noisy city.