Chinese tea master serves fine sparkling art

May 10, 2022

BEIJING – Heir to intangible cultural heritage teaches a technique rooted in tradition

Zhang Hongyan succeeded in perfecting the technique of making dian cha tea, which was once a ritual in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

“Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is the main host city for the upcoming Asian Games, and Jingshan Village is a tourist spot. As a villager here and a voluntary inheritor of intangible cultural heritage, I want to do something for the Games,” said Zhang, a famous local tea ceremony master.

The Games were scheduled to be held September 10-25 in Hangzhou, but were officially postponed on Friday. The new dates will be announced soon.

In an interview with China Daily, Zhang, 35, explained his artistic approach.

“First I use a tea whisk to make a thick layer of white foam on the tea, then I mix tea powder and water to make a proper ‘pigment’,” he said. she stated.

“I make artistic drawings in foam using a teaspoon as a brush and the foam as drawing paper. I designed the Congcong, Lianlian, and Chenchen Games mascots, as well as representations of competitions such as fencing, weightlifting, and archery.

It is called chabaixi in Chinese, which is a unique and ancient art form that expresses calligraphy and painting with tea moss.

“The thickness of tea foam is very difficult to control. Foam that is too thick or too light will result in failure,” Zhang explained.

She said her goal is to bring the ancient ritual back to modern life and have more people appreciate its charm.

“I want to incorporate the elements of the Asian Games into the thousand-year-old style and culture of the Song Dynasty, so that more people can inherit and carry on traditional Chinese culture through the opportunities provided by the Games,” Zhang said.

A cup of tea with a pattern made by dian cha. [Photo/China Daily]

Chabaixi is derived from the dian cha technique used during the Song dynasty, which shows the superb skills of those who made this art. “Dian cha was a way of drinking tea in ancient China,” Zhang explained.

Chinese tea culture became popular during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and flourished throughout the Song period, when tea became a necessity for almost everyone, from nobles and scholars to people. ordinary. Like rice, oil and salt, it became an indispensable element, according to the politician and philosopher Song Wang Anshi (1021-1086).

Different from how tea was brewed during the Tang era, the main way tea was made during the Song dynasty was dian cha.

The process begins with pouring hot water over finely powdered tea to create a paste. Then more hot water is slowly added as the tea is constantly hand whipped with a bamboo stick.

It is believed that this method later spread to other parts of East Asia, including Japan, where similarities can be seen in the way matcha is prepared today. This action of pouring hot water is called dian, hence the name dian cha.

Jingshan Village, located in Yuhang District of Hangzhou, is well known for its mountain tea cultivation, which has endured for thousands of years.

Over the years, Zhang has used tea and spoons to create nearly 200 designs based on subjects from ancient paintings, including women, flowers, birds, insects, and fish.

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A cup of tea with a pattern made by dian cha. [Photo/China Daily]

Before becoming heavily involved in the tea industry, Zhang worked as a traffic police officer in Yuhang after graduating from college in 2011.

At a family reunion many years ago, Zhang’s mother told her about the difficulties faced by a local tea factory and asked her to come back to help her.

Zhang, who had been fascinated by Song Dynasty tea culture and art since childhood, agreed to return to help develop the industry. In 2016, Zhang founded Hangzhou Jingshan Yunlaiji Business Management (Wufengshanfang) with the help of her family.

Wufengshanfang, located in Jingshan, is a homestay aimed at integrating leisure tourism with the local tea industry. The 400 square meter space consists of 12 rooms and can accommodate around 50 people for training and activities. There are over 100 hectares of tea gardens nearby, where tourists can experience traditions such as picking tea leaves, preparing tea, and learning dian cha.

“As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to bring the young idea and energy to my hometown,” Zhang said. “So I redecorated the original old house into a homestay and integrated intangible cultural heritage experiences, including Jingshan tea frying and teapot making activities and opportunities to try hanfu ( traditional clothing of the Han people in ancient China.) I also established the Jingshan Tea Club.

The host family has been recognized as a model host family in Yuhang and Hangzhou. It has also been dubbed an excellent homestay of intangible cultural heritage in Yuhang. “As a representative of Jingshan City People’s Congress, I also want to do something for my hometown. So I set up a social organization and do public services such as free tea art training and offering free porridge at the Laba Rice Porridge Festival,” Zhang said.

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