In ancient China, drinking tea was considered as an art and a kind of enjoyment. Living in a fast pace environment nowadays, it might be quite difficult for us to imagine how our ancestors drank tea. Kebin Feng, a famous scholar during Ming dynasty, proposed the famous “Thirteen Rules”, which describes the thirteen different scenarios most ‘appropriate’ for drinking tea.
(Kebin Feng is from Shandong Yidu (today’s Qingzhou). He became a successful candidate in the highest imperial examinations in 1622, later he retired and lived in seclusion during the beginning of Qing dynasty. He is famous for writing and editing the series of books named 'Guang Bai Chuan Xue Hai', 'Jie Cha Jian' is a famous book included in the series. The book has about one thousand words, containing discussions and theories about the production and information about tea.)
Here is the 'Thirteen Rules of tea drinking' that he proposed in the book:
1. When we're free
There is an old Chinese poem, 'In spring the flowers blossom, in autumn the moon is at its brightest, in summer there are cool breezes and in winter there is snow. When we have no concerns or worries, then it is the best "season" in life.' All seasons have its unique beauties, but because of work or other nuisances we may not have the mood to appreciate it. This is the same when we drink tea, if we don’t have the mood, how can we appreciate the tea?
2. When we're with good friends
Tea is an art, and therefore it’s very delightful to have tea with good friends who can talk about life with. Drinking tea without friends would be like ‘playing piano to a cow’, or ‘giving a cow flowers as food’ – that is, without much meaning.
3. When we're sitting quietly
Drinking tea in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere keeps us in a relaxed and carefree state of mind. It is true that the environment we're in affects our feelings. For example when we're sweating in the bustling streets, there could be quite a few negative feelings. Therefore, it is important to enjoy tea in a peaceful and quiet environment.
4. When we're reading poetry
Poetry is the flow of our emotions and thoughts. There is an old Chinese saying, 'Poems are the resemblance of our will. When we express the will and emotions in our hearts, it turns into poetry.' Poetry soothes our soul and enhances our tea drinking experience, drinking tea may also help us find inspirations in writing poetry.
5. When we're painting
Sometimes when poetry can’t express all our feelings and inspirations, it is better to focus on expressing it in a form of art. A great solution may be to hold our paintbrush and focus all our thoughts on every stroke we put on the canvas. When we're drinking tea and the right mood comes, it is a pleasure to focus on calligraphy and painting.
6. After going for a walk
When we're going with the flow and following our heart, when we're absolutely relaxed and free, this is the best state for drinking tea.
7. After waking up
Drinking a cup of tea when we first wake up, tasting the sweet bitter tea and smell the refreshing fragrance prepare us for the day and keeps us soothed and relaxed.
8. When we need a little help on waking up
When we wake up with a headache, or feeling tired and drowsy - a cup of refreshing green tea could be the cure to help us to wake up completely.
9. When we're eating light
Many people think alcohol is a good companion when eating meat and tea is our best friend for eating vegetables and fruits. It’s recommended to pair tea with light foods.
10. When we’re in a peaceful environment
The best place for drinking tea is a peaceful and graceful environment. It surely doesn’t have to be luxurious or grand, the atmosphere should be more emphasized on its gracefulness and calmness. In such an environment we will be able to taste the tea’s true charm.
11. When we taste with our heart
It is necessary to focus and drink with our heart to truly understand the pinnacles of tea. Drinking tea alone, sharing our thoughts with nobody but the sky and the ground is an ingenious experience. Drinking tea with a friend without speaking much but at the same time having a close connection, is also an experience beyond description. It’s like reading each other’s mind. To achieve these states all require a connected heart.
12. When appreciating with heart and mind
Taste and savour every little detail, take all our time to discover the unique colour, fragrance and charm of the tea.
13. When being served
When a gentle tea server serves a tea, it is like a clear yet vivid stream running through a quiet mountain.
Surely, it is hard for us who live in the present to drink tea with such attention and interest, but next time we drink tea - try to make up some free time, find a clean and tidy environment, invite two or three really good friends, and try to taste and savour every sip of tea, and most importantly cherish every moment.
Drinking tea calms our mind. Achieving this calm and peaceful state of mind is what matters.