My good friend Annie Pecheva has just published a wonderful blog post, translating a list of the twenty-four best situations in which to drink tea, taken from the Tea Report 《茶疏》 by Ming Dynasty scholar, Xu Cishu 許次紓. Here are the first six from the list:
1. 心手閑適 when you are idle and relaxing
2.披詠疲倦 when tired of reading poetry
3. 意緒棼亂 in time of confused thoughts
4. 聽歌聞曲 when listening songs and melodies
5. 歌罷曲終 when the music has finished
6. 杜門避事 when alone
The last one of these is particularly nice, meaning literally something like “with the door closed, avoiding [external] affairs”.
It strikes me that the English, who have a very different tea culture from that of the Chinese, could extend this list still further. I know people for whom there is no situation in which it not appropriate to drink a cup of tea. This can, at times, cause confusion. A Swedish friend who had been living over here for years once went through a horrible break-up with her boyfriend. As she was wailing in anguish, a sympathetic English friend patted her arm and asked her, “Would you like a nice cup of tea?”
“Did I say I was thirsty?” wailed my Swedish friend, convinced that her anguish was not being taken seriously enough. But the truth of the matter is this: in England, there is no way of taking anguish more seriously than offering to make a cup of tea…
You can read the rest of the list on Annie’s blog here.