On view: October 16, 2009 through March 6, 2010
Tea has become an essential and treasured commodity for people all over the world. The production, preparation and consumption of tea have evolved into a global cultural phenomenon. The tea plant originated from the remote mountains of Yunnan Province in southwest China. Its cultivation and popularity spread first throughout China, then to the rest of Asia and finally reached the West in the 16th century

Today, tea is one of the most popular beverages around the world, second only to water. It is more widespread and served with greater variations than coffee, wine and chocolate combined. One of the major factors in the recent popularity of tea in this country is the belief that tea, as an antioxidant, aids in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and intestinal disorders. In fact, tea originated in China thousands of years ago as a medicinal drink.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the East India Company brought back to Europe many products from China including tea. Little did Britain know that tea would become the national drink by the 18th century. The resulting enormous demand for tea as an export item also greatly stimulated the overseas sale of tea ware. The Chinese produced teapots and accessories expressly for the foreign markets as items necessary to the sophisticated tradition of tea drinking. These ceramics, particularly porcelains, become known as “china” and were greatly admired and desired.

The culture of tea has evolved to encompass the enjoyment of its aromatic flavors, the sets of rituals that surround tea serving and consumption, and the arts and crafts that are created to enhance its enjoyment. This exhibition examines the rich heritage of Chinese tea culture through the arts created to serve and enhance the experience of drinking tea. In addition to actual tea ware and utensils, the selection includes furniture and accessories, paintings and calligraphies, tea customs of close neighbors like Japan and Tibet, and works of contemporary Californian ceramicists to illustrate how tea continues to enchant and inspire China and beyond.

The Pacific Heritage Museum
608 Commercial Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Tel: (415) 399-1124
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM to 4:00 PM.
Admission is free.

Tea bowl with White Glaze Fu Dog with turquoise Glaze Tea Sage Lu Yu Round Teapot with Tall Bamboo Handle Teapot with "Shou" Design Bhutanese Tea Churn and Tea Strainer Calligraphy of the Chinese Character "Tea" Silver Tea Set
Tea Bowl with White Glaze
Tang Dynasty
Fu Dog Teapot with Turquoise Glaze
Porcelain, Early 20th Century
Tea Sage Lu Yu
Stoneware with red galze, Shiwan Modern
Round Teapot with Tall Bamboo Handle
Brown stoneware, Yixing
Teapot with "Shou" Design
Red stoneware, Qing Dynasty
Bhutanese Tea Churn and Tea Strainer
Wood, Brass, Bamboo
Calligraphy of the Chinese Character "Tea"
Ink on paper, by Wong Liu-sang
Silver Tea Set
Late 19th to early 20th century