Satire of Gongfu Cha
The art of satire is in rendering the serious absurd. Good satire is the opposite of slapstick; the humor isn’t in the performance of something inherently funny – it’s in the serious performance taken to its logical extreme, such that the fans of the object of satire themselves find humor in the seriousness of the idea. The creation of satire is the creation of a window into the hyperreal, as the attributes to accentuate are precisely those attributes desired and preferred by the culture; the accentuation becomes a form of caricature, the caricature a reflection of ourselves.
The creation of satire is a form of reverence; only through understanding can one perform, create, or understand satire of an object, idea, or art. Satire requires one to grock, to have consumed the body knowledge of the practice such that the ideals of the practice are the ideals of the individual, to understand the accentuation of the characteristics which reveal the characteristic absurd.
Irony, exaggeration, and the use of true ideals is the language of satire; to satire is to love, to enjoy satire is to understand. How would you satire Chinese Tea Ceremony?
Public writing on the internet warning: THIS IS SATIRE
The Silver Cups: the cups are solid silver, as all the best cups are, and of course contemporary silver can’t ever compare to antique silver – yet these cups are so well crafted, with a special textural attribute rendered on their interior surface, that they successfully emulate the magic of ancient silver wine cups used for serving hot wine in early China. The aroma delivery of these silver cups is unmatched; if only they were smaller, they would help us to appreciate the tea all the more; and if only they were larger our mediation sessions would last longer. I personally believe that these cups are too big, as all the masters drink out of smaller cups.
The Yixing Zisha Teapot: Mined from 350-million-year-old ore in the dried ancient lake-bed of Yixing, this exquisite small-ware zisha teapot concentrates the tea’s aroma, while giving the leaves room to expand in its spherical body. Zisha is always the best pairing for such roasted teas, even when other masters recommend specific pots to the contrary; it is best to do your own research, while trusting your master’s intuition and superior collection. In any case, this teapot features the most important attributes of old clay, the finest communist era workmanship, and a highly regarded three chop design on the bottom, on the lid, and below the spout, indicating supreme value and positive interaction with the tea. The teapot’s motif is a smooth wall of clay, representing the no-mind of Chan meditation: “an empty head is better than an empty cup!”.
The Cha Xi: For this tea setting, featuring such rustic and simple wares, I thought to highlight the beauty of the culture from which this ceremony arose with minyao wares – the wares of the people. The oversized silver cups are placed on a tiny plate to accentuate their rustic luster. The Yixing is placed on a Song dynasty minyao tea-boat, probably used by a tea farmer when challenging the emperor to a Dou Cha (斗茶, “tea whisking”) competition; the pure land, sea, air, and rivers of the farmers’ small tea terrace continue to express itself in the bowl stand.
No discussion of Cha Xi can be considered complete without intense focus on the individual leaves of the tea itself. For a cha xi of this magnitude, I count the individual tea leaves and balance the proportion of leaf compositions such that I have the right ratio of two-leaf-and-a-bud, one-leaf-one-bud, and stems with tertiary leaves which add body and earthly compounds to each brew. For this oversized teapot, I’ve paired the metamagical roast-reducing non-muting Yixing with an ancient tree Wuyi vintage-1990-fresh-harvest high-mountain wild-grown Tie Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, to whom I am still praying for forgiveness from that terrible tea session last week. The splendor of the tea counterbalances the homely, peasantly, wares I purposely selected to highlight the incongruity of life – brewing tea grown by a farmer in a skyscraper apartment in New York. One must humble themselves to remember what tea even is.
The arcane and mysterious skill of a practitioner is immediately obvious by observing their subtle and perhaps even hidden technique applied during the brewing process. Like a golf man putting the golf ball, tiny movements or a gust of wind can have huge effects. The agility of the brewer’s response to the seeping tea is paramount in a ceremony where no sudden movements are allowed. Brewing this tea, I wanted to overwhelm the pallets of my guests with subtlety and finesse, and thus used more tea, a hard pour, and long brewing times; creating a solid and punchy soup that left everyone asking “what just happened” and “these silver cups are hot”.
This 45ml Yixing is obviously oversized for this chaxi, but my guests were thirsty and I don’t own a larger teapot.
These garishly large 5ml solid silver cups accentuate the tea and remind some people of their childhood. The motif on these cups represents the terraced mountain slopes of ancient WuYi, an allusion to the never-seen farmland from whence tea originates.
Public writing on the internet warning: THAT WAS SATIRE
Satire relies on a recognition of reality in the absurd; the satire is funny precisely because of its falsifiability, because of its reflection of the hyperreal, and because it accentuates the attributes of our desire. Solid silver is great! F1 Yixing can be great! Wuyi grows great tea, that ages well! Yet – what do we believe to be true? These items and wares can not be all things at once, they cannot meet all of the demands of our desires. Perhaps its funny when they try?
How would you satire Chinese tea and our hilariously serious sub-culture?