Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By David Cheng

Emperors first used authentic china tea sets thousands of years ago. At that time, certain tea-drinking customs came into play that are still respected to this day.

There is one custom in particular that many of you may not be familiar with. It's finger tapping, and it's a gesture of thanks for a great cup of tea.

It goes like this: when someone serves you tea, it's polite not to say "thank you", but rather to tap three fingers on the table. This lets the person know you're appreciative of their service. It should be repeated every time you are served tea.

You may think this comes from some strange, mystical superstition. But really, this custom comes from a very real incident during the Qing dynasty.

At that time, the ruling emperor traveled all over the empire to see how everyday people were doing. He would go literally everywhere in the country. But he never missed a visit to the local tea house.

Then on one occasion, the emperor cam across a tea house in a very small village where the waiters could bend their bodies in almost inhuman ways to serve tea around the table. The emperor wanted to tries this pay of pouring tea.

Now having the emperor serve you tea was something completely unheard of. Even just being in the presence of the emperor usually meant you had to bow down. So what could his companions do? They couldn't let everyone know he was the emperor by bowing down, but they had to thank him somehow.

Then one of the ministers thought of a way to thank the emperor: he tapped his fingers on the table, thereby symbolizing the bow he would have usually performed.

Thus, the finger tapping gesture was born! The tale spread fast. Before long, the gesture became popular in tea drinking, as both commoners and officials alike all tried to copy their emperor.

Next time you visit a Chinese tea house, try to observe the interesting finger tapping technique to quietly thank your host for their delicious Chinese tea and beautiful China tea sets!

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