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The art of Chinese tea and Chinese crosstalk

1 April 2014

SOAS University of


UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture

School of Oriental and African Studies Chinese Student & School Association

The British Institute of Chinese Traditional Culture organised a creative lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. The two seemingly unrelated things, the art of Chinese tea and Chinese crosstalk were well combined. More than a hundred spectators felt the charm of Chinese culture in a humourous and relaxing atmosphere.

Sun Ting, also known as Zhuxia Charen, learned the traditional tea art from China's only heir of the Tang Mi Tea Ceremony. On the same day, she dressed in traditional Han costume and first opened with a set of "Ming-style white porcelain tea pot art", bringing the audience into the world of "hejingyizhen" (authenticity-tranquility based qi vitality) Chinese tea art. Sun has worked with famous folk music performers, martial artists and the "British Chinese Style Society" to bring the same tea art performance to the British stage and named it "The Sound of Tea" which made such fusion of Chinese traditional cultural elements popular and well-received abroad. Britain is a country that regards tea as its cultural life, so naturally, "tea" has become the "common topic" Sun Ting wants to figure out between Chinese and British cultures. After converting to Buddhism and becoming a layman, she added a lot of the meaning of "emptiness and quietness" in her tea art performances, and tasting tea has gradually become an indispensable part of her life.

In the lecture, Sun briefly introduced the history, categorisation, significance and efficacy of Chinese tea and tea art. When explaining the tea art she performed, she said that when it comes to "tea ceremony", people all over the world probably think of Japan instead of China for the first time. As the hometown of tea, we should have our own traditional tea art. The reason why we call it "tea art" instead of "tea ceremony" is because in Chinese culture, there is only one kind of "Dao", which represents the supreme cosmic truth, so the Chinese "know" or “approach” rather than "speak” the Tao.

Crosstalk was once a form of folk art confined to the north and even in the Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan area. With the popularisation of Mandarin and the rise of crosstalk in various local dialects, it has become popular throughout China. Like many young people, Wang Zhi wears fashionable modern clothes and is the fan of pop culture, but this does not hinder his love for traditional folk art. When Wang was fourteen years old, he started to learn traditional folk art forms such as crosstalk and allegro, and later joined the "Deyun Society" as a student. After studying in the UK, he has participated in many performances including the All-British Spring Festival Gala, and won the popularity of many fans with his solid skills and humorous performances. In the lecture, Wang introduced the history, evolution, props, terminology, and basic skills of crosstalk with his performance, so that the audience could have a deeper understanding of the art of crosstalk. During the talk there was constant laughter and applause. He also had his own unique insights on topics such as the development stage and genre of crosstalk, and the relationship between tradition and innovation of current popular crosstalk.

Although Wang is very young, he genuinely hopes to pay tribute to traditional culture. Wang thinks that maybe modern people's lives are not so "traditional" all the time, but this does not mean that tradition is out of date. It seems that crosstalk is from a rather low culture, but it contains a lot of Chinese traditional culture, etiquette and values. These are the precious wealth of our nation. Innovation should be based on cultural root and tradition which makes creativity viable, Finally, Wang and his partner Sun Xiaochen, who is also an overseas student, collaborating with Wang in the Spring Festival Gala, brought the audience a well-known piece, "Imitating the Deaf and Mute" from the traditional crosstalk series "Study the Four Phases".

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