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2 Tins of Tea and a Wedding


Specifically, the relationship between Chinese tea and marital customs surrounds tea drinking and the customs associated with offering tea to wedding guests.

In the past, when a man was about to marry a woman, he had to prepare a certain amount of betrothal gifts. Since marriage decided a couple's happiness, the gifts had to contain economic value and have an auspicious element to dispel disasters and bring good fortune. Even today, people in many places still adhere to this custom.

As a betrothal gift, tea played a significant role among different Chinese ethnic groups. According to the bookQi Xiu Lei Gaowritten by Lang Ying of the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644): "Once a tea plant is grown, it cannot be replanted to other places or it will die. Therefore, the process of a woman accepting betrothal gifts from a man is called 'Chi Cha' (literally 'eating tea'), and it means that the woman will spend the rest of her life with the man she marries." (Actually, unsophisticated planting skills of the time prevented tea plants from being replanted.)

Although the book does not explicitly point out that tea was included as a betrothal gift at the time, it can be regarded as the origin of men sending tea as part of their betrothal gifts to their intended. In the Ming Dynasty, tea, unlike rice, wine and other foods or daily-use articles, had a different meaning: Eternal loyalty to one's husband.

Tea may have been listed as the prime betrothal gift sometime after the Song Dynasty (960-1279). During this period, when the Confucian school of idealism and philosophy enjoyed its heyday, the importance of morality, ethics and restraining human desire was emphasized. In the Southern Song (1127-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, moralists stipulated that a woman should never remarry, even after her husband death. They greatly valued the rootedness of tea plants and used tea as a symbol for the whole wedding ceremony.

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