Chabaixi--Hundred Tea Show
Chabaixi (literally, hundred tea show), also called fencha (literally, sorting tea), shui danqing (water painting), tangxi (soup show), chaxi (tea show), etc, is an ancient tea ceremony which makes tea soup form various patterns. One remarkable feature is that it can display characters or patterns in the tea soup with no other raw materials but tea and water.
Chabaixi was originated from the Tang Dynasty. Liu Yuxi, a poet of the Tang Dynasty, described in his poem Song of Tea Tasting at Xishan Lanruo Temple, “Pot sounds like sudden downpour and pines soughing, white clouds filled the bowl, flowers lingering.” And Xu Yin also referred to the embryonic form of Chabaixi in his poem. By the time of the Song Dynasty, influenced by Emperor Huizong, court officials and literati, Chabaixi had been developed to a perfect stage. Emperor Huizong not only wrote a book named Daguan Chalun (Treatises on tea written at the year Daguan) to expound his view on Diancha and Fencha, but also cooked tea in person for the court officials. A lot of literati, such as Tao Gu, Lu You, Li Qingzhao, Yang Wanli, Su Shi, etc liked Fencha, and they left behind quite a few poems and articles on Chabaixi. Lu You described the situation of fencha in his poem Spring Rain just Stops in Lin’an, “Leisurely I write in cursive style on a small paper piece, watching the patterns formed in the bubble-filled tea soup beside the window.” Tao Gu wrote in his Records on Tea, “Chabaixi… Recent years there are people capable of using a spoon and special skills to stir in the tea soup to form special patterns, like birds, beasts, worms, fish, flowers, grass, etc, which are delicate as paintings, but dissipate soon.” The practice of Chabaixi was gradually on the wane after the Yuan Dynasty, and there were no documentary records on Chabaixi after the Qing Dynasty. Zhang Zhifeng, a major of tea science in Wuyishan City, recovered the ancient and precious cultural heritage in 2009 after systematical study.
The study of modern Chabaixi has undergone hardships as well as ups and downs. After graduating from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University as a tea science major in 1984, Zhang Zhifeng has been dedicated to the study and exchanges of tea culture. In 1997 he went to Japan to study tea technology in Okinawa, where he acquired some rudimentary knowledge of diancha method through Japanese tea ceremony. From 2004 to 2005 when Zhang Zhifeng was appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the first tea science expert to give lectures of Chinese tea culture in Japan, he systematically studied the Japanese tea ceremony for the whole year, and got inspired from the diancha method and diancha tools of Japanese tea ceremony. Starting from 2005, he conducted hundreds of experiments on the making of crumby-cake tea, processing of matcha, and technique of fencha, and finally in the spring of 2009, he retraced the basic technique of fencha, and was able to display characters and images in the tea soup. At present, Zhang Zhifeng is capable of displaying landscape, flower and bird patterns as well as characters of Chinese style with black tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong tea, etc, a breakthrough from the ancient times that only green tea could be used to display Chabaixi. The patterns can also be kept for a longer time, from moments of the past to present two to six hours. Now works of Chabaixi can be arranged together with ikebana to show various artistic conceptions of Chinese culture, such as “xishang meishao” (literally, happiness appears on the eyebrows), “madao chenggong” (gain an immediate success), and so on.
Chabaixi is a kind of rare cultural resources of China and the real object portraiture of ancient tea whisking and tea fight culture. Chabaixi spread along the Wuyi Mountain ranges in north Fujian Province during the Tang and Song Dynasties, and it has been inscribed on the intangible cultural heritage list of Wuyishan City. Xu Yin of the Tang Dynasty and Zhou Qufei of the Southern Song Dynasty described the general condition of Chabaixi along the Wuyi Mountain range in their poems respectively.
Chabaixi is a unique art form to present characters or images with liquid. Its innovative and special expressive force is perfect to display the landscape, flower and bird patterns of distinctive traditional Chinese style. Highly attractive and influential to the spectators, Chabaixi is fit for tourists to experience, taste and appreciate, and fit for various reception occasions and grand ceremonial activities. It can boost the added value of tea Industry and elevated the level of cultural tourism.