teahouses


teahouses
(chaguan)
Before 1949, teahouses were popular social and cultural places for people to pass the time. A teahouse where one enjoyed book-reading or storytelling was called a ‘book teahouse’ (shu chaguan); a house where one tasted only tea in a quiet atmosphere was called a ‘pure teahouse’ (qing chaguan); a house where one enjoyed both wine and tea was called a ‘wine teahouse’ (jiu chaguan); a pavilion or traditional house in an open space where one appreciated the beauty of nature was called a ‘wild teahouse’ (ye chaguan); and finally, a teahouse large enough to perform opera and acrobatics was called a chalou. Teahouses of various styles have been revived or re-invented as places for socializing, holding business meetings, or appreciating, or exhibiting, cultural sophistication (especially on ‘dates’). Many are very expensive by Chinese standards.
Teahouses became fashionable during the ‘culture craze’ of the 1980s and pervasive since the economic growth of the early 1990s. Tianqiaole chaguan [Happiness at Heaven’s Bridge Teahouse], in business from 1933 to 1952, reopened in 1992 with 180 seats, and Laoshe chaguan, named after the author of Tea House, was established in Beijing in 1988 with 250 seats. Both entertain people with traditional opera, book-reading, acrobatics and martial arts, serving ‘old-Beijing style’ tea and snacks or delicacies enjoyed by Qing emperors. Visited by national and foreign political figures, both have also become major tourist attractions. But there are numerous teahouses for young people to enjoy traditional music, or even electronic games and the Internet, and, of course, tea of high quality from southern China served in modern or classic-style pottery.
KIM KWANG-OK

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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