The Early Stages of Tea in China
The first clear references to the use of tea in China date to the first two centuries of the common era and come from Sichuan province. Among many early uses, the most often mentioned is as a stimulant by people practicing meditation, in both Daoist and Buddhist contexts. By the Tang dynasty (618–907) tea had become a national obsession. The Classic of Tea (Chajing) by Lu Yu (d. 804) expressed a strong preference for green-glazed tea wares to compliment the reddish-brown color of the tea.
Most early teas were dark in color, roasted, and made from tea leaves pressed into circular bricks. Preparation involved grinding tea, boiling water, and tossing tea into the water or pouring the hot water into tea bowls. By the tenth century, use of whipped powdered tea came into vogue. Light in color, this tea involved nine stages in manufacturing, seven in brewing. At upper social levels, drinking tea was often accompanied by writing poetry, painting, and the enjoyment of beautiful objects., The decoration on this bowl features elements borrowed from the art of paper cutting. The process involved affixing a paper-cut design either on the body of a vessel before glazing or over the raw glaze. The paper cutout was left in place during firing. The result was a dark motif on a brightly colored background.