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History has recorded that England and China used ceramic ware to drink their tea and those records go into great detail, showing contrasts and similarities between each culture\'s ceramics. The vast ideological differences between England and China show how social, political and ritualistic issues were reflected in the developments and changes made to the ware visually, as well as its functionality. Were the issues in each culture a result of external or internal influences, exchange, inspiration or necessity? A brief history of the origin of tea as a drink and how the very nature of these issues affected ceramics will be included. Perspectives formulated by developments and changes resulting from various oddities inherent in each culture will also be discussed. Rather than a lengthy exploration, a vignette of the author\'s opinions and impressions will be presented.
There are many similarities and few differences in the development of tea ware between China and England. However, one particular difference is the evolution of the teacup handle, and saucer or cup plate. In order to understand the significance of tea ware in the cultures under discussion, one must first understand how the beverage was discovered and what made it so important. What brought about the inception of tea ware in China and England for the drinking of tea?
The earliest tea cups in China were beautiful handle-less bowls of delicate stature. They varied in size averaging 4.4x9cm (1 3/4 x 3 1/2 in.), just large enough to hold cupped in one palm comfortably. They had gentle sloping shoulders, and tiny feet, and in some the lips were flared in such a fashion as to make the liquid float out of the bowl into the mouth without effort. Teapots came into existence later than the bowl and were truly an innovation attributed to the differences between taste. Those who liked certain types of tea made from powdered tea leaves preferred bowls and those who liked to boil the leaves (steep) in a small pot before pouring the liquid into a tea bowl.
With the exception of the teapot, the evolution of tea cup handles and saucers must be attributed mainly to European influence, although there is some connection between these elements and the bowl holders the Chinese had been using since the Tang dynasty. China held a monopoly on trade and quickly took advantage of this in the exportation of tea ware. The time period ranges from the first century A.D. to the late 1700\'s. Looking at a map of China, we see that many of the original names do not appear as they have been changed over the years by the prevailing government so that many are unfamiliar to us today.
From the Song to the Qing dynasties the major tea vessel was the tea bowl, therefore, the majority of teacups exported were the lovely handleless tea bowls the Chinese used. With the increase in exportation, they were quick to copy European vessels to please their customers and many styles were duplicated from prints and actual samples of silverware. Early export ware became a booming business and surprisingly, the English, although the last of the European countries to embrace tea as a drink, became the largest export customers of tea and tea wares.
Early English tea ware could not compare to the beautiful porcelains and stoneware that were being produced in China, but it didn\'t take them long before they were making a high quality imitation in softpaste or slip painted earthenware with various types of salt and tin glazes. However, once porcelain was discovered in Meissen, Germany, in the 1700\'s this changed and the Chinese monopoly was broken.
There is no actual written history supporting the many legends and stories regarding tea\'s discovery and subsequent development. There were two major legends and it is safe to conclude that the events depicted in the second one may actually be closer to the true events. One says that about 2700 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung of China discovered tea. Believing that water should be boiled as a hygienic precaution, he observed a new beverage when tea leaves were blown into his boiling water. Being scientifically minded, he tested this new brew and found it refreshing (World Book, Inc. 19: 6364). The second legend is placed in the