In one of my favourite YouTube videos Prof. Yip Waiman, president of the Hong Kong Teaism Alliance, discusses the nature of the Teaism practised in Hong Kong.
He opines that Teaism is, in essence, the search for truth, goodness, and beauty through the pursuit of simple and natural aesthetics.
I can only agree with this statement.
I think a near perfect example of this philosophy is my favourite gaiwan. I bought it last year, at Postcard Teas in London, during a short stopover on the way back to Sweden after a holiday in the UK.
The gaiwan was handmade at the Rong Yao Fang kiln, in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, which has been run by the Peng family for eight generations.
As an engineering student, I was taught about the relationship between form and function. The “truth” that teaism seeks maps onto the concept of function. Something can be considered to be “true” if it does that which it was designed and made to do.
In this respect my gaiwan is so near to perfection that it is nigh on impossible to think of even the most trivial change that one might be tempted to suggest to the design. It’s comfortable to hold, and the lid button and saucer give superb heat insulation from even the hottest of tea water. The snug fit of the bowl to the saucer inspires total confidence when decanting tea.
The lid’s fit to the bowl allows a broad range of apertures to be created, allowing you to very accurately regulate the flow of tea out of the gaiwan.
“Form” equals “beauty”. In another favourite video an enthusiastic and knowledgeable woman named Wang Huimin makes the point that a fine, porcelain gaiwan from Jingdezhen should be considered an object of art in its own right, again something I can’t argue with.
I love the clean lines, the symmetry, the graceful curves. In fact, I chose the plain white version over the painted one because I didn’t want anything to interfere with the appreciation of the shape of the gaiwan. The deep, rich, glossy white colour almost acts as a canvas for fine tea to paint on.
My gaiwan can be considered a physical manifestation of teaism itself. The philosophy dictates a certain form and function, which the craftsman brings into being.
The abstract transformed into the real.