• Go for Tea

    Opening: 2021.3.13 / 16:00 - 18:00

    Duration: 2021.3.13-5.14 / 10:00-18:00 Daily Open

    Venue: OFOTO Gallery, 2F, Building 13, 50 Moganshan Rd., Shanghai

    Artist: Dong Wensheng, Guo Peng, Ji Wenyu, Jiao Jian, Jin Shi, Liu Guangyun, Long Bin, Luo Yongjin, Ma Yuncan, Shen Fan, Shen Ye, Shen Zhi, Su Jiaxi, Wang Yuming, Xiao Yuanhai, Zhang Hua, Zhou Qing


    Go for tea

    Essay: Wumo

     

    Caption: The Cha Jing say's: “To quench thirst, water is imbibed; To relieve sorrow and annoyance, wine is guzzled; To get over fatigue and drowsiness, tea is sipped.”Nevertheless, To know is not enough, to do is the must.

     

    It is said that Emperor Kangxi went to the south of Yangtze River and drank the tea "frightening fragrance" produced in Dongting, Wuxian County, and decided that this local gag was not elegant and gave it the name "Bi Luo Chun(Spring Green Snail)", which soon spread throughout the world. It is a coincidence that the middle of the two words "tea leaves" in Chinese character means "human world", as if a naked heart is presented right in front of your eyes, which really shocks people! I was really scared, the moment when I was imperceptibly on this essay.

     

    In order to soothe the frightened soul, instead of the frightened peony, I take the tea as the medicine of Shen Nong who tasted hundreds of herbs and encountered 72 poisons everyday, and got the tantra to cure them, the medicine to heal the body and spirit! So, I gathered the belly strength and squeezed out a wave of words: "Go for tea." It was as if the Sixth Patriarch Huineng's Zen enlightenment did not need a stick beat, but only these three simple words. Instant revelation.

     

    My favorite tea is Wuyi rock tea. But few words typed out before the tea can bottomed. The exhibitors are contemporary art circle veteran tea drinkers. They are from old, middle and young generations of no hair, black hair and white hair (similar to a white frosty Tujia ethnic sacred "berry tea" from Wuling,Hunan). This time they "steep" themselves with surprising tricks like in a tea ritual: grill tea, shaking tea, dipping tea, bag tea ...whether it’s an elegant Zen tea, or a rough tea in a hut, or a wild tea in the mountains, the artists' Kungfu tea always bursts into a straightforward "tea fight" among these amiable gentlemen. In this present chaotic time, they maintain the almost broken tea place awaiting the pleasure of receiving all of you.

     

    Begun with Shennong, known in Lu Zhou Gong, popular in Tang and prosperous in Song, tea is one of China's four great agricultural inventions, ranked after rice, beans and silk.It is also  praised by British historian of science and technology Joseph Lee (Joseph Needham) China’s fifth innovation following the four great inventions. Jiǎ, chuǎn, Shè, Míng, Tú (槚、荈、蔎、茗、荼), all refer to tea. Etymology of the various references to tea in the Western language are all sound inherited either from Cantonese or Fujian dialect. It is common in history that an original  medicine like tea turns into a sacrifice stuff,food or eventually a popular drink in China and the world.

     

    Coffee, cocoa and tea have all frothed the world's saliva, bubbling up one blister after another, making the botanically pure species no longer pure (omitted here in a thousand words). But, tea can replace wine to enlighten friendship, can strengthen brotherhood, can be both mellow and light and can reflect human moral and life. Perhaps only these buds and leaves grown in rich Chinese soil can be so fixed, roiled, dried, fermented and roasted by the plant hunters.

     

    The ‘Tea Sutra’ by Lu Yu of Tang Dynasty, the ‘Da Guan Cha Lun’ by Zhao Ji of  Song Dynasty, and the ‘Continuing Tea Sutra’ by Lu Tingcan of late Qing Dynasty are among the more than 100 Chinese tea written texts , manuscripts, wood plates and rubbings of all dynasties. They collect extensively and study intensively about tea and tell the world the familiar story of tea in China, not to mention the classics“Tea and Health” by Japanese monk Eisai of the Kamakura period,‘The Book of Tea’by Japanese American Okakura Tenshin, and ‘The Complete Book of Tea’ by American scholar William H. Ukers.

     

    So far, tea studies such as tea ceremony, tea art, tea products, tea ware and so on have penetrated into the political economy, religion and culture, agriculture and geography, industry and science and technology and so on. These small gun flags and big fibrous figures growing from the precious ancient southern woods are placed on the altar of traditional culture by the resolute people. The yellow, green, white, red and black tea,in the form of powder, bricks, cakes , and leaves from the ancient path of history all the way, is cooked with ghee and salt into oil tea, mixed with flower petals and fragrant pieces into flower tea, mixed with saccharine, milk into milk tea ......Either reclusive or worldly, tea can be processed into very different colours, packagings, aesthetic tastes and legendary stories.

     

    However, stories can sometimes cause accidents, provoking social divisions, cultural divides and economic strife. Innocent old trees and naive new leaves are strung together into the vast machine that can squeeze and alienate everything at the end of the chain of contempt, commerce and acceleration, becoming a bitter spiritual torment, waiting for time to draw out the sweetness of awakening from inside of the body.

     

    More than one thousand years ago, the impetuous tea immortal (Lu Tong) chanted: "One bowl moistens the throat, two bowls break the boredom. Three bowls,5,000 volumes of writing come out from the body. Four bowls, my life's unhappiness is dispersed to my pores by light sweat. Five bowls,my bones and flesh are cleared, Six bowls, I reach for the spirit in heaven. Seven bowls are not allowed. I only feel the breeze in my armpits."

     

    Is the wind in the armpits sweat? Or new birth of a man? Or growing wings taking off to heaven? After a hundred years of history, tea carrying with it all of our cultural codes, lies across the ages. Known as "liquid jade", the tea broth, as a medium, provides not only the water of goodness, but also the tea polyphenols, amino acids, alkaloids and other nutrition. The twelve gentlemen in the "Prays to the Tea Tool Paintings" work together to implant "tea intoxication" not only to themselves but to other people’s bodies and eyes.

     

    From the seven must in daily household, "rice, oil, salt, soy, vinegar and tea", to the traditional culture of "music, chess, calligraphy, painting, poetry, wine and tea", tea has always been a unique way to blend into the daily life of the nation, to polish the profound and far-reaching history and also to melt in the present day multiple contexts of "invited for tea". Unlike today's tea people’s ignorance, the tea people of the past treat the tea with intimacy, careful and sperturbed, shut the door and taste the tea thoroughly no matter it is good to the stomach or not. The virtues of tea are repeatedly steamed to fit the gustatory and visual taste of the tea masters. It looks simple but comprehensive underneath.

     

    In the end, the tea people shall sip and taste the tea and upgrade it into a tea ritual. The comfort of the spiritual tongue and taste buds depend on a regular tea ritual. Its soul flies poetically with the wind. Today, we know that the feathered immortal is not the ordinary nor mannered tea people, but the tea has completed his own metaphysical ascension. It creates the historical allusion of a trade of one thousand horses for a tea scripture. It holds the five elements of gold, wood, water, fire and earth. It is the soul words in classic writings.

     

    "No miscellaneous guests, embracing one thousand books, boiling tea and reading the classics and  chanting and singing among all of this". This is the greatest joy in the mundane world, and also the tea people’s feeling in the poor and lonely years throughout history. The slow tea process is just a strategy to postpone the ending, to extend the time that life can occupy and to recover when the right time comes. Whether the tea or art, art and tea or the art of tea, is just a certain pure reflection, escape, seclusion or cultivation. Here quoted is what Susan Sontag wrote in “The Aesthetics of Silence, "art is no longer understood as a consciousness that expresses itself and thereby implicitly affirms itself. It is no longer consciousness itself, but an antidote to consciousness - an antidote that evolves from consciousness itself."

     

    From this point, there is a certain symbolic metaphor in this exhibition, which means that contemporary art and tea are still essentially a metaphysical antidote to poison, a spiritual antidote to the reality affected by 72 poisons. At the same time, it is also a self-redemption  of the artist for his work and the tea poeple for the absolute divinity of tea, Just as the art works in this exhibition, through the medium and symbol of tea, create a practical paradox and an aesthetic trap. The exhilarating theophylline and addictive properties of tea and the sacred aura of art are always misinterpreted, The spirit, which has long been dissipated by material lust and the limitations of time and space, cannot be truly sublimated at all. It obtains merely  an imaginary immortality in the constant flattering of the ego.

     

    Today’s art, like the tea that has lost its soul, always in despair, self- split, self-delusional and self-redemptive, is determined to offend and frustrate their loyal followers and admirers, thus demonstrating the value of their own dubious existence. Of course, it is irrefutable that the art of all tastes and the tea of tasteless taste are still a useless tranquiliser. With a bland and ordinary frankness and a cavalier attitude, it imaginarily cleans the filth, clears away the pestilence, meditates, and stimulates the spirit.

     

    Finally, I quote a personal favourite, the aphorism of Senrihu: First boil the water, then add the tea leaves, then drink the tea in a proper way, and that is all you need to know. Other than that, tea is nothing. What I want to say is that the mountains and rivers are unharmed, the landscape is still the same. There is nothing to be scared of. When time is good(3 to 5 in the afternoon, go for tea,and eventually there submerges the pleasant pattering.

     

    Written in Shanghai

    2021.1.21