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In this one-hour virtual talk and discussion, Professor Lawrence Zhang from the the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology introduces us to the historical antecedents and influences on modern Chinese tea arts (茶藝). What is now commonly known as gongfucha (工夫茶), which has become the standard Chinese tea ceremony, was originally a regional custom from the Chaozhou area of China. In the second half of the twentieth century this custom was first promoted by Taiwanese pioneers, repackaged as an element of quintessential Chinese culture, and then exported back to mainland China since the 1980s. During this process of the reimagination of the Chaozhou practice of gongfucha, foreign elements of the Japanese tea ceremony, especially influences from senchadō, were included. As it becomes adopted throughout China as a new national custom, however, this foreign contribution is obscured and forgotten, and replaced with a national narrative that emphasizes links to the past.

About the Speaker:

Lawrence Zhang is a historian of China who studies the history of tea in East Asia, with a special focus on the modernization of the industry in the 19th and 20th centuries as they faced the challenges posed by colonial plantations from South and Southeast Asia. He also has another research project studying elite family status preservation during the Qing dynasty, with a forthcoming book on the system of office purchase during the Qing with the Harvard University Asia Center. He is currently assistant professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

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