Tea performing arts, tea terminology and translation, promote tea studies and innovations. *Contact ,icetea8@gmail.com, Trad. and Simp. Chinese used. Blog since 6/23/2005
Name: Steven R. Jones; Link: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/
名字:瓊斯史迪芬Steven R. Jones, 網址: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/


An American Perspective of Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony 一個西方人對無我茶會的觀點




An American Perspective of

Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony

題目﹕( 一個西方人對無我茶會的觀點 )

…“Tea is a bridge for people to communicate”…


Steven R. Jones,

( 瓊斯史迪芬 )

Taipei, Jan. 20, 2006

1.My first time at a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.

綱要 ( 我與無我茶會的接觸之始 )

I remember the first time I was invited to a “Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony”. I did not know what to expect; the only thing I was sure of was they would have tea. I thought to myself what an inconvenience it must be to go out, brew tea, and do it without breaking and spilling everything. And what about getting dirty or should I say how ‘not’ to get dirty? Well the time came and I went to the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. I arrived early so I did not see what was going to happen yet; and I did not have a visual concept of the tea brewers’ seating arrangement. Then I began to see people coming, saying hello, and discussing things. I noticed that the people were carrying a bag or a backpack. They would go to the information booth to sign in, take a seat number card from the drawing bag, and then they would look for their seat spaces. Some would have a little trouble finding their spaces; but someone was always there to help. As things started to unfold, and I mean literally; because each tea brewer would unpack and setup their tea ware on a mat on the ground. All the different tea sets looked beautiful, spread out on the green field. I told some people I wished I had brought my camera. I was with a young woman and she said something in Chinese to a man and then told me she would get some pictures for me later; I was very happy with all the teamwork and friendliness. This kind of event with all the tea brewers on the ground sitting next to each other seemed to me like having a picnic; but in this gathering, it was very orderly and rehearsed. I was told this was the first time they had been to this particular park. I asked how do they know what to do and what to bring and when to begin, the man I was talking to told me to slow down and just enjoy myself and maybe next time I could also participate in a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. Then I would understand the answers to my own questions. I told him it looks hard. He stared at me for a moment as if he had remembered that it was difficult for him the first time too. Then he laughed and said, “You will learn, just keep coming to the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremonies.”, and he laughed warmly again. This made me feel very comfortable. He walked with me and explained about the different tea sets and brewing styles. I was amazed; I had never seen so many beautiful teapots in my life. Later he said we had better go and sit down now the brewing is about to begin. We went outside the brewing area, and sat down with our other friends. Everyone stopped talking and it was very quiet.

Then the brewing began, I could hear water being poured, see steam, and smell tea. After some brewing and serving, a tea brewer came up to me with a small tray and some cups of tea and I took one, we bowed, and I said thanks and the tea brewer just smiled. I remember it was a little cold that day so the teacup felt nice and warm in my hands. Then came the taste, I drank a few sips and fell in love with tea.

2. The Tea and my five senses:

( 感官的領域 )

The Tea completely activated all of my five senses:

1. The sound of the tea, being poured, like a bubbling mountain spring.

2. The aroma of the tea, changes when hot, cold, or if the cup is empty with only traces of tea, all have different fragrances. A small cup with an irresistible aroma …, like a high quality aloes-wood heating in an incense burner giving off its different scents as it changes temperature and heats.

3. The sight of the tea, teas have different colors, like a rainbow after a summer rain.

4. The touch of the tea, the cup so warm in my hands and warm feeling of the tea in my throat and body just made me glow with content.

5. The taste of the tea, I remember that the most, just wonderful!

Usually when I drink something, it is because I am thirsty. However, this time was very different; this was not to quench my thirst, but to “Experience the Tea” and all its nuances with all my five senses and my mind. I do not know why I became so attract to this tea event. Maybe it was the people, the tea, the ceremony, or all of these things. I thought it would be such a great thing to do, if I could learn and participate in a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. This would really make me feel proud to understand a part of Tea Culture and Taiwanese Culture. I was new in Taiwan and did not know much of the Chinese language. However, during a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, I would not have to say much anyway. Therefore, if I learned about the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, I could participate, brew, serve tea, and just smile and bow. Tea and Taiwanese Culture is one reason why I have stayed in Taiwan so long. Tea is a fascinating and satisfying subject; and tea is a great conversational topic. I often refer to tea as a bridge between people that they use to socialize. I used to be very fat, I changed my lifestyle; and studied and practiced tea, and at the same time, I lost weight too. Tea keeps me busy and it is not fattening either.

3. The procedures of Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony

( 無我茶會的論述 )

The Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony event is not rushed and there is time left for retrospective thinking about how we brewed and how we can possibly improve next time. There is also time for enjoying the moment, mental drifting, pondering, and meditating. A drawing is held at the beginning of the ceremony and the participants’ seat or space numbers are randomly chosen. The seating arrangement is in a prearranged circle or closed formation shape. This gives the arrangement a continuity and equality without a leader or any ranking status to the seating. Having this kind of seating arrangement is like a closed chain where each participant is a vital link in this circuit that is connected and energized by the tea brewing. By sitting next to one another and being in a closed formation facing towards the center, one can gaze across the field or area and see the fellow brewers with all the same purpose: brew, serve, drink, and enjoy tea.

Each Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony event will serve tea in one direction and by doing this; the serving is cyclic without any resistance to the flow of the ceremony. In this way, the motion will be in the same direction. For example, let us say the tea serving will be to the left. Each participant will make tea and serve it to the fellow brewers on the left. In addition, each participant will receive from the right, and will keep a cup of his or her own tea. The process of giving or receiving in one direction, bonds the tea brewers and ceremony together. Brewing and reserving a cup for yourself is a way of knowing how well you have brewed for the people you are serving. And being served is a way of enjoying the tea from the group. A personal satisfaction comes with brewing and drinking your own tea. And by having, other teas brewed and served to you only add variety to the enjoyment of the moment and the refreshing taste of the tea.

There are many ways to brew tea and during a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, each tea brewer decides how he or she will make the tea. One example is the traditional Chinese way called, Gong Fu or Skilled Method; a small ceramic teapot and tea pitcher are used. Another way is the Japanese style of using a small bowl with a bamboo whisk to froth up some powdered green tea. Or the covered bowl brewing method, which is simply tea in a bowl topped with a lid. It is all up to the individual brewers on what they want to bring.

There is an awe of silence that covers the area when the tea brewers sit down and the ceremony begins. The tea for the ceremony is brewed for about the same time, one or two minutes; this is because the tea brewing vessels are of similar size, therefore the tea brewers are in a sort of rhythm. To see the tea brewers pouring the tea at about the same time, from the teapots into the tea pitchers is like watching a river flow down stream but in this case there is no downstream and no upstream, just a continuous circle of flow. The tea is the blood and the physical element constant of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.

4. The Spirit of Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony and the meaning of Wu-Wo.

( 無我茶會的精神?與無我的意義 )

This time let us reach for the spirit of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony and look at the meaning of the words again. Let us first break down the two words “Wu-Wo”, and taking the English interpretation “unselfish”. In this definition, we are giving and humble not bound to physical attachments. In addition, we become a linked part of the ceremony. Now let us just look at the first word Wu, for the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony we take this word to mean “none or empty”. The limits for where this concept reside are larger and farther as than the mind can determine, therefore it is without boundaries. Emptiness and boundless to include all of “the none”, this is so vast that it encompasses an infinite space, which can be called “all or everything”. Now for the easier word Wo, in our case this represents the individual and is just one of many. When ‘one’ learns and follows the principles and participates, “one” becomes part of the Wu-Wo tea Ceremony, ‘one’ empties and becomes none and part of the whole. This is the true Spirit of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.

After the last brew, the participants sit and drink tea while contemplating and enjoying the full experience of the Tea. They will sit silently and humbly; and become “one” with the Tea Ceremony. When observing a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony it is easy to see a harmony that almost seems structured but actually, it is the united freedom of the group as being “Whole”. Think of a flock of birds flying across the sky appearing as identical birds in synchronous wing beating flight. However, the birds are of different size, gender, age, and their wings are beating at different rates. However, their direction, speed, and purpose are the same and they cross the sky so elegantly that they are ONE. These elements create the Spirit of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, and it is in the social, individual, and ideal differences, that are bound in unity by the Spirit Tea.

5. Cooperation ,like a flock of birds.

( 團體是整體之美、類似成群的鳥兒 )、

As a river constantly flows right and left and spirals in circles, but its resulting force is in one direction. The river might slow down, speed up, or even stop; but only for a fixed amount of time before it will be flowing again in the same direction. And like a flock of birds, each being individual but crossing the sky in tempo with the same migration purpose out of instinct. Disappearing in the sky, but not forever, for the flock will return only to leave once again. And as the sun and moon rise and set at opposite times and one being cold and at night and the other being hot and in the day; but both in perpetual orbit forever, never too close and never too far. This is the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony from beginning to end and as all the participants say good-bye and talk about when’s the last time they have seen each other or ask what kind of tea others brewed. This ending is part of a cycle and not the end of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony; because as the participants leave the area, plans are already being made for the next time to have another Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony for some occasion or just for the celebration of tea itself.

6. Wu-Wo Tea Ceremonies can be friendship events.

( 友誼的交流 )

I have now been to many Wu-Wo Tea Ceremonies; usually we are in public places and share tea with the spectators that come to see the ceremony. We also serve tea to people that just happen to be there, like passersby that are just walking around or maybe someone that has noticed us. So they come over to see what is going on. I have met many friends this way. It is very fun because the rules are simple, just make tea, and enjoy! We went to “Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall” in Taipei, for Mothers’ Day and had a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. For the Moon Festival we went to “Chinpaosan Cemetery” in Taipei County where the legendary pop singer who hypnotized China and Asia during the 1980s Theresa Teng is buried. At this place we honored a fellow classmate, who past away, Lin Jong Feng and had a Memorial Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. Recently, we had a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony in Mucha just outside of Taipei city. That night we attended a lecture and presentation on Modern Art, later we all sat in a circle and had an open discussion group about the art presentation and the meaning of “Wu-Wo”. We spent the night there and the next day we had a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony on the roof of the building were we stayed in, I sang a short song right before the end of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. This was a two-day event. We often have Wu-Wo Tea Ceremonies in Taiwan and I have met many new friends, local and foreign. Once we got together with two other Tea Associations and had a tea ceremony at Elephant Mountain in Taipei, this was very good because we interacted with members from other the tea groups and served tea to the regular mountain hikers as they reached the mountain summit. I would say the hikers were quite glad to see us as we offered cups of refreshing tea to quench their thirst. The tea groups worked together, some people retrieving fresh water, others boiling water, others brewing tea, and still others serving tea. I myself went around the mountain summit to the different brewing locations and introduced the tea being brewed and offered the passersby to have a cup of tea. I got lots of questions about how did I, as a foreigner get involved with the tea groups. People asked how they could get involved; I gave my email and telephone number out to many people that day. In this Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony there were three tea groups all brewing and participating together. This Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony turned out to be a real social event for exposing many new people to the joys of Tea.

One also can organize a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony in any Country; for example, we are now organizing a Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony for America, in Los Angeles next year, (scheduled summer 2006). And this year we had an International Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony at Wuyi Mountain in China, and in 2007 another in Korea, and in 2009 maybe in America or Beijing.

7. History of International Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony

(國際無我茶會的史跡 )

Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony is a style of tea ceremony developed and perfected in Taiwan in the 1980s by Founder Tsai, Rong Tsang. Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony originally came from a celebration on Mother’s Day called “Family Tea Ceremony” (officially, on May 12, 1991 at The Taipei Music Hall Square, it held around 500 people and their Families). Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony has had over fourteen years of history, and now has expanded for all people in all Countries.

As of 2005, the International event, “Tea Appreciation Day” was established as a day for celebrating tea all over the world, which originates from the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony. Tea Appreciation Day is held on one day during the first weekend of May or close to it. People and organizations can gather together for an International Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony to make and serve tea with the attending individuals and passing strangers alike. Activity leaders must follow local laws and regulations. There is no need to register with any organization, (including The International Wu-Wo Tea Association).

8. Conclusion

( 結論 )

Tea comes in many forms and tastes and is the second most popular beverage in the world after water. Tea drinking is often a social affair. When people of different cultures, social ranks, races, and nationalities gather together for tea, we can say that such social tea drinking helps to cultivate human relationships and promote harmony and understanding among the community. Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony is one where everyone, regardless of language, Country, or background, comes together to make, serve, and drink tea. The term, “Wu-Wo”, means selflessness by being part of the whole, and to promote cooperation and appreciation of others’ cultural and social differences. You can achieve a state of selflessness, harmony, and wholeness, with your fellow tea friends as you become immersed in the Spirit and Basic Principles of the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.

I used to think the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony was just a tea party, but it has become much more to me as the years pass. I have come to understand that tea is much more than a drink. I have a saying “Tea is a bridge for people to communicate”. So many people have helped me to understand the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony and Tea itself. Therefore, I would like to thank: my wife Chang, Li-hsiang, the teachers, my co-workers, my classmates, and the countless new friends I have made. So I will just say, I thank the “old and new” people of the International and Taiwan Wu-Wo Tea Association, for helping me with my tea adventure and learning of tea.




* * *


* Tea Culture: writer, translator, lecturer, and tea arts performer.

* Tea Arts, Blogger, (http://teaarts.blogspot.com/)

* Translating into English (無我茶會) "Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony" and about the many facets of Tea Culture.

* A writer for "Tea Culture Monthly"

Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute, Progress Report


* International Wu-Wo Tea Association, Member, Photographer

* Tea Arts and Culture and Incense Lore Scholar

* American English Instructor

E-mail: icetea@email.com


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* 茶道追求者

* 中華國際無我茶會會員

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E-mail: icetea@email.com 網址: http://teaarts.blogspot.com/