Yesterday, the Chinese Cultural Centre in Brussels hosted an exhibition to showcase China’s traditional tea processing techniques, under the initiative of the Mission of China to the European Union and the Embassy of China to the Kingdom of Belgium.
Prestigious guests attending the ceremony were invited to delve into Chinese culture through tea ceremonies, elegant dances, exhibitions and music.
Open until 9 June, the event known as Yaji Cultural Salon “Tea for Harmony” will acquaint guests with different tea varieties from 15 Chinese provinces, including green, black, white, dark and yellow tea. The tea ceremonies are accompanied by an exhibition on the history of Chinese tea and the role it plays in people’s lives today.
1. From China to Europe
“The ancient Silk Road promoted communication and trade, but also cultural exchange between China and other countries. Chinese tea was one of the most important products traded along the Silk Road,” explained Cao Zhongming, Ambassador of China to the Kingdom of Belgium.
Chinese tea has been traded all over the world for 2000 years, first via the ancient Silk Road stretching from Chang’an (the ancient capital of China) to Rome, Italy. The cargoes travelled a long way through the countries of Central Asia.
Today, trade between China and Europe has gone far beyond the tea. Last year, our two-way trade reached $847.3 billion, which means that nearly $100 million worth of goods are traded between China and Europe every hour, bringing huge benefits to the people on both sides. This needs to be valued and cherished.Ambassador Fu Cong, Mission of China to the European Union.
2. UNESCO world intangible cultural heritage recognition
In November 2022, “Traditional Tea Processing Techniques and Associated Social Practices in China” was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Based on natural conditions and local customs, tea producers have developed six categories of tea: green, yellow, dark, white, oolong and black teas. When added to reprocessed teas, such as flower-scented teas, the result is over 2,000 tea products with a variety of colours, aromas, flavours and shapes.
Tea is ubiquitous in the Chinese people’s daily life and is served steeped or boiled in homes, workplaces, tea houses, restaurants and temples. It is an important part of socialization and of ceremonies such as weddings and sacrifices.
The practice of greeting guests and building relationships within families and among neighbours through tea-related activities is common to multiple ethnic groups, providing a sense of shared identity and continuity for the communities.
The knowledge, skills and traditions are passed on through families and apprenticeships, and the bearers include tea producers, farmers and artists, as well as those who make the pastries that are typically served with tea.
Tea is the 43rd Chinese item added to the intangible cultural heritage list. Kunqu Opera was the first added to the list in 2001, being joined later by Peking Opera, papercutting techniques and the Dragon Boat Festival.