Tea and Marriage
Posted on July 24 2018
In the classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber（红楼梦）, Wang Xifeng(王熙凤)sends Lin Daiyu（林黛玉）two bottles of tealeaves and jokes, “You’ve drunk the tea of our family, how come you are still not the daughter-in-law of our family?” How then did the connection between tea and marriage arise?
In ancient China, a boy going to a girl’s family has to bring a wild goose as a gift, an act known as ‘goose foundation’. Wild geese are loyal and are thought not to live on after the death of its partner, and couples are expected to show similar loyalty to each other. Later on, as it is no longer easy to catch a wild goose, people begin to replace them with home-raised chickens, ducks, and geese. As increased popularity in tea, it has then becomea preferred gift for proposing.
In the Tang Dynasty, the custom is to treat tea as an engagement gift, and in the Song Dynasty, tea is even more closely relate to weddings. Presenting an engagement gift iscommonly called ‘presenting tea’.
Even today, the countryside in many parts of China, engagement is still called’ accepting tea’. If both the boy and the girl are willing, they will decide on a date to get married. Many guests will be invited to the feast, enjoy tea, wine, music and opera, the four necessary traditions.
Matchmaking, blind dates and bridal nights are all accompanied by tea to add some fun. Nor is the custom of using tea a matchmaker limited to the common folks; it has also influenced to aristocracy. When a royal man gets married in the Song Dynasty, he has to present 50kg of tea as a betrothal gift. The connection between tea and marriage is so intimate that it is said that there is almost’ no marriage without tea’.
Because of the symbolic as well as practical value of tea in the married life of Chinese people has been granted enormous recognition and praise. If you were invited as a guest to visit someone’s house in ancient China, it suggest not to bring tea as a gift if the host has only a single daughter, otherwise that would cause misunderstanding. However, nowadays this function of tea has gradually disappeared.