On Friday, 23rd October 2020, a group of Form 4 students at St. Margaret College Secondary School, Verdala, Cospicua had the opportunity to experience the harmony and beauty of a Chinese Tea culture ceremony in class. This school project was coordinated by senior teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc and it was linked with the student’s study unit about Asian Religions and Spirituality as part of their R.E. school programme.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the China Corner at St. Margaret College and while following all the Covid-19 restrictions at school, students did not miss this event in class and enjoyed every minute of it.
Teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc said, “We are all living in a busy world burdened by daily stress and work. So offering our students the opportunity to enjoy the harmony and beauty of a Chinese Tea culture ceremony in class was surely for them a lesson in meditation and calmness”.
In Chinese language a tea ceremony is called ‘chá dào’ (茶道) and it is considered as the spirit and soul of tea culture. It offers people the chance to taste and appreciate the fresh aroma of Chinese tea. For many Chinese people, a tea ceremony is an art of spiritual enjoyment which uplifts their moral character and nourishes their human nature. The four basic values which are inhibited in a Chinese Tea ceremony are honour, beauty, harmony and respect. In fact all these four values were highlighted with all participating students at school. While preparing for the tea ceremony students were told to show honour to everything around them, appreciate the beauty of nature (especially the aroma of tea), and pursue harmony while smelling and drinking tea and finally showing respect to their teacher and classmates.
Just drinking tea is one thing but experiencing the true beauty and harmony of a Chinese Tea ceremony is something more profound and spiritual. Following this activity in class students shared different feelings and this is quite natural as every person has a different life experience and personal values. In fact in China they have a famous expression which says, ‘the moon is reflected in thousand rivers but the reflections are different from each other’.
For many Western people enjoying a daily cup of tea is just like having a short break but a Chinese tea ceremony entails much more than that. Though there are many interpretations to the steps followed in a tea ceremony the following are worth to be considered:
Warming the tea pot and cups is an invitation to warm our hearts, pouring hot water from a distance to brew the tea leaves means dissolving your problems and daily burdens in the dissolved tea, pouring tea from the tea pot to the cups is to let go in life and finally smelling and sipping tea reflects a sense of enjoyment, harmony, purification and calmness.
So a tea culture ceremony is not just about drinking tea ‘chá’ (茶) but a series of steps inviting people to enjoy making tea, appreciating tea, smelling tea, drinking tea and tasting tea. In fact, the five beauties of a Chinese tea ceremony are: tea leaves, water, timing, tea sets and the drinking itself. So in few words there is great art in a Chinese Tea ceremony especially when considering the table manners requested.
Throughout this Chinese Tea ceremony held in class, St. Margaret College students learned to show high reverence to fresh tea, pure water, clean tea set, fresh air and people (teacher and participating classmates) as part of the table manners requested to follow. On the other hand as students learned to say NO to expired tea, dirty air, unclean water, and unclean tea set and to bad manners it served them a lesson in favour of sustainability and human respect/well being.
At the end of this Chinese Tea culture ceremony, teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc expressed his special thanksgiving to the Malta China Cultural Centre, the China Embassy in Malta and the Malta/Sino Friendship Society for their continuous support and encouragement.
St. Margaret College Secondary School Verdala students: Courtney Muscat, Dwayne Galea, Clayton Baldacchino, Mikael Galea, Nolene Falzon and Emina Leghbali.
St. Margaret College Secondary School Verdala students: Courtney Muscat, Dwayne Galea, Clayton Baldacchino, Mikael Galea, Nolene Falzon and Emina Leghbali together with their teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc experiencing a Chinese Tea Culture Ceremony in class.