The Chinese wedding tea ceremony, known as "敬茶, Jing Cha", is a beautiful and cherished ritual deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Literally meaning “to respectfully offer tea”, it is an integral part of traditional Chinese weddings, symbolizing respect, gratitude, and the merging of two families. Let's delve into its fascinating history and explore the significance of this age-old custom.
A Brief History
The origins of the Chinese wedding tea ceremony can be traced back thousands of years to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Tea was highly valued and considered a precious commodity during that era. As a result, the act of offering tea was seen as a gesture of honor and reverence.
Over time, the tea ceremony evolved into a pivotal ritual in Chinese weddings, showcasing respect and gratitude towards the couple's parents and elders. It has become a wonderful tradition that continues to be practiced with great joy and enthusiasm in modern Chinese weddings.
The Significance of Tea Ceremony
The Chinese wedding tea ceremony holds profound significance, symbolizing the couple's gratitude and the acknowledgement of their parents' lifelong care and guidance.
Here are a few key meanings associated with this time-honored ritual:
Filial Piety and Respect
Serving tea to parents and elders is an act of deep respect, demonstrating the couple’s gratitude for their upbringing and the familial values instilled in them.
The tea ceremony represents the union of two families through marriage. By serving tea, the couple is uniting their families and establishing harmonious relationship between them.
Blessings and Well-Wishes
As the parents and elders sip their tea, they offer blessings and well-wishes for a blissful and prosperous marriage, longevity and fertility. Some of these blessings are 百年好合 (bai nian hao he) - a hundred years of conjugal bliss and harmony, 幸福美满 (xing fu mei man) - a lifetime of happiness and bliss, and 早生贵子 (zao sheng gui zi) - hopes for the couple to give birth to a healthy child soon.
In some families, the tea ceremony also pays respect to their ancestors, as a small cup of tea is often placed on the family’s ancestral altar as a sign of reverence and remembrance.
What tea should be served and whose teapot?
Chinese tea is commonly used for the tea ceremony. Chinese sweet tea may also be used for the ceremony as the sweet tea will symbolize the sweetness in the new union.
These ingredients are added to the tea to symbolize blessings and wishes.
Lotus seeds and red dates (莲子红枣茶): The lotus seeds represent the wish for the couple to bear children quickly and continuously.
Longans and red dates (龙眼红枣茶): The longans represent a "dragon" and the wish for the couple to have sons.
During the Guo Da Li, there would have been a tea set as part of the dowry gift. Couple may use that tea set for this ceremony. Alternatively, some families have a tea set as part of their heirloom treasures and it would be meaningful to use them as well!
Who to serve tea to first
There are no strict rules these days, but generally tea is served first to the groom’s family, followed by the bride’s family.
Parents: The couple begins serving tea to their parents as a gesture of utmost respect and appreciation for their wisdom and guidance.
Grand uncles and aunts.
Uncles and aunts.
Elder siblings and their spouses (if any).
After the couple serves tea to the elders, they can respond by presenting the new couple with gifts of ang bao or even matching watches and jewelry. At the same time, many elders will often give the couple advice and blessings, expressing their love and best wishes.
In some instances, the couple may also be served tea by the younger generation such as younger siblings, younger cousins and nephews or nieces. The younger relatives will offer blessings to the couple as they serve tea, and in return, the couple may gift an ang bao with well-wishes for their studies or work.
During the Wedding Tea Ceremony
During the tea ceremony, the bride stands to the right of the groom (男左女右). The bride will serve tea facing the male elder, while the groom will serve tea facing the female elder. The couple may kneel while serving tea with both hands.
If one partner of the elder couple is unable to attend the tea ceremony, the present elder may drink on behalf of the absent spouse.
In serving tea, the bride will address the groom’s family members and relatives the way he would, and vice-versa. Parents may be consulted prior to the tea ceremony in the proper address of the relatives.
Embracing Tradition and Family
The Chinese wedding tea ceremony is not just a ritual; it is a heartfelt expression of love, respect, and gratitude towards parents and elders. By honoring this age-old tradition, couples continue to preserve their cultural heritage and create lasting memories on their special day.
Did you know that Guo Da Li is also one of the traditional Chinese wedding customs? Read here to learn more about the history and significance behind it!