Picturing Science in Modern China

Tea drinker 品茶客 [Pincha ke]

Chen Shizeng 陳師曾, “Tea drinker” 品茶客 [Pincha ke], leaf 7. Beijing Social Life and Customs 北京風俗圖 [Beijing fengsu tu], ca. 19141915. Album leaf, ink and color on paper; 28.6 x 36.4 cm. National Art Museum of China.

頭戴鼠皮帽,                      Wearing a cap made out of rat leather,
低首行街途。                  I bow my head and walk along the street.
我是品茶客,                  I am a tea drinker,
漫呼大茶壺。                  calling out “big teapot” freely.
                                            青羊居士 The Layman of Black Ram

陶不必宜興,                      Nowhere else produces better potteries than Yixing.
刻不必曼生。                  Nobody else is better at seal cutting than [Chen] Mansheng.
賤彼酒人與煙客,            Those drinkers and smokers are low-lifes.
中有釅酒茶溫可捫。         There is thick tea [in the teapot] warm to touch.
不過告之行路者,            But I tell the passers-by 
曰吾在理門。                  that I am a member of the Limen.[i]
                                           止。Zhi [Chen Zhi 陳止] 

減字木蘭花,大茶壺           "Magnolia Blossom (short version)" ("The Big Teapot") [ii]
南茶北酪,                   For tea from the south and yogurt in the north,
牛飲何分盃與杓?          why should people make a distinction between guzzling 
                                 with a cup or a spoon?

為底風移,                   Why do customs vary so?
焙茗熏花處處宜。          It’s suited for roasting infused blossom tea[iii] anywhere.
一錢能買,                   Tea can be bought with one penny.
閒話街坊春似海。          When the spring season is as deep as the sea the neighbors
                                 chat in the lanes.

向夜泉香,                   Towards night the spring water is fragrant,
多半紅樓祇應忙。          and when the night falls, the brothels surely will be busy.


[i] Limen 理門 was a religious group that existed during the late imperial and Republican eras in Beijing and Tianjin. It was also called Zaili jiao 在理教 or Baiyi dao 白衣道. The tea drinker in the picture was a member of the group. Limen has a doctrine that prohibits its believers from drinking and smoking.

[ii] Lyric by Yao Hua 姚華 (18761930). "Big Teapot" is the subtitle of the lyric and seems to refer to an actual vessel, but may be a pun on the nickname used in Beijing for boy servants in brothels who would fetch tea for clients.

[iii] Jasmine tea.