Also known in some quarters as Zhong, Gaiwan is a special Chinese teaware used mostly by lovers of Chinese tea. It is a lidded bowl crafted by Chinese teaware artists, used to infuse tea leaves as well as consume tea. In this short article, you'll find out all about this extraordinary piece of Chinese artistry and its importance to the Chinese tea philosophy.
Before the ascension of the Ming Dynasty which ruled between 1368 and 1644, the Chinese were known to consume their tea in the same vessel with which it was prepared. The famous tea master Lu Yu described it as a bowl large enough to accommodate the ingredients of brewing tea, while being compact enough to be held with the hands during consumption. The term used to describe this was Chawan. This versatile teaware literally translated to "tea bowl".
However, the enthronement of the Ming Dynasty gave rise to major changes in how tea was prepared and brewed. Gaiwan was created in the light of these changes.
A set of Gaiwan teaware typically consists of three parts:
- A saucer
- A bowl
- A lid
It can be made from a variety of elements, such as glass and porcelain. There are also Gaiwans made from Jade or Yixing clay. These ones are typically small, holding a volume of 100-150 ml. They are considered to to be of great value and prized by collectors who specialize in tea paraphernalia.
Recently, a Ming princely burial was evacuated, and it yielded the first gaiwan set to survive until modern times. The Gaiwan set found in the excavation is quite popular from 15th century paintings. It included a blue and white stem cup made from Jingdezhen porcelain, with a silver stand and a golden lid. They were all decorated with dragons.
Functions Of Gaiwan
As stated earlier, the gaiwan teaware is popular among lovers of Chinese tea, for brewing and sipping tea. Of a truth, Gaiwan can be used to make any kind of tea really.
However, it is thought to be particularly great for brewing the likes of green tea and white tea, known for their delicate flavors and aromas. Gaiwan teaware absorbs heat and does not affect the flavor. Its versatility can be quite handy when preparing Oolong infusions, which is required to be infused multiple times.
Tea tasting is another great function of the Gaiwan teaware, due to its open and glazed surface. The open surface feature allows you a great view of the tea while it's brewing. Also, there's little chance of the flavor or aroma being altered during the brewing process, due to the glazed feature.
Gaiwan's lid is quite important too. With it, the tea can be infused directly into the bowl or be drunk right from it. Traditionally, the lid is used to block the leaves while drinking, making for easy consumption.
It is not advisable to brew Black Tea with the Gaiwan teaware. The lid is quite large, and this allows much heat escape from the brew too quickly when steeping is taking place.