Last Updated on 06/20/2021 by Desmond
If you got a friend who loves deeply Chinese tea culture, you might see there is a little doll on his tea tray. He may say it is called Tea Pet, a mate he is drinking tea with. Take good care of it, and it may bring good luck. Actually, a tea pet is not a simple decoration. If you also want to buy one for fun, you must keep reading this article; a wrong selection may influence your fortune badly.
What It A Tea Pet?
A tea pet is usually seen in the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. It’s a small decoration on the tea tray, typically made from clay. To describe as a playmate may be more exact because it is not a usual teaware and not a necessary of the tea ceremony. There common tea pets style are:
- Animals, primary are the twelve Chinese zodiac signs;
- Monsters in the ancient Chinese myth;
- Buddhist roles like Maitreya or little monks;
- Some modern cartoon figures;
Common Tea Pets Materials
People typically shower the tea pet with the wastewater of washing the tea and teaware or the cooldown tea infusion in the fair cup. Then wiping it gently when chatting over cups of tea with friends. As the days pass, the tea pet’s color will change into the same as the tea; people called it “raising.”
So, during the whole tea-drinking, tea pets will not affect the tea in your cup. Thus, compare with teawares, it has more choices on the materials. But for matching the tea sets style, tea pets typically made from the following:
Most tea pets are made from clay; among them, Zisha(purple sand) is the most welcome, and they all got an original earth color. Most common Gongfu teawares include teapot, tea tray, teacup, and the fair cup are made from clay because of the excellent insulation performance. To unify the style, tea pets follow the same material. Besides, the many tiny pores on the clay wares’ surface help the “raising” job better and will not be a visual conflict of the clay and tea color.
The porcelain tea pets got many color glazes, look more elegant and beautiful than the clay ones with original earth color. But they are not much popular than the clay ones in the traditional tea lovers groups. Because the smooth surface makes it more difficult for the tea pet raising, and once it got the tea color, it will also look not such comfortable. Suppose you have no plan to raise a tea pet, the porcelain one also a nice choice.
Related Reading: The difference between ceramic teaware and porcelain teaware.
It’s not the ordinary sand from the beach; it’s the silt from the Yellow River, which has been through processing and also called Chengni. The sand tea pet’s surface is rough but looks full east style.
Resin is a modern chemical material with great plasticity and low cost. In the beginning, people made tea pet with resin is because want to imitate the style and texture of jade; the real jade is too expensive and can not resist the high temperature. Later, people found that adding some other special chemical material in the resin can make it color-changing when heating by hot water, and back into the original color after cool down. It can not only make more fun during tea-drinking and can help judge the water temperature according to the color-changing.
Metal tea pets are hard to see because they are easy to be oxidized. Most of the time, metal tea pets are just taken as decorations on the tea tray, and you can not shower them.
What Is A Tea Pet Used For?
There aren’t any historical records that tell when did Chinese start to play with tea pets. Yixing is regarded as the tea pet’s birthplace because most of them are made from Zisha. The local craftsmen might make some small animals with the leftover material for fun, and some tea lovers buy them away when choosing teawares. Then tea pets got known more by people.
In the beginning, people set a tea pet on a tea tray is just for having more fun during tea drinking. When the chatting gets awkward silent, take a shower to the tea pet with tea may defuse embarrassment. Or just take it as a negotiation strategy, like Vito Corleone played with the cat when talking with Bonasera.
Later, along with tea pets get popular, there comes more and more style. Like every idolatry act of every religion on the earth, people shape the tea pet into what their believed symbolize. And hope to get what they want by praying in the “raising” way. Of course, the same as the teapot’s case, some tea lovers just raising a tea pet to prove how they love tea.
Common Tea Pet Styles & What Their Symbolisms – Not Only For Good Luck
In China, you can see how is one people’s character and what he desired from the tea pet he set on the tea tray. If you want to buy a tea pet, you’d better know what the style’s symbolism is, or your friends may misunderstand your character and desire.
Chinese use twelve animals to mark the years. It’s called twelve zodiacs, and people also use it to introduce when they were born. Most of the time, the animal tea pet on the tea tray is the same as the host’s zodiac. Each animal symbolizes:
- Rat. Rat’s Chinese pronunciation is similar to count, which means the untold wealth;
- Ox. Everybody might hear the word “Niubi“(ox), which shows admiration in Chinese. Now in the stock market, everyone loves the bull market;
- Tiger. It is for showing stateliness, typically no one will take it as a tea pet;
- Rabbit. Without any special meaning, it just looks cute;
- Dragon. Dragon is the Chinese totem and means a lot. It brings hope, safety and can exorcise evil spirits. When you shower the hot tea on the dragon tea pet, it looks like floating on the cloud;
- Snake. Both in the west and the east culture, snake all means cunning and evil. Except for the one who born in the snake year, no others will take a snake style tea pet;
- Horse. The horse represents hardworking and strives in Chinese culture;
- Sheep. Without any special meaning;
- Monkey. In Chinese culture, monkey means dexterous and wisdom;
- Rooster. Without any special meaning;
- Dog. The dog represents loyal. But people choose a dog tea pet typically is because it is lovely;
- Pig. The fatty and cutely little pig means rich and happy;
Buddhism has a big influence in China. If the tea pet is in the style of Bodhidharma, Buddha, Maitreya, or little monk, that may mean the host is a Buddhist; or perhaps he is a people like quiet and meditation. There is also a kind of tea pet is a Buddha’s foot, and what is praying for is rich.
The monsters in the ancient Chinese myth are most popular in the tea pet designer. Except for their symbolism, in another traditional Chinese culture – Feng Shui, they also mean a lot.
The myth monster tea pets must be set at the right place and angle according to Feng Shui. Like the host’s birthday, property, name, the direction of windows and door, etc., it’s very complicated. If setting a tea pet in the wrong place, it is said will counter-productive to what you pray for.
Pi Xiu. In the myth, Pi Xiu is the ninth son of Dragon. It doesn’t have an anus and loves to eat jewelry, only intake but not excrete. So people regarded it as the symbol of accumulated wealth. Many businessmen set a Pi Xiu tea pet on their tea tray and pray that it will make them rich. Besides, Pi Xiu is believed it can protect the house too.
Golden Toad. It is a golden toad with a coin in its mouth, has only three legs, and is also for pray wealth. The coin in most golden toad tea pet’s mouth is rotatable. It will make more fun, and in Chinese, it also means earning money.
Kylin. Kylin is a kind monster; its style combines the dragon head, deer body, bull tail, and horse hoof. Kylin is as important as Dragon in Chinese culture. It can also bring people good luck, fertility blessing, and exorcise evil spirits.
Some ordinary animals like elephants, lions, and cats, even though they don’t belong to the twelve zodiacs and myth monsters, tea pets in their style also popular. Elephants symbolize rich, and lions help exorcise evil spirits. Although cats can also bring fortune, the most reason people love them is the cute look.
Some tea pets are also in the adorable kid’s style; they are for good luck. The most famous one is the pee-pee boy, which with a marvelous design. Its body is empty inside. Suppose you add water in before drinking tea and shower it with the hot infusion. In that case, the water will jet out through the little boy’s wiener because of the pressure differential, like peeing.
There still many tea pets in various styles, like the peach, a symbol of long-living. Some of them even combine the function of other teawares like tea tools six gentlemen and got some practicality.
Maintain, How To Raise A Tea Pet
Raising a tea pet doesn’t mean feeding it with food. Except for showering it when drinking tea, it must be maintained well as the other teawares at the ordinary times, make it become more unique. Tea lovers summed up 4 tips from their years’ tea pet raising experiences:
- Typically after we buy a Zisha teapot home, we may put it in a pot cooking with water for a while to remove the earthy smell. But tea pet will not touch the tea we drink directly; it does not need to do this. And the boiling water may make the tea pet roll in the pot and break its delicate carving;
- We need to shower the tea pet with tea infusion for raising, but it doesn’t mean doing it like washing a car. The shower action must be gentle. Remember to scrub it with a brush or towel and let the infusion cover the tea pet’s surface equally. Imagine that you are massaging it;
- The deep-fermented tea with a darker color like black tea and dark tea can make the tea pet get the tea color faster than other teas. If it is possible, it will be better just to shower a tea pet with one type of tea. Showering a tea pet with different teas often may make it a disunity color and looks ugly;
- Never steep the tea pet in the infusion for a long time attempt to let it get the color soon. Doing this way, all you will get is just a thick and ugly tea stain and a bad smell;