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Sanjit Keskar

2 questions about chinese table wares - cups and soup spoons

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Sanjit Keskar

I would like to understand whether there is/are any sound (traditional or scientific) reasons behind

 

(I)  Chinese soup spoons NOT being made of metal and being the shape they characteristically are  (BTW do they have a particular name in china?)

 

(ii) Why Chinese tea cups (not the Gaiwans) do NOT have saucers nor handles.  Most pictures show them in a tea set with a teapot without saucers

 

Thank you for any help on these issues

 

Mr Keskar 

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Shelley

China has had a long history with ceramics so it seems natural for them to be ceramic. I think they are called sháo zi 勺子 which means ladle, scoop.

Metal also can impart a "taste" which is not pleasant. Having a flat bottom means you can stand it up to let soup cool before you eat it. They are a better shape for eating noodles and dumplings with.

 

Chinese tea cups are usually called tea bowls cháwǎn 茶碗. Handles are not really needed nor are saucers because they are more bowls than cups.

 

I think its probably more tradition than science but there some good reason for some of the things for example ceramics spoons aren't so much of a heat sink as metal.

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889

Well, what cheap metal was available for mass production of spoons in China? Cheap stainless steel is, by Chinese measure, a recent development.

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abcdefg
(I)  Chinese soup spoons NOT being made of metal and being the shape they characteristically are  (BTW do they have a particular name in china?)

 

Lots of them in use today in small eateries are in fact cheap stamped metal. Some are durable and resusable plastic, such as Melamine or its equivalent. It's very frequent for them to have a flat bottom, like the original ceramic ones. I don't know how they originally acquired that shape.

 

post-20301-0-95676600-1473694597_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-44424800-1473694614_thumb.jpg

 

(ii) Why Chinese tea cups (not the Gaiwans) do NOT have saucers nor handles.  Most pictures show them in a tea set with a teapot without saucers

 

I think it is mainly because the cups used for 功夫茶 gongfu tea are small and are used differently from western tea cups. You drink the tea quickly before it has a chance to become cool. Two good sips and the cup is empty. Then it can be refilled with hot tea by your host. This method of drinking tea lets you appreciate the subtle differences between each brewing.

 

These small cups are 品茗杯。

 

You don't nurse it along over 5 or 10 minutes. If you plan to sip tea slowly, you use a different kind of cup: One which is larger and supplied with a lid and a handle. Some of these also have a saucer, though most don't. You sometimes brew the tea directly in these larger, lidded cups.

 

post-20301-0-64694100-1473687494_thumb.jpg   post-20301-0-10972600-1473687510_thumb.jpg  

 

--------------------------------

To the original poster: Why do you want to know? What is the context of your question?

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geraldc

This is based on the assumption that as with everything, China did it first, and also got it right.

 

China has drunk tea for thousands of years. Water was made safe by boiling it and drinking it hot.

In the west, water wasn't safe, and they've drunk alcohol for thousands of years. 

 

China has always drunk hot drinks in a cup without a handle. If you've always done it, your fingers don't get that bothered by the heat. 

The west only started drinking hot drinks from around the time of the industrial revolution, when caffeine came along in the form of tea and coffee, and people stopped being permanently befuddled by wine or small beer. Previous to tea and coffee cups, people in the west were happy to drink from cups without handles, so the handles must have been to prevent their delicate hands from being scolded on the hot cup. It would have also been the rich, non labouring classes with delicate hands who took to hot drinks first.

 

With regards to spoons, metal has always been expensive, and clay/porcelain relatively cheap. Until fairly recently in the west cutlery like spoons was silver. Silver's not exactly cheap.

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