Tea as Nature, Tea as Power in Early Modern China: Tea and the Literati in the Ming Dynasty

  •  Hong Jiang    


This paper explores the cultural meaning of tea drinking for the literati in the later part of the Ming dynasty (around 1500-1644), using the pair ideas of tea as representing a lifestyle close to nature, and tea as a powerful representation of tasteful life in the society. The dual meanings of tea reinforce each other for the Ming literati, giving them the means and outlets to bolster their self-expression and to distinguish their identity in the social-cultural context of limited career opportunities. I examine the role of tea in tea books, tea-themed paintings, and Ming literati’s engagement in tea clubs and other related activities. This paper contributes to dialogues at the intersections of nature, culture, and history by treating tea as a nature-culture object, highlighting that the pursuit of nature is itself a form of cultural power.   

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1916-9655
  • ISSN(Online): 1916-9663
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: semiannual

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