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From the sublime to the ridiculous

April 23, 2010

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There are tea mascots that are entirely charming and wonderful. Of course I am partial to my wonderful bat, who I decided to name Xingfu (幸福), and who sits at the tea table during nearly every session of Gongfu Cha, receiving frequent doses of tea and water over his shiny clay body.

But there are also tea mascots that I think are excessively silly and gimmicky, like the little exhibitionist big-headed young boys made out of red clay that pee when water or tea is poured over or into them. Even if their complete lack of elegance and the concept of anything or anyone peeing onto the tea table weren’t bad enough, in my opinion they’re just not in any way appealing or cute.

Last week, emerging from the Seattle Art Museum after attending a very well-done demonstration of Chado, the Japanese powdered tea ceremony – on entirely the other end of the spectrum of dignity as far as tea culture is concerned – I crossed the street and encountered not just one, but an entire windowsill-full of these peeing tea boys. The store was closed at the time, and the effect of the long row of them was very amusing, especially the way they appear to stare through the window, all poised and ready, pointed toward the outside world, but without the ability to pee on anything.

I can only imagine what the two in this next photo did that got them into so much trouble the workers in the shop had to drown them in a glass of water after-hours.

Vital Leaf Teas, the location of this army of clay boys, also has some curiously enormous blocks of pu’er, like these two installed into the back of a bench or table.

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