Monday, August 16, 2010

Xi-shi ~ 西施

You probably wouldn't expect there to be too many tea-fetishes. Though, I suppose tea-houses haven't always necessarily been the most virtuous of houses in the Far-East, depending on your ethical point of view. What I didn't expect is that, perhaps subconsciously, I had one.

The only, slightly disturbing, fetish tea I'd come across is Golden Jade Ring tea, or, Young Girl's Ring tea. Apparently, it's picked and rolled by the local young virgins of the village. From what I gather, the custom began when the emperor's tea was picked only by young virgin's, sometimes only with their teeth. I've only seen this tea online, although if I were to ask at the tea-shop in Seoul, I have a feeling they just might have some stashed in the back. If I were to ever purchase some, it would be for the interesting appearance, not anything else.

My unknown fetish turned out to be with tea-pots, though, not the actually tea. Of the many different shapes and styles of Chinese teapots, there's one in particular that I really like; round, heavier at the bottom, with no base, and a lid that sits flush with the rest of the pot. There's something pleasing to me about this form, soft, as though when you set it down, it settles itself on the table.

The owner of the tea shop knows me well enough by now that he can tell by the look in my eye whether I'm browsing or looking to buy. I hadn't bought a new teapot in nearly a year and wanted to get one that was large enough to make two small cups but just the right size to make a single cup when EunBong didn't feel like drinking tea. The tea master went over to another shelf and showed me two new teapots that had just come in. The first was nice, but too big, the second was one of the nicest teapots I'd seen, and just the right size, and my favorite style with a beautiful, slightly curved spout. What stood out the most was the colour of the shiny clay. When I turned it over to check the price, there was a small sticker with a few Chinese characters written on it. I understood the first two characters, "Great Red." I asked if perhaps this tea-pot was intended specifically for Great Red Cape tea (Da Hong Po)? He told me that it was actually referring to the special colour of the clay and told me that the other two characters were "Xi-Shi", the name of a Chinese girl who was so stunning that she is still remembered thousands of years later for her beauty. The teapot, and its design that I love so much, is actually meant to look like her breast. He went on to tell me,  men in China enjoy using this teapot, pretending that they are drinking Xi-Shi's milk. As I held the small, beautiful, red teapot in my palm and thought about why I liked it so much, I realized that, deep down, maybe that is what I liked about it... Freud probably would have poked me in the eye with his cigar for not seeing it earlier. I went home that night and looked at my collection of tea pots. Of the 15 pots that sat on the shelf, 9 of them were Xi-Shi's breast! *^^*