Tea pets, also known as tea companions or tea tray figurines, are small, decorative clay figurines that are traditionally used in Chinese tea culture.
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The Origin of Tea Pets
Although Yixing, a city located in China, is probably best known for being the birthplace of the Yixing teapot, the city is also regarded as being the birthplace of tea pet.
Due to the popularity of Yixing clay teapots, Yixing became a major production center for a variety of tea-related products, such as teapots, tea cups, and other tea-related products. At some point, artisans in the region also began molding Yixing clay into mythical creatures or animals to accompany the tea drinker on their journey, or bring about prosperity, sort of like a tea mascot or a good luck charm.
The production of tea pets is still concentrated in Yixing in the present day.
Despite the popularity of tea pets, there is little written about their history and use in Chinese literature.
Types of Tea Pets
There are many different types of tea pets, ranging from small, simple figurines to modestly larger sculptures. They can be glazed or unglazed, and are often painted with intricate designs and patterns.
Here are a few examples of different types of tea pets:
- Animal tea pets: Animals, such as dogs, cats, or horses.
- Mythical creatures: Mythical creatures, such as dragons, phoenixes, and other mythical beasts.
- Cultural symbols: Cultural symbols or figures, such as the Chinese zodiac animals or figures from Chinese folklore.
- Other themes: Other popular themes include plants, flowers, or everyday objects. It’s also common to find tea pets which are shaped like little teapots or teacups.
Caring for a Tea Pet
To clean a tea pet, you can gently rinse it with water and dry it off with a soft cloth.
Avoid using soap or other cleaning agents, as these may damage the clay.
With proper care, your tea pet can be a beautiful and enduring addition to your tea ceremony.