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Brewing up a sense of intimate community

By YUAN SHENGGAO | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-08 08:15

Guests watch an acrobatic tea-pouring performance at a Chengdu teahouse.

For Chengdu locals, teahouses are more than just places to sip. Inside they can find people chatting, playing cards, discussing business, telling stories, shining shoes or selling melon seeds and tofu puddings. The diversity of activities often leaves visitors astounded.

In his book Ba-Shu Cultural Chronicle, Yuan writes: "Tea culture is a very important and distinctive part of Ba-Shu folk culture. The teahouse is a small Chengdu, and Chengdu is a big teahouse. Half of the city's residents are tea drinkers." The author also opines that teahouses are places for rest, socializing, entertainment, and the source of some people's livelihood. Patrons can make friends, conduct business, hear news, seek employment and mediate disputes.

For anyone wanting to experience the authentic teahouse culture of Chengdu, a visit to the century-old Heming Teahouse located in People's Park in the city center is highly recommended. People's Park once had six teahouses, but while some have moved or been rebuilt, Heming Teahouse, where scholars used to gather, retains its original form and is well maintained, preserving the original atmosphere of old Chengdu.

There is another century-old gem called Guanyinge Teahouse in Pengzhen town of Chengdu's Shuangliu district, with its old-style traditional Sichuan tile roof, walls and uneven muddy floors. The sunshine beats down on the cement stove and old aluminum kettle, and the worn tables and chairs add to the deep sense of history. Seemingly frozen in time, Guanyinge Teahouse is a popular stop for photography enthusiasts.

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