Watch: Taiwanese Teahouse Brings Tea Culture to Swarthmore

by Zach Epstein
Video: [3 min 25 sec] | Download

During a recent campus visit by representatives of Taipei's Wistaria Teahouse, members of the Swarthmore community learned about the richness of tea, tea culture, and qin music. The event was designed to introduce Swarthmore to "sipping culture."

At a Wister Center overflowing with students, faculty, and staff, participants sat "at tables set with refined elegance and exceptional teapots, teaware, and tea utensils," says Alan Berkowitz, Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern & Classical Languages and Chinese Section Head, who helped organize the teahouse's visit. "Everyone participated in infusing and tasting astonishing teas, and the Gillespie Room remained immersed in the spirit of tea throughout a full two hours."

View photos of the event by Elena Ruyter '14

"Sipping culture indicates both the culture of sipping tea, and also that with every sip we are imbibing culture," says Berkowitz.  "Besides its role as a soothing or stimulating beverage, tea is also an art form, where in the emptiness of the teapot lies the infinite."

Founded over 30 years ago, the Wistaria Teahouse is at the heart of tea and tea culture in Taiwan.  "Wistaria has been the locus for personal and public convivial, intellectual, and artistic moments," Berkowitz says, "and is the first designated cultural landmark in Taiwan for its role in the movement for social consciousness and political action that brought democracy to Taiwan."

The tea was complimented by qin music, a traditional Chinese instrument.  "At base, qin music can encapsulate or elicit a range of human feeling, and can emulate or resonate with nature," Berkowitz says.

Sponsored by the Chinese Program, the event was supported generously by the Taipei Cultural Center of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, as well as at Swarthmore by Asian Studies, Art History, and the President's Office. Amie Chou '15, a religion major from Taipei whose family has deep connections with the teahouse, provided simultaneous translation of the presentation. Read more about the event in the Daily Gazette.