Cantonese Legend of “Knocking to Express Thanks When Drinking Tea”

广东“叩手茶礼”的传说

Time:2012-02-09 10:37:10

广东“叩手茶礼”的传说
 
广东“叩手茶礼”的传说
Cantonese legend of “Knocking to Express Thanks When Drinking Tea”

广州人饮茶并无什么礼仪上的讲究。唯独在对方给自己斟茶时,不管是什么身份的人,尊长、上级、贵客,即便是十分熟落的老友,也一定行叩手指礼——用中指和食指轻轻地敲击茶几或桌面,以示感谢。这种叩手茶礼一直维持至今,成为岭南的一种民情风俗。问其渊源,有一个故事:

Cantonese don’t attach great importance to etiquette when drinking tea. However, there are some customs when other person pours tea for you. No matter what status the person has – eldership, superior, honored guests or even very familiar old friend, Cantonese must knock to express thanks. They tap the tea table or table top lightly with middle finger and index finger so as to express thanks. Such “knocking to express thanks when drinking tea” has been passed down to the present and has been a custom in the south of the Five Ridges. There is a story about its origin:

据说,清朝乾隆皇帝下江南,微服出巡,他带着仆人来到广州西关一个小茶楼饮茶。一个伙计手捧两个茶盅,里面装着茶叶,放在乾隆与仆人桌前。然后,另一伙计右手挽一个大的铜水煲,来到乾隆帝面前,左手拎起茶盅盖,右手往上一提,一股滚水从铜馒嘴泻下。乾隆一看茶盅,恰好灌满大半盅茶,周围点滴不漏。

It is said that during the southern inspection tour of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty, he went to a little tea house in Xiguan, Guangzhou to drink tea with his servant. A waiter carried two tea cups with tea leaves in them and put them in front of Emperor Qianlong and his servant. After that, another waiter carried a large bronze kettle in his right hand and came to Emperor Qianlong. He took up the tea cup cover with his left hand and lifted his right hand highly. The boiling water poured out from the bronze kettle mouth. Emperor Qianlong saw that half of the tea cup was filled with water without any water dropping on the table.

乾隆十分惊讶,问伙计为什么要这样沏茶?伙计笑答这是虾眼水冲茶,水刚刚开,才起泡眼,广东人俗称虾眼水,需要从高处往茶冲撞,第二回才在低处冲茶,只有这样,茶才会出味。乾隆听得高兴,站起来,自己拎起铜水煲,学着伙计的模样,往仆人的茶盅里冲茶。

Emperor Qianlong was very astonished, so he asked the waiter why he made tea in this way. The waiter answered with smile that he made tea with “shrimp bubble water”. When the water was boiling, there would be bubbles so the Cantonese call it shrimp bubble water. The tea needed to have water poured on it from high. Only in this way, can the tea become fragrant. When Emperor Qianlong heard that he stood up and carried the bronze kettle in person. He imitated the waiter and poured water into his servant’s tea cup.

这一下子把那仆人吓得几乎掉了魂,乾隆给仆人斟茶,自己如何受得起!按朝中规矩,这属皇帝赏赐,要跪在地上叩头谢恩。但如今皇上微服出巡,不能暴露身份。仆人情急之下,连忙屈起右手食指和中指,做成屈膝的姿势,在茶盅边的桌面上连敲几下,表示叩头谢恩。茶伙计看了大为不解,问仆人这是什么意思。仆人随口而出:“这是叩手茶礼。”

Such behavior made the servant frightened to death. Emperor Qianlong poured water for a servant, how could he accept this! According to the rules in imperial court, this was emperor’s award. He should kneel to the ground and hit his forehead on the ground and express his gratitude. However, the Emperor then made this tour without showing his status, so he mustn’t expose the Emperor’s identity. In such moment of desperation, he promptly bent his right index finger and middle finger and made a posture of bending knees and knocked for several times on the table top beside the tea cup so as to mean hitting his forehead on the ground and expressing his gratitude. The waiter saw it and felt very puzzled, so he asked the servant what the action meant. The servant answered without thinking, “it is knocking to express thanks when drinking tea”.

从此,这种叩手茶礼便逐渐在茶居流行开来,后来成了广东人饮茶的礼仪,如今这种风俗至今在岭南及东南亚的华侨中依然十分流行。最早的叩手指是比较讲究的,必须屈手指握空拳,叩手指关节,后来才渐渐转变到现在的只用中指和食指并拢轻叩指尖了。

From then on, such “knocking to express thanks when drinking tea” has become more and more popular in teahouses and then becomes Cantonese etiquette of drinking tea. Now, such etiquette is still very popular in the south of the Five Ridges and among overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. At the very beginning, there were specific rules for knocking with fingers. One shall bend the fingers and made a fist lightly and knock with knuckles. After that, it gradually evolved into the way we know now, namely draw the middle finger and the index finger close and knock with fingertips lightly.