This paper explores the historical development and mutual construction of cultural identity through looking at the interaction of art of tea between China and Taiwan. Borrowing insights from theories about cultural identity and the paradox of constructing cultural authenticity, this paper aims to show that the development of the Taiwanese art of tea offers insights into Taiwan's economic and social change in the past few decades, as well as Taiwan's paradox of political and cultural identification. It raises questions about why the Taiwanese art of tea is having a great impact on China, what aspirations are embedded in mainland Chinese demand for Taiwan's art of tea, and what are the Taiwanese reactions to this demand. Furthermore, why have there been so many constant changes and innovations in the Taiwanese art of tea, and what are the driving forces behind these changes and innovations? In addition, what are the sources and more original cultural formats that Taiwanese tea persons have incorporated and adapted from? What struggles have they experienced and how do they look at self and others in this adaptation process? Based on ethnographic participation in tea gatherings and interviews with practitioners of the art of tea in Taiwan and China, this paper shows that the Taiwanese art of tea, although seen by people from China as the authentic model of traditional Chinese culture, has gone through uneven paths along with the changes in Taiwanâ€™s economy and society. It has incorporated multiple elements including Chao-Shan gongfu tea, the Japanese Way of Tea, as well as Taiwanese self-creations. The paradox, contained in Taiwanese politics and mirrored through the case of the art of tea, is displayed by the strategies of selecting whom to identify with or be distinct from; but at the same time the paradox also becomes the dynamic power driving the Taiwanese art of tea, as well as the whole society, towards ceaseless innovation. The paper first provides background on the aspiration for cultural authenticity by mainland Chinese, as a means of opening discussions about the mutual construction of cultural identity, as well as highlighting the context of intimate cultural interactions across the Taiwan Strait. A brief history of Taiwan follows and brings along information about how the enduring tensions across the Strait have shaped the communication of tea culture historically and in the present. Next, against the simplified saying that Taiwan 'preserves' the authentic traditional culture, the paper traces the development of the art of tea in Taiwan to show how it becomes part of Taiwanese cultural creation and reconstruction from the 1970s through the 1990s. The paper then explores how the reconstruction of the art of tea is associated with selected cultural identities, namely how Taiwanese practitioners of the art of tea choose whether to adopt a Japanese or Chinese cultural legacy under different conditions. Finally, it illustrates how Taiwanese tea persons look at the ongoing practice of the art of tea in mainland China with criticism as well as with paradoxical attitudes. The paper concludes with a discussion about how cultural authenticity in Taiwan has been constructed paradoxically yet with vitality. The paper, while showing the influence of the art of tea brought by Taiwan to China, also raises potential questions as to how the impact might be turned the other way round due to the increasing economic power of China.
|Journal||Taiwan Journal of Anthropology|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|