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The Economist’s new China column: Chaguan

The Economist |  17 September 2018  |  News

GIVEN his love of Chinese teahouses, Mr Yang, a retired academic from Chengdu, was born in the right place at a terrible time. Within living memory his home town, the capital of Sichuan province, had boasted more than 600 teahouses, or chaguan. Some were famous for storytellers or opera. Others welcomed bird-lovers, who liked to suspend their pets in cages from teahouse eaves to show off their plumage and singing. Some served as rough-and-ready courtrooms for unlicensed lawyers (to “take discussion tea” was to seek mediation). One place might attract tattooed gangsters, another intellectuals. Wang Di of the University of Macau, a scholar of teahouses, cites an old editor who in the 1930s and 1940s ran his journal from a teashop table.

Mr Yang, who declined to give his full name, favours Heming teahouse, a lakeside tea garden where patrons may spend hours in bamboo armchairs, reading newspapers, munching melon seeds or paying a professional ear-cleaner to rootle away with metal skewers. 


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