The Rise of Tea Culture in China: The Invention of the Individual (Asia/Pacific/Perspectives)
This distinctive and enlightening book explores the invention and development of tea drinking in China, using tea culture to explore the profound question of how Chinese have traditionally expressed individuality. Western stereotypes portray a culture that values conformity and denigrates the individual, but Bret Hinsch convincingly explodes this facile myth. He argues that although Chinese embrace a communitarian ethos and assume that the individual can only thrive within a healthy community, they have also long respected people with unique traits and superior achievements. Hinsch traces how emperors, scholars, poets, and merchants all used tea connoisseurship to publicly demonstrate superior discernment, gaining admiration by displaying individuality. Acknowledging central differences with Western norms, Hinsch shows how personal distinction nevertheless constitutes an important aspect of Chinese society. By linking tea to individualism, his deeply researched book makes an original and influential contribution to the history of Chinese culture.