Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why the Chinese Tap Two Fingers When Poured Tea

Cinemagraph via
If you've ever eaten a traditional Chinese meal, have you ever observed that people tapping the table each time their cup is refilled? No, it's not a superstitious gesture - there is, in fact, a story behind it.
The legend is that Emperor Qian Long used to travel among his citizens in disguise to understand how people were living. To complete, the fa├žade, the emperor would even pour his servants tea when they were eating together in public. Back in that time, an emperor pouring tea for his servant was completely unheard of). Customs demanded that people were to always bow to their emperor but, not to reveal his emperor’s identity in public, the servant would show his gratitude and loyalty but tapping his fingers at the table that symbolized a customary bow.
Photo via
Of course, while this tale has soon faded over time, there is a more practical reason for doing this. If you have ever eaten with Chinese people, they drink and pour tea all. Meal. Long. And, like most cultures, they like to speak (loudly, at that) and have a grand time while eating. As you can imagine, if a person said thank you every time their tea was poured (which almost always constant ) it would break up the conversation. The tapping of the fingers is a silent way to say thank you if you are in the middle of a conversation. 

Nowadays, tapping the table is a silent gesture of thanks to the person who poured your tea. Of course, a "thank you" is always preferred. If you are with a quiet(er) group, it's always better to just say "thank you" instead of tapping your fingers. Think of it like this: you would never give a thumbs up to someone who did you a favour when you could simply just say "thank you!"