September 17, 2021
What is a Chinese tea pet?
A tea pet or tea lover's pet (simplified Chinese: 茶宠; traditional Chinese: 茶寵; pinyin: cháchǒng), also known as tea friend (Korean: 다우; Hanja: 茶友; RR: da-u), is a small clay figure which is kept by some tea drinkers for good luck.
They are usually made of "zisha" or Yixing clay, from the region near Yixing in Jiangsu province, China. Just like Yixing teapots made of the same clay, tea pets are unglazed, and are mostly monochromatic with a rough surface.
A tea pet is typically placed on a tea tray and has tea poured over it during tea time. Due to the tea pet's unglazed nature, the figurine absorbs some of the tea, resulting in the tea pet changing colour over time, as well as building up a tea scent.
One of the most popular models for the tea pet is the "pee-pee boy", which, when first soaked in cold water and then showered with hot water, will squirt out the water it previously absorbed.
Tea pets are also molded into zodiac animals or Chinese mythical creatures such as dragons, pixiu and qilin to symbolize good luck, fortune and happiness, as well as historical or mythical characters such as Guanyin, Maitreya and Zhuge Liang.