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Tea pot collector takes time to have a cuppa
Some of Vu’s teapots have exotic shapes.
THAI NGUYEN — For most people, enjoying a cup of tea usually takes about 20 minutes, but for Mong Nong Vu, tea time has lasted nearly half of his life.
The collector, born and raised in Dinh Hoa District, in a province celebrated for its tea – Thai Nguyen – has amassed around 300 teapots in various shapes and sizes, some 800 years old.
Vu has spent years researching and collecting the crockery, as well as drinking tea of course. Sometimes he wants a piece so badly, he is willing to fork out a sum ten times his monthly salary.
His job as director of the provincial Centre of Culture and Information, gives him the ideal conditions to pursue his obsession.
"These teapots show that since our ancestors’ time, Vietnamese tea culture was different from Japanese and Chinese," he says, "the tradition still influences modern culture."
One of the gems in his collection is a teapot called Ga Than (Holy Cock), made around 800 years ago under the Ly Dynasty. It has an interesting design - shaped like the head of a cockel.
Other Vietnamese teapots in the collection date from the Ly (1010-1225), Tran (1225-1400) and Le (1418-1788) dynasties, many shaped like dragons and phoenixes.
The collection also includes teapots from China (since Song, Ming and Qing dynasties) and some have designs following Japanese style.
There are many favourites in his collection, Vu says.
"Once I travelled to the central city of Hue, the old capital under Nguyen Dynasty, and bought a Hoa Lo (Portable Earthen Stove) teapot originating from the royal palace. It has two parts, a teapot inside and an insulatory covering to keep the tea warm all day long for the elite."
Vu admits when he first clapped eyes on the teapot, he couldn’t tear his gaze away.
"I just kept staring at it until the owner agreed to sell it to me," he says.
"He understood my passion for teapots, so he gave me a good price."
Vu doesn’t allow anyone to take a photo of the outside of the teapot, only the inside, for fear that someone might try to copy it.
But collecting teapots is just part of Vu’s passion, albeit an indispensible one. His real interest lies in the nature and history of tea culture in Viet Nam.
To make the perfect cup of tea, firstly the water must be fresh and clean, he says, and of course very hot. The quality of the tea must be top notch and it must be brewed in the correct way. The icing on the cake? "Finally, the teapot must be beautiful," Vu says.
"Teapots show the elegance, culture and knowledge of the host in the tea party," he says.
According to Vu, there are three ways to enjoy tea in Viet Nam. The first follows folk style, the second is to show social status and the third is usually made as part of rituals to communicate with the spiritual world. Vietnamese people often use tea as an offering on a special occasion or during holy ceremonies at temples. When the rituals are finished, tea is served for people to drink.
With his vast collection, Vu hopes his teapots will help others understand more about Vietnamese tea culture, and appreciate its beauty and complexity . — VNS
It well demonstrate the point that teapot is the central focus on brewing good quality of tea, regardless whether it is from Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese. The emphasize is the same for almost all, if not all.
Trust you do have a good time reading this valuable piece of information.