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Tea houses and Concubinage
Transcript of Tea houses and Concubinage
By Emily Pearson
Tea houses in Chinese Culture
Tea itself comes from China, invented over 4,000 years ago.
Tea houses are places of leisure, places for people to gather, gossip, and drink tea.
Tea houses are to China as cafes are to Paris, or pubs to Ireland.
At the time...
Tea houses are places to relax and the Chinese value them for the calming effect that they have on people
Tea houses can be best explained by the following quote from the book, "All the gayety...was held here in the walls of this house, where men met to play and never to work." (179)
Tea has been important to the Chinese for centuries and it will continue to represent Chinese culture for many more centuries to come.
Starbucks is a modern tea house. You can go and buy one cup, then stay in that store leisurely all day.
Concubines in the Culture
It is seen as a right for the man to "visit tea houses." but often leads to a wife being overlooked (O-lan!)
The concubine is chosen unlike a wife whose marriage is arranged, so the concubine is often liked more and doted upon
Concubines are often stuck in their position, the only chance of gaining a status was by marriage or opening their own tea house.
Tea houses in the Good Earth
We see two kinds of tea houses in the novel and Wang Lung has two very different opinions about them
The village tea house that Wang Lung believes is "dingy and mean" (172)
The new town tea house, where "...laughter flowed out like music into the street." (179) and "At night, the singing of women's voices...floated out of the upper windows." (174)
Tea houses represent wealth and luxury, things that Wang Lung lusts for. The kind of man that went to tea houses was the kind of man that Wang Lung wanted to be.
At the time...
It is a sign of wealth when a man can support a wife and a concubine, so it is a social convention for a rich man to have a concubine(s).
The Chinese emperor kept thousands of concubines, one had up to 20,000 at one time
Concubines are just like American trophy wives, they are pretty, dependent on their husbands, and usually much younger.
Modern concubines in China today are called "er nai"
They are pretty, young, smart, and in it for the money. Er nais are concubines 2.0.
In America, we have a modern business that is based off the same foundations as traditional Chinese tea houses.
In the Novel,
In the Good Earth, we glimpse into what concubinage is like through Lotus and Wang Lung's relationship.
She has little say in who she does business with
She jumps on the chance to marry Wang Lung, knowing that her beauty won't last forever
Her role in the household is dependent on Wang Lung, she only lives to provide fulfillment for him.
She is also dependent on the mood of the wife, O-lan.
The Chinese have a saying for why men are allowed to have concubines, "One teapot is usually accompanied by four cups. But have you ever seen one cup with four teapots?"
And that is Tea houses and Concubinage.