China, like Japan and Nepal, has a tradition of teahouses.
Teahouses are venues where you not only drink tea, but you can also relax and enjoy shows. In summer, something is offered in addition to tea to help patrons deal with the heat; you can also buy cold drinks, like stewed plum water or papaya juice. In winter they add something to tea to keep you warm.
The teahouse culture was especially popular in the Song Dynasty, when teahouses were as common as restaurants. Calligraphy and paintings by celebrities were sold by tea houses to attract more visitors.
In Beijing, storytelling teahouses were very popular, where people gathered to drink tea and listen to storytelling.
Teahouses are also popular in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and other major cities. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and the variety of tea drinking venues.
If you want to learn more about this Chinese tradition, you need to visit a teahouse in China.
A Lao She Teahouse
One of the most popular in Beijing is the Lao She Teahouse. You can find it near Tiananmen Square, which makes it very convenient for tourists.
This teahouse was built in 1988 and was named after the famous Chinese artist, Lao She (1899-1966) and his famous drama „Teahouse“.
It is important to emphasize that this teahouse is not connected to this artist, it only bears his name.
The house covers a surface area of 2,600 square meters and is decorated in a traditional Chinese style. It has the appearance of a Chinese folk museum, with its square tables, backrest chairs, calligraphy and paintings on the walls.
Tea at the Lao She Teahouse
Once inside the teahouse, you can order a variety of scented and green teas, which are served in cups and covered bowls. Moreover, snacks are served with tea as well, and you can buy some tea in the teahouse shop.
Entertainment in the Teahouse
The teahouse offers a lot of performances, including face-changing, an ancient Chinese dramatic art. It is a special feature of Sichuan Opera performances and a dramatic way to express thoughts and feelings through masks and colors. Other shows include:
Chinese Kungfu – a style of martial arts.
Acrobatic performances, which are very popular in China.
A two-man comic show.
Shadow plays, and others.
I would recommend a visit to the teahouse to experience a real long-standing Chinese tradition. You will most likely be surrounded by a Chinese audience, which is an excellent opportunity to observe authentic Chinese culture.
You can book tickets online (http://laosheteahouse.net) or try to get them at the door. The tickets are not cheap – 180 to 580 RMB.
Address: 3 West Street, Qianmen 前门西大街5号楼
Open: 9am to 9:20pm, show time 7.50 pm to 9:20 pm.
To get there: Metro line 2, get off at the Qianmen Stop, Exit C.