Tea Etiquette: Do You Know the Secret Meaning of Finger Tapping?

According to the Chinese, when someone pours tea into your cup, tea etiquette requires you to lightly tap the table top a few times with your fingers in order to respectfully thank them. (Image:  David Boté Estrada
 via  flickr  /  CC BY-SA 2.0)
According to the Chinese, when someone pours tea into your cup, tea etiquette requires you to lightly tap the table top a few times with your fingers in order to respectfully thank them. (Image: David Boté Estrada via flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to the Chinese, when someone pours tea into your cup, tea etiquette requires you to lightly tap the table top a few times with your fingers in order to respectfully thank them.

This etiquette is believed to have been passed down from Emperor Qianlong.

One day, Qianlong disguised himself as a commoner, and he had tea at a nearby tea house with his group of advisors.

A waiter first brought a tea bowl, then he stepped back a few steps from the table. He raised a big copper pot and poured water into the tea bowl. All one could see was a stream of water coming down from above directly into the bowl, without splashing or spilling the tea.

One day, Qianlong disguised himself as a commoner, and he had tea at a nearby tea house with his group of advisors. (Image: David Leo Veksler via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

One day, Qianlong disguised himself as a commoner, and he had tea at a nearby tea house with his group of advisors. (Image: David Leo Veksler via flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Emperor Qianlong was so curious that he could not help but walk up and take the big copper pot from the waiter. The emperor imitated the waiter, took a few steps back and poured water into the rest of the bowls.

His advisors were startled. They wanted to kneel down after receiving such a favor, but they were afraid to expose the emperor’s true identity. Faced with such a dilemma, all of them bent their fingers and started tapping on the table, “tuk tuk tuk…”

Later, Emperor Qianlong asked his advisors: “Why were you tapping on the table with your fingers?”

They said: “Your majesty, we could not have you serving tea to us. We tapped the table to let you know that we were kneeling down to accept such a favor and also to thank you for it.”

Since then, ordinary people have also adopted this custom by tapping on the table to thank someone who serves tea to them.

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