Tea pets, the adorable little figurines that accompany the tea drinking ritual, are more than just decorative objects. These charming creatures each have a symbolic meaning rooted in Chinese culture and mythology. As tea was integrated into daily life in China, tea pets emerged as miniature embodiments of virtues, values, and wishes. Beyond adding a whimsical touch to the tea session, they represent various aspirations for prosperity, longevity, and good fortune.
Let’s explore some of the most popular tea pets and the significance behind them:
According to legend, the mythological pi xiu is the ninth son of the dragon and has a mouth but no anus. It is said to consume gold, silver, and jewels but cannot expel them. Therefore, this creature represents the continuous accumulation of precious treasures. Male pi xiu figurines denote good fortune, while females represent wealth storage. Displayed in pairs, they signify summoning fortune and blessings to protect the home.
With the head of a dragon, body of a horse, antlers of a deer, ox tail, and five-colored fur, the gentle qilin is a benevolent protector that treads lightly on grass and flowers. Its appearance connotes good omens, prosperity, and harmony. The qilin was said to live for 2000 years, adding to its aura of longevity and auspiciousness.
In Chinese culture, pigs represent abundance and good luck. Miniature pigs are a cute and popular tea pet choice, adored for their plump shape and endearing expression. They are often displayed solo but can come in pairs of etched yin-yang symbols. Their presence attracts affluence and evokes a sense of calm contentment.
Elephants are known for having excellent memories and being intelligent, patient, and loyal. In feng shui, they represent strength, wisdom, and commitment to family. Elephants are thought to draw in wealth since the creature’s trunk seems to suck in water. Having an elephant tea pet signifies prosperity and wisdom entering the home.
Regarded as an auspicious symbol, horses represent speed, power, and nobility. Horses suggest positive progression, and galloping forward in life at full speed. For centuries, horses have been prized in Chinese culture as esteemed creatures. Owning a horse tea pet brings vigor, success, and victory.
Turtles are a significant symbol of longevity, resilience, endurance, and wisdom accumulated over their long lives. The Chinese word for turtle “gui” sounds similar to the word meaning “to return,” so turtles additionally signify coming home, family, and completion of the life cycle. Turtles are often placed facing inward, away from the door, to represent blessings and prosperity contained safely within the home.
With its rotund shape, the money toad has become one of the most iconic tea pets. Its name “jin chan” is a homonym for “gold coins” in Chinese. The toad is sometimes depicted with coins in its mouth that can rotate, representing earnings and income flowing in. Its face should point toward the owner so that wealth does not flow outward. If the toad’s mouth is empty, it symbolizes attracting money from external sources.
This Buddha represents happiness and prosperity. The Buddha awaits his time to descend to Earth and achieve enlightenment. As such, his glowing, youthful likeness conveys optimism, health, and confidence in the future. Positioning this tea pet on the table elicits hope, peace, and reassurance.
In Chinese culture, the cow embodies traits like diligence, endurance, and honesty. Their strength is a metaphor for tirelessly plowing through obstacles. Owning an cow tea pet inspires embracing hard work, overcoming difficulties, and perseverance on the path to success. It also represents the ability to turn over a new leaf and improve one’s circumstances.
Dogs are seen as loyal companions who offer friendship and protection. Certain dogs represent specific aspirational qualities, like the lucky dog, wealthy dog, and happy dog. Miniature dogs are common tea pets that conjure camaraderie, affection, and devotion. They also symbolize enhancing wealth and prosperity.
Since ancient times, rabbits have been cherished as pets representing longevity in Chinese culture. Their gentle nature, carefree hopping, and cute appeal make them darling tea pets that invoke health and a joyful spirit. Rabbits suggest living each day to the fullest and maintaining a youthful outlook as life progresses.
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Gourds contain numerous seeds and have robust trailing vines, denoting “many generations of offspring and thriving descendants.” The word for gourd “hulu” sounds similar to “blessings” in Chinese. Gourds can also float on water, be hollowed for storage, and serve medicinal purposes. For these reasons, gourd tea pets symbolize longevity, health, abundance, resilience and overall good fortune.
The diverse tea pets originating from Chinese culture showcase how everyday objects can take on deeper meaning and represent our innermost hopes. Let these charming figurines infuse your tea sessions with pleasant symbolism as you savor each sip. Whether clay, ceramic, metal, or carved wood, tea pets make wonderful gifts and collecting them can become a lifelong hobby. Display your favorites to uplift the atmosphere and inspire contemplation of what truly matters most.