teapotsThe China Modern: Designing Popular Culture 1910-1970 exhibit, through February 6, 2011 at Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California, showcases several tea-related items.

There are two teapots, both of which were manufactured in the 1980s in China and uninspiringly named Blue Teapot and Cloudy White Teapot, respectively.  Their designs are described as influenced by Art Deco, which first impacted the Western World in the early 20th century.  One wonders how China pursued and absorbed ideas and thoughts that were decades – even centuries – old to the rest of the world when it first came out of its isolation.

Displayed next to the teapots are several tea containers.  There is a box of Tack Kee & Co.’s Lung So tea produced in the 1950s.  Doesn’t Lung So mean dragon whiskers?  Interestingly, the top Google search results for “Lung So tea” are all related to the tea’s containers – Ying Mee Tea Co.’s Lung So tea container, Sui Chun Tea Co.’s Lung So tea box, and so on.  Is there a reason that the containers for Lung So tea possess more collectible value?

May Flowers Chop PosterMee Chun Tea Co., Ltd.’s box contains Wu Lung tea, not Chun Mee tea, which is a popular Chinese green tea and also called “eyebrow tea” or “9371.”  I prefer the term Oolong or Ooloong to Wu Lung.  Tea drinkers will be less confused if tea names could be more standardized.

Does the May Flowers Chop poster for an export crate of wholesale Formosa Oolong tea from Taiwan really belong in this exhibit even though it was produced in the 1940s?  Taiwan and China have been independent from one another in countless aspects – culturally, ideologically, politically – for well over a century, if not longer.    

The garden of the Pacific Asia Museum, complete with a koi pond, peculiarly shaped rocks, and ginkgo and pine trees, is lovely in all seasons.  The two-story building was constructed in the 1920s as an office and exhibit space and residence for Grace Nicholson, a successful businesswoman specializing in Asian artifact trade.