Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sutton, David


Tea is a beverage that has long been taken to symbolize a key aspect of Chinese tradition and history. However, it is one of many beverages drunk in contemporary China, where in recent times knowledge of wine has come to stand for the West and as a much-desired cultural capital. This dissertation examines everyday tea drinking and tea tasting in Dalian—a northeastern city in Liaoning Province, China. Through ethnography of practices, processes, and interactions taking place in daily events of tea drinking and tasting, this dissertation provides a window into social conflicts, ideas and desires, historical consciousness, and national identity, individualism, and collectivism, in a contemporary Chinese city. It explores questions of why and how people learn to taste tea by acquiring certain levels of knowledge and skill that is valued in tea culture, and how people drink and taste tea in different social scenarios and contexts. Then it explores the significance of tea drinking and tasting to people in their daily life and as part of ritualized social relations, and specifically in contrast to beverages such as wine. As representative of Chinese culture, tea tasting raises questions of how sensory capabilities should be honed and deployed, and the relationship between so-called “objective” scientific knowledge of taste and the tacit, embodied skill that is associated with traditional cultural understandings.




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