Although Korean tea sets were influenced by Chinese models, they show native characteristics as well. Because tea rites were highly developed, tea sets used for ancestral rites or for functions requiring protocol were designed with unique Korean features. From early on, tea was offered to Buddhist images. the heavenly god and the dragon god in the mountains and fields, and scholars made tea near rivers and ponds as well as deep in the mountains. The literati more than aristocrats and commoners appreciated the tea ceremony as an art form, so aesthetic standards were high, reflecting the scholars' artistic sensitivity and philosophy.
A tea table holds th paraphernalia necessary for preparing tea. According to an account by Xu Jing, a Chinese envoy to Koryö, Koreans used a red tea table on which various tea implements were laid out and over which a red silk cloth was placed. During the Chosön Dynasty, a large tea table was placed in the men's quarters or just outside under the eaves, judging from folk paintings depicting tea preparation scenes.
These days a larger table id used so that it can also hold fruits and sweets. Because water is handled on th table, a tablecloth is laid down first. Today's table coverings are red following the Koryö tradition; the color red is believed to ward off bad spirits.
Four Taoist hermits of pre-sixth century Shilla (Yöngang, Sulnang, Namnang and Ansang) used a stone stove called sökchijo to make tea and offer it to the heavenly god at Kyöngpodae and Hansojöng. The sökchijo is a unique Korean innovation: Ti is a small boulder that comprises a water tank and a separate space with a vent that serves as the stove. Ch'ungdam (d.765), a warrior monk, made and offered tea to Buddha on Mt. Namsan in Kyöngju with tea implements he carried in a willow box.
Other monks used different equipment.
As tea sets for rites, large bowls or teacups with high stems were frequently used in Korea. The Chinese character for tea was engraved on these vessels so that they would be treated with more care than ordinary dishes.
It was common to see designs inlaid in white, such as cranes and clouds, inside the teacups. This was because Koreans preferred clear tea instead of milky tea, and they could appreciate the submerged designs while sipping. During th Chosön Dynasty, powdered leaf tea was steeped in a large bowl with the aid of a brush, or boiled tea was filtered through a hemp cloth into this large bowl before being poured into individual cups.
During th Koryö Dynasty, a teaspoon with many variously shaped rings was used to create foam when making powdered leaf tea. A bamboo stick was used to crush th leaves, and a bamboo brush invented in th 17th century was used to stir powdered leaf tea.
Today. Korean tea sets tend to emphasize practicality and th tactile texture of the vessels.
After all, the Korean tea ceremony is characterized by attention to detail and the creation of a natural ambience. The person preparing th tea takes th attitude of a Confucian student in th attempt to bring out the tea's original character. Both th host and th guest are deliberate in their motions; they behave naturally, humanly and rationally. This creates a Taoist environment in which tea, the tea maker and the guest all become one with nature. When making tea, tea is the drinker is the focus; and after drinking tea, one's mental state is the focus.
Korea's tea culture-unique, elegant and based on profound philosophy-creates an environment of generosity and decorum. Because such an environment is conducive to rational thought, the culture of tea can contribute not only to Korean but to world culture.