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Libations: Wine and Tea in East Asia

November 13, 2003–May 15, 2005

For centuries, the drinking of tea and wine in China, Korea, and Japan has been an act imbued with ritual and ceremonial importance. Ancient and modern offerings of wine have been given to please gods and ancestors, while tea has long been brewed for its medicinal properties and as an aid in meditation towards the pursuit of truth and enlightenment. However, these beverages have their pleasurable and frivolous aspects as well. Drinking parties and tea ceremonies have necessitated and inspired a wealth of art objects, both rustic and elite. Tea and wine have left an indelible impression, beyond the stimulation of caffeine or alcohol, as reasons to gather friends, write poetry, and expand one's perception of the world.

This exhibition explores the art and artifacts of tea and wine from the most ancient Chinese ritual wine vessels to a contemporary Korean teapot. The exhibition features works from over three thousand years of East Asian art in bronze, jade, crystal, ceramics, glass, precious metals, and lacquer, as well as paintings and calligraphy. The selection from the museum's collection includes examples of practical and functional traditions, such as Chinese tea cups with covers to keep the tea warm, or stout Japanese sake bottles. There are as well stylized pieces elevated by their artistry, like the melon-shaped wine ewers from Korea with pale green celadon glaze. Displaying objects from distant places across both time and geography, this installation reveals the sources and the migration of forms and decorations of tea and wine vessels across national borders, and illustrates the essential qualities that tea and wine have brought to East Asian art and thought.

Main Building


Dr. Felice Fischer, Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Curator of East Asian Art; Dr. Adriana Proser, Assistant Curator of East Asian Art; Genevieve Blake, Summer Intern for East Asian Art

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