Silence and the Pretty-hand Technique Pt. 2
Pretty hand is a concept that we come across in martial arts as well as tea. It is something emphasized in the advanced states of internal martial arts systems, and is sometimes called orchid hand.
Some people will suggest that there is no relationship between the disciple of kung fu as martial art and what we call Kung fu tea. As with a lot of things in traditional Chinese culture, there is no clear distinction between the Kung which is applied to fighting and that which is applied to tea. It is believed that in order to truly understand the dynamics of tea service, one must also understand the inner-workings of the body’s energetic systems. In keeping with this system of knowledge, traditional doctors were very often practitioners of Qi Gung and/or martial arts. The belief being that the same energy which is used to injure or kill, can be harnessed to heal.
Kung Fu, whether applied to combat or tea service, is a force of energy which flows through a person. It is visible in the way a person holds themself, in their eyes and in the subtlest movements they make; the sound of their voice.
In tea ceremony, very often movements of exaggerated elegance will be applied to suggest this flow of energy. Sometimes the Qi or force will be present, but very often it is simply performance — not necessarily connected to the root of being.
When the force of Tea, of the moment, flows through us, very often we will find the hands naturally assuming more graceful postures. The water pours more smoothly and without sound, and fingers automatically curl to avoid a plume of steam.
To say then that a person has Kung, means something much deeper than a well practiced set of movements, or a style. It is the genuine expression of the inner world, in the field of the outer-world. Though we may not be able to see all that lies beneath the surface of a person who prepares tea with true Kung fu, we can very often feel it — taste it.