Preview: Ritual And Revelry @ British Museum

Buying in rounds; clinking glasses; white with fish, red with meat; whiskey chasers; four-pint rule; beer after wine and you’ll feel fine, wine after beer and you’ll feel queer… just some of the everyday drinking rituals familiar to all londonistas…

Then there’s milk in first; warm the pot; one lump or two; one for the pot – tea drinking, it seems, is similarly rife with routine.

A new exhibition at the British Museum is to examine the art of drinking in Asia over the past 2,500 years. Not confined to beer and tea, this show celebrates the ritual and social uses of many different liquids including sake (rice wine), toddy and, of course, water.

The rituals associated with booze feature strongly in the sections on revelry and intoxication. Look out for stories of sake in the pleasure districts of Tokyo, alcohol in the Mughal courts of India, and drinking games in China. Tea drinkers will enjoy finding out about the spread of the brown stuff across Asia; its use in the iconic Japanese tea ceremony; and how butter tea is drunk in Tibet.

As well as vessels for drinking, pouring and performing religious rites, the exhibition will show the objects in use through paintings and prints, and look at their significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, as well as traditional Chinese and Japanese religious practices.

And on 28 September and 12 and 26 October, there’ll be free demonstrations of the Japanese tea ceremony in the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese galleries, given by members of the Urasenke Foundation London Branch called The Way Of Tea.

Ritual and revelry the art of drinking in Asia is on at the British Museum from 27 September to 6 January. It’s free, and open late on Fridays. Visit britishmuseum.org/ritual_and_revelry to find out more.

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