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Korean artist on the meditative effects of tea

The ceremony dates back to 661 A.D. when tea offerings were made in Buddhist temples.
A teapot and cups sit on a woven mat as a tea ceremony is being prepared.
Posted at 9:23 AM, Mar 30, 2023

Sei Ryun Chun gently taps a small clay tea pot with her hand. The Korean American artist begins her tea ceremony, offering a glimpse of the ancient ritual during a Women’s History Month celebration in Englewood, New Jersey.   

The ceremony dates back to 661 A.D. when tea offerings were made in Buddhist temples. It has evolved over time and what was once reserved for nobles is now available to all with a spiritual focus, Chun explained.  

Called darye, which means etiquette for tea in Korean, the ceremony offers the ritual of tea in a meditative setting. 

An artist who emigrated from South Korea to New Jersey in 1981, Chun found the practice of rituals from her home country to be soothing. Forty years ago, there were not many Koreans in the New York and New Jersey areas, Chun recalled.

She opened one of the first Korean tea houses in New Jersey in 2004 as well as launching Gallery Om the following year to inspire artists.  

Tea is art, Chun said. The ritual is spiritual, calming the mind. The packed room of attendees watched as she demonstrated how tea should be sampled. Wrap the hand around the small cup and take three small sips. Relax and reflect after sipping. 

May Kwon, the Korean language associate at Englewood Library, said events like the tea ceremony bring together all cultures. 

“Englewood is a big, diverse city,” Kwon said. “Forty percent of the residents are bilingual or multilingual. We think introducing programs in the city is good for everybody.”  

In addition to relaxation, green tea offers health benefits, as it is full of antioxidants, Chun said, noting that tea has the same calming effects as art.

“It’s my mission,” Chun said of spreading the word about Asian tea ceremonies. “We are youthful because we drink tea.”