Gongfu Tea and Camera: Material and Technological Paths of Exploring Everyday Life in Chaozhou China

Chaozhou, a third-tier city in north Guangdong Province, China, is well-known for its residents’ mass addiction to gongfu tea, an effortful process of preparing and drinking tea. Recently, this consumption habit is facing challenges from other popular drinks, such as coffee and milk bubble tea. At the same time, with the help of the promotional opportunities presented by a national discourse on preserving cultural heritage as well as a booming social media and internet economy dominated by the younger generation, gongfu is seeing a revival. To encourage local residents to rethink, represent, and reflect upon their “tradition”, Jinghong Zhang filmed locals in both public and private spaces. The use of a camera for these discussions helped pave a technological as well as social path for discovering some of the cultural elements of gongfu tea and the dynamics of everyday living patterns, which would otherwise have remained invisible if it weren’t for the existence of a camera. Through exploring the interactional relationship between a material stimulus (gongfu tea) and a technological stimulus (the camera), this presentation, in a broader sense, aims to show how powers from both the traditional and cosmopolitan, the state and popular realm, the cultural discourses and media practices, are entangled and jointly shape consumption and everyday life in China.

IN-PERSON & ONLINE. This seminar will be followed by a tea-tasting session in the CIW Tea House.

Jinghong Zhang is an anthropologist on food, consumption, material culture, and ethnographic filmmaking. She is currently an associate professor at the Centre for Social Sciences, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in China, as well as a Visiting Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW), The Australian National University (ANU). Prior to joining SUSTech, she completed her PhD at ANU and then a Postdoctoral Fellow at CIW. Following the supply chain of commodities from their production, trade, to consumption, across regions as well as nations, Jinghong explores distinctive ethnographic biography of things and people, and aims to deepen understanding about the Chinese mind and practices of authenticity, ritual, nationalism, hybridity, cultural heritage, taste, multiple senses and sensations. Her first monograph Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic (University of Washington Press, 2014) was awarded the Best Book in Social Sciences in 2015 by International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS).

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.


Jinghong Zhang

Dates & times

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

1.00pm - 2.30pm


Seminar Rooms, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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