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Depths of Unspoken Love in a Cup of Tea

Kneeling before a senior family member to serve tea is a traditional Chinese etiquette. The act of serving tea is a touching expression of love and respect for our loved ones, and this long-lost culture was brought back to life during the joyous occasion of the “triple celebration” held in Tzu Chi.


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Children express their deep unspoken love and gratitude for their parents as they kneel before the latter to serve them hot tea, followed by a warm hug. Photo by Chua Teong Seng

“My sister had always taken care of our family. The two younger children in our family were under her care from young; as such we have always respected her as an elder in the family.”

Younger sister Shen Xin Di served tea to her older sister Shen Tian Yue, giving thanks for her older sister’s sacrifice in staying single, and spending many years caring for and nurturing her younger siblings until they started their own families.

Presently, Shen Xin Di’s life has changed for the better, but seeing how her older sister is still kept busy every day for the sake of their family, she truly feels for her. However, although she loves her older sister very much, the words that often came out of her mouth were harsh words of complaint.

A cup of hot tea thus conveyed Shen Xin Di’s unspoken gratitude to her older sister. “In the past, our parents were very compassionate, and made quiet sacrifices for us children without a murmur of complaint.” Reminiscing about their departed parents while drinking tea, Shen Yue Tian’s multitude of difficult emotions translated into tears that flowed down her face.

The tea serving activity was held at the “filial piety station” in the multipurpose classroom at the Tzu Chi Singapore Jing Si Hall on 14th May 2017, during the “triple celebration” of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day. The station drew a steady stream of visitors; younger family members waited patiently in line to serve tea to their senior family members as an expression of filial piety. As it was also Mother’s Day, many also hoped to take this opportunity to offer a mellow cup of thanksgiving tea to their parents to express their filial piety, and to draw closer to their loved ones.

Volunteer Xue Biyu couldn’t hold back her tears as her son was serving her tea, and she thought of her own departed parents. “Mother brought me up. It is a very difficult task, so it is only right that I thank her by serving tea to her.” Her son, Yang Yang, said that he would come back the following year to serve tea to his mother again.

“Love is an unseen language, love is a feeling you can’t touch…”

Volunteer leader Joyce Goh, who was serving as the emcee for the event, would read these familiar lyrics to the Chinese Tzu Chi song, “Let Love Ripple Out”, with her unique voice, before each round of tea ceremony. She hoped that every son or daughter could feel his/her parents’ love, and that through the tea ceremony, greater understanding and gratitude between parents and their children could be fostered.

It was a heart-warming scene when children offered cups of piping hot tea to their parents.

“As the children and their parents embraced each other, many of them were moved to tears. I hope that the emotions evoked on this day would translate into daily acts of filial piety,” said Goh. She was also thankful that this day enabled her to make connections of kindness with others.

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“Love is an unspoken gratitude; love is giving a little more each day…” Photo by Alice Toh

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A little boy proceeds with care, to serve tea to his parents. (Photo by Tay Wei Xian)

There is a Chinese saying that goes, “Filial Piety comes first among all virtues”. Wu Zhi Guang brought the entire three generations of his family to take part in the tea ceremony. While attending the Buddha Bathing ceremony, he didn’t forget to express his gratitude to his mother. As his mother has kidney disease, he couldn’t bear to leave her alone in their hometown, Malacca, and deeply feels that it is the responsibility of children to take care of their parents.

At the “filial piety station”, there was also a pair of mother and daughter (pictured below) from Indonesia who faced each other with tear-soaked eyes. The mother’s face was filled with unspoken sadness. Her daughter, Cindy, had accompanied her for the first time to Jing Si Hall to take part in Tzu Chi’s 3-in-1 ceremony.

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Even though Cindy’s mother’s face was filled with sadness during the tea ceremony, her heart was comforted by her daughter’s love and thoughtfulness. Photo by Chua Teong Seng

As Cindy’s father had passed away the previous month, her mother had not walked out of the shadow of mourning for her (late) husband, and both mother and daughter ended up tearing when they remembered their loss of a husband and father. Their eyes were soaked with tears when they thought of the day they lost him.

Admittedly, Cindy said that she was not adept at expressing her inner feelings. But by serving tea to her mother, the latter could feel her love and remember that she still has a loving daughter by her side even though she has lost her husband.

“I hope that Mum would walk out of sadness through participating in Tzu Chi’s activities,” said Cindy.

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Volunteer Kang Kim Choon and his wife Lily Chuah are filled with a deep sense of unspoken guilt as they struggle to find time for their two daughters because of their busy work and volunteer schedule. Photo by Alice Toh

Kneeling before a senior family member to serve tea is a traditional Chinese etiquette, except that modern households no longer continue such a practice. Yet the traditional culture was brought back to life on the day of the joyous triple celebration, with many moving scenes of children serving tea to their parents.  


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