I rarely remember my dreams but I had a strange dream the other night and my thoughts keep coming back to it. I was walking down a track that ran through a wild, out-of-town area. I met a man who was in the act of stooping down to deposit a used teabag on the ground. I asked him what he was doing.
‘It’s auspicious,’ he said. He explained to me how leaving a ring of used teabags around a house was an ancient Chinese custom designed to bring good fortune to those who lived in it. I looked around me and saw a line of teabags spaced about five feet apart curving away into the distance.
So much for the dream. When I woke two things struck me. Firstly, if I were superstitious I might have started making teabag-circles myself. Secondly, I found myself wondering if the dream bore any relation to fact: perhaps to half-remembered things I’d read or heard. It seems that teabags of sorts were made in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), although it’s not clear to me whether these bags were infusers or just containers. More interesting, in a way, was discovering that, in Chinese, “teapot” (hu 壶) is, apparently, pronounced the same way as “to protect” (hu 护) or “blessing” (hu 祜) and, consequently, can suggest the same meaning.
So: I’ve not discovered any reference to auspicious teabag-rings but it does sound if there’s a connection there somewhere to facts I might have heard sometime or other.