The Origin of Finger Tapping

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The Origin of Finger Tapping

Postby auhckw » Aug 2nd, '11, 13:37

I have noticed people finger tap on the table while tea or other drinks are being served. Today I decided to ask, and the story told is similar to this...

The Origin of Finger Tapping - Chinese Tea History
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/chinese ... apping.htm

The next time you're dining at a Chinese restaurant, try to discretely observe what happens at other tables when the tea is poured. You may spot someone tapping the table with three fingers each time their cup is refilled. Appearances to the contrary, this is not a superstitious gesture. In fact, the story behind finger tapping or tea tapping dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 A.D.).

According to legend, one of the Emperors during this period was fond of traveling throughout the country in disguise, in order to observe his subjects unnoticed. At one teahouse he was particularly impressed by the way people were able to lean across the table and pour tea without spilling a drop. The Emperor decided to try pouring tea for his companions. Predictably, he ended up spilling it everywhere.

The Emperor decided he needed more practice. There was, however, one slight problem. Custom demanded that people bow before the Emperor. This, of course, would ruin his disguise. Instead, the Emperor told his companions to "bow" with their middle three fingers each time he refilled their cup - two fingers represented the prostrate arms and another the bowed head. Nowadays, tapping the table is a way of paying silent thanks to the person who poured your tea.

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Re: The Origin of Finger Tapping

Postby gingkoseto » Aug 2nd, '11, 14:39

Although the legend mentions Qing dynasty emperor (who was northerner mandarin), the finger tapping is pretty much in Cantonese culture only. On a northerner's dinner table, it may be deemed as impolite (if they think you are just tapping table to make noise or express impatience). But nowadays more northerners are aware of this finger tapping thing.

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Re: The Origin of Finger Tapping

Postby Evan Draper » Aug 6th, '11, 15:24

I have always seen (and read of) two fingers used--never three as the article indicates. The emperor in question is Qianlong, who ruled from 1735-1796.

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Re: The Origin of Finger Tapping

Postby wyardley » Aug 6th, '11, 20:13

3 makes the most sense to me, since it's imitating a kowtow (2 arms and head). I usually tap the first three fingers (index, middle, ring). But I've seen 2 also. I think an article on Wikpedia claims that single vs. non-single people should use different number of fingers (1 vs. 2).

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Re: The Origin of Finger Tapping

Postby gingkoseto » Aug 6th, '11, 20:31

wyardley wrote:3 makes the most sense to me, since it's imitating a kowtow (2 arms and head). I usually tap the first three fingers (index, middle, ring). But I've seen 2 also. I think an article on Wikpedia claims that single vs. non-single people should use different number of fingers (1 vs. 2).


I think wiki is correct about what Cantonese people do with one finger and two fingers. I've never heard from my Cantonese friends about tapping with 3 or more fingers. But I read else where about tapping 4 or 5 fingers, which I have some doubt about and don't know what the source is.

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