The Chinese Teahouse was one of a few traditional institutions of sociability whose wider social and cultural appeal overshadowed its primary business. Historically, it was closely woven into the fabric of Chinese life. In many communities the teahouse served as a center of information, a locus of leisure and social gatherings, an occasional office and marketplace for many practitioners, and an arena where various social forces competed for status and influence. Urbanization in the late Qing dynasty further contributed to the growth of teahouses, especially in the Yangzi River region (Suzuki 1982; Yan 1997, 17). However, while teahouses continued to flourish in the early Republic, teahouse culture became a target—a constant target in some areas— of social critics. Why this tempest over teapots?

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