Rethinking Asia :

Tea &

© By Judith Kerr. Finished illustrations copyright © Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd 1968. Source: British Library


When you think of Asia, what comes to mind?

If you had to choose one thing to represent Asia, what would it be?

Perhaps these are impossible questions. Asia is vast and diverse. How could you ever condense so many histories, places, people, and cultures into just one symbol?

This exhibition is produced by
the Exhibit Asia Curatorial Fellowship team in collaboration with The Heritage Lab

Yet, despite this complexity, there are some symbols that connect Asia across space and time.

They would mean something to you whether you were from 17th century Korea, 19th century India or 21st century Taiwan.

© By Judith Kerr. Finished illustrations copyright © Kerr-Kneale Productions Ltd 1968. Source: British Library

Map of Asia © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Tea and Tigers.

In both South and East Asia, they have remained enduring symbols across the centuries.

National symbols are fascinating because they never really stay the same. As nations change, the meanings associated with their important symbols change too. This means that they can teach us a lot about how nations see their past, their future and their identity.

Dive into the histories & meanings of tea & tigers across South and East Asia. We explore what these symbols reveal about national stories.

But first...we have a quiz for you!

While you journey through the exhibition, ask yourself: what do these symbols mean to you?

Whether you are based in Asia or not, what is your experience with tea and tigers?

What memories, feelings or ideas do they bring up for you and why?

We will begin our journey through tea in Asia with a whirlwind tour through its early history in China and India, the development of the colonial tea trade, and its current status as a global commodity. Then look forward to learning about the relationship between tea and gender, how tea features in outsider constructions of Asia, and about contemporary tea drinking practices in Asia.

Our exploration of tigers in Asia will also take you through some interesting themes: the connection between tigers and imperialism, tigers as symbols of political organisations, and the use of tigers in popular culture.

After this, we will finish up by bringing tea and tigers together, and help to answer some of the questions we posed at the very beginning.

To get started, click on either the TEA or the TIGERS section below.