Read the tea leaf?

中国日报网 2016-04-12 12:57



Read the tea leaf?

Reader question:

There’s a website about China called Tea Leaf Nation. What does Tea Leaf mean?

My comments:

Tea Leaf Nation means that if you read that website, it’s like reading tea leaves, metaphorically speaking. In other words, China is full of magic and mysteries.

Tea Leaf stands for China.

How come?

Well, obviously in olden times, China was known for silk and, among others, tea drinking.

It’s as simple as that.

Have you ever heard of the expression “read the tea leaf (or leaves)”? That expression is believed to have also come from China, from the ancient practice of predicting the future by reading tea leaves in the cup.

Fortunate tellers, for example, are said to have been able to tell your future ups and downs by reading the left-over tea leaves in the bottom of your tea cup.

Just who practiced this form of future telling nobody knows for sure. Perhaps nobody in China did this or perhaps someone actually did. Somehow, Westerners somehow come to believe that the Chinese did and that is that.

It must have been the case for, like the country itself, the tea leaves are full of magic and mysteries, considering all the rich and different flavors of teas made by farmers in different tea-growing regions of the country.

In short, reading about China is like someone reading tea leaves to predict the future, deciphering all the bits and pieces of information that’s hidden under and in-between the tea leaves. In other words, it’s a difficult job. China is hard to understand.

In other words, China, like its teas, is full of mystery to the foreigner.

As a matter of fact, the present day China is a mystery even to me. In many ways, how some things are done and are even allowed to be done today I don’t understand – like, at all.

While drinking tea later today, perhaps I should also take a closer look at all of them leaves.

That’s for later. For now, let’s read some tea-leaf reading examples in the media:

1. To taper or not to taper, that is still the question.

And one that is certainly stuck in the minds of investors attempting to read the tea-leaf comments by Federal Reserve officials regarding how soon the brake may be applied to Fed’s bond-buying program to hold down interest rates.

In a piece last Monday by the New York Times, the Fed’s message seemed to be: “Hey, what’s the hurry?” The Times noted that Fed officials are in no hurry to ease the program, and are likely to postpone any cuts until next year.

Charles L. Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, told the Times that he was certainly nervous about the sluggish pace of inflation, and that he’d like to see “a couple of months of good numbers,” with regard to last Friday’s jobs report.

Others could suggest we’ve just seen them. The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added 203,000 jobs in November after adding a revised 200,000 in October, the first time we’ve accomplished that feat since November-December 2012.

- Another Strong Jobs Report, Another Boost for Taper Talk,, December 13, 2013.

2. During a post-Election Day press conference, CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta straight-up told President Barack Obama it is a “fact” his party “rejected” him in the midterms, and asked Obama how it felt to be a lame duck.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Mr. President. I know you don’t want to read the tea leaves, but it is a fact that your party rejected you in these midterms. By and large, they did not want you out on the campaign trail in these key battleground states. How do you account for that? And your aides have said that this is the fourth quarter of your administration, but I don’t know if you saw the morning talk shows, but there were several potential candidates for 2016 who were out there already. Is the clock ticking? Are you running out of time? How much time do you have left? And what do you make of the notion that you’re now a lame duck?

OBAMA: Well, traditionally after the last midterm of the two-term presidency since I can’t run again, that’s the label that you guys apply. Here’s what I tell my team. I told them this last week, and I told them this this morning. We had this incredible privilege of being in charge of the most important organization on earth, the U.S. government, and our military, and everything that we do for good around the world. And there’s a lot of work to be done to make government work better, to make Americans safer, to make opportunity available to more people, for us to be able to have a positive influence in every corner of the globe the way we’re doing right now in West Africa, and I am going to squeeze every last little bit of opportunity to help make this world a better place over these last two years.

- CNN’s Jim Acosta To Obama: ‘It Is A Fact That Your Party Rejected You’,, November 5, 2014.

3. In this day and age predictive crime is what criminal justice is all about. We sentence criminals to a term of imprisonment, which is often mixed with a term of supervised release or parole, to a degree designed to adequately punish them for their misdeeds. The goal is to punish, rehabilitate, and mitigate risk of recidivism and violations of public safety through monitoring of those released from custody. While research-based approaches make good sense for public policy promulgation, what about at the micro or individual level? What is an individual prisoner to do? After spending over ten years in custody, this is exactly where I find myself: staring down the barrel of the last two years of my incarceration, wondering what will become of me.

I came to prison at the ripe old age of twenty following a conviction for indecent liberties with a minor. I had had sex with a girl from my school at a party. I was over 18 and she was under. Make no bones about it, I was guilty of the offense and accept full responsibility for my actions. For the offense I was sentenced to probation, which I promptly violated by having underage pornography on my computer. I was a senior in high school, and I was about to go on the most terrifying ride of my life. . .up to that point.

Sentenced to 15 months in state prison as a result of the probation violation my time was anything but typical. Housed at two “gladiator schools” — prisons for those aged 18 to 24 years old — I had a lot to learn about the underbelly of society. From respectable, white suburbia to the North Carolina Department of Corrections (which has now been rebranded the North Carolina Department of Public Safety) I had a lot of growing to do.

Prior to prison I couldn’t even remember my last fight; which most likely consisted of some type of shoving match. In prison I learned what must be learned: how to fight, how to dodge a lock in a sock, and how to respond with brute force because that was what was required to remain relatively safe. Now that’s a concept to learn: initiate violence to prevent future violence. That one left a bad taste in my mouth.

After my 15 months were up I had a surprise guest: two U.S. Marshals standing at the prison gate. They took me into federal custody to be tried for the child porn on my computer; the porn that had resulted in the violation of my state probation. Little did I, or my parents, know how draconian the sentencing scheme would be. After 10 or so months in county jail, I was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison. This was the bottom end of the recommended sentencing guidelines. According to state sentencing guidelines at the time, if the crime had been prosecuted at the state level, I would have faced a maximum of six additional months in prison.

It’s been about eight years since that sentence was handed down and around 11 years since that fateful party when I had relations with the girl from my school. In that time I’ve worked hard to not only make amends for my criminal offenses, but to better myself so that I can leave the seedy world of crime and criminals behind once released. I’ve also engaged in substantial drug abuse treatment in an effort to put that demon to bed, too. In this time I have availed myself of every meaningful educational and rehabilitative opportunity available. By the end of 2017 I hope to even earn a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (with a focus on Legal Studies) from Adams State University. But even with all of this treatment and education — opportunities others have not partaken in — I feel positively scared of what is to come.

As I prepare for release I try to read the tea leaves. It’s not a matter of existing, as I know that I will never go back to crime or drugs again, but about living with some semblance of respect. As I take a mental inventory of my abilities and, in particular, as I compare those abilities and skills with my peer group “on the street” (as they say in prison parlance), I feel as though my status as a felon and, even worse, as a sex offender will keep me from accomplishing what I set out to.

- Reading the Tea Leaves: What Lies Beyond the Prison Gates? By Christopher Zoukis,, November 4, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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