On the 28th of November, leading Chinese tea brand Hey Tea released co-branded tea and merchandise with Jingdezhen China Ceramics Museum. Specifically, the collaboration is with the viral “Speechless Buddha” ceramic sculpture meme.
Aptly named “Hey Buddha” (佛喜), the hot-or-cold beverage also marks Hey Tea’s first-ever tea latte. One of the three cups printed with different sculptures comes randomly with each tea purchase. If you buy a set of tea and merch, it will include one magnet of your choice, out of the three exclusive Hey Tea logo artworks.
The “speechless Buddha” is originally one of a series of ceramic sculptures exhibited at the China Ceramics Museum, depicting the Eighteen Arhats, or Luohans in Chinese, from Chinese Buddhism. The sculptures were created by Zeng Longsheng (1900-1964), one of the masters at Jingdezhen. The Thinking Luohan gained internet notoriety earlier this year after memes of its photo with the added text “speechless” (无语) went viral. Taming Tiger Luohan and Happy Luohan from the series also went viral with him, becoming the other two designs from the collaboration.
The Luohans usually come with texts in their memes. Thinking Luohan, with its stoic facial expression, is usually accompanied by “speechless”, while Tiger Taming Luohan, more assertive looking with fingers pointing out, normally says “I’ll unalive you” (“鸡哔你”, a play on “击毙你”). The Happy Luohan, a new addition to the meme family, does not have an accepted usual text with it. The first two memes, depicting speechlessness and righteous indignation, are popular among office workers for expressing their moods. During the early October National Day holiday, the sculptures attracted an unusual amount of tourist attention after going viral as memes.
The topic “Hey Tea Buddha have a cuppa” (#喜茶 我佛持杯#, a play on “Buddha have mercy”) shot to number 1 on the Hot Search list on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent. It garnered 84.71 million views on the platform within a day after launching on the 28th. With the younger generation increasingly interested in temples and Buddhist culture, the collaboration hit the right note at the right time.