This adorable little cow is eagerly awaiting some tea being poured on them. As with most of the 12 zodiac animals, the cow is a popular subject for tea pets. This one has a charming expression and a little gold bell on a red string. Pouring hot water and tea on this tea pet evoke the principles of the Year of the Ox, including strength, reliability, and work ethic.
Tea Pets 茶寵 (Chá Chǒng) are small figurines, usually made of unglazed stoneware (such as the kind teapots are made from), in the shape of animals, people, gods, mythical beasts, plants, fungi - pretty much anything at all. Their sole purpose is to be a recipient of waste water and waste tea produced over the course of the tea service from heating and rinsing the wares and leaves. Over time, they develop a patina of tea oils the way that tea pots do. This process of "raising" as it is called allows them to develop a dark, shiny lustre, with each tea pet taking on its own look and personality over time with use. They also serve a votive function - the pouring of tea over the figure calls in the "spirit" of whatever that figure represents. A good tea pet looks best when in use - ie when enjoying a stream of hot tea being poured over it.