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The History of Tea in China

This article is about The History of Tea in China.

Tea in Mythology

Lu Yu wrote in Cha Jing: "Tea as a beverage was originated from Shen Nong"

A medicine book "Shen Nong Ben Chao" stated that "Shen Nong tasted hundreds of herbs, he encountered seventy two poisons daily, he used tea as antidote"

In Chinese legend, Shen Nong died in Tea Hill (Cha Lin) county of Hunan province.

Tea plant was indigenous of China

In 760 AD, Lu Yu already noted: Tea is a grand tree from the South, tall from one, two, and up to several dozen Chi. Some with circumferance up two meters.

A. Wilson in his exploration of South East area of China discovered tea bushes tall up to ten feet in mountains in Sichuan

In 1939, botanist discovered a 7.5 meter wild tea tree in Wuchuang county of Guizhou province.

In 1940, on the Old Eagle mountain of Wuchuang county, a 6.6 meter tall wild tea tree was discovered.

In 1957, a 12 meter wild tea tree was discovered in Cheshui county of Guizhou.

I In 1961, a one thousand seven hundred years old, thirty two meter tall and more than one meter diameter wild tea tree was found in the rain forest of Yunnan, this is the king of tea trees.

1976, a 13 meter wild tea tree was found on Daozhen county, on a mountain at 1400 meter elevation.

More wild tea trees were found in the mountains of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, many of them more then ten meters tall.

Although wild tea trees were also found in Assam( then belongs to Burma ), but in 1835, a contingent of botanist and geologists after analyse the tea trees in Assam, concluded that the Assam tea tree was an inferior variant of Chinese tea. Indian tea company decided to import Chinese tea plants for plantation into India in large scale. Japanese scholar used DNA technology to analyse China tea plants in Taiwan, Hainan Island, Yunnan, Guanxi, Hunan, Sichuan, Thailand, Burma, and Assam/India. He concluded that tea plant originated in Sichuan and Yunnan in China, spread south thru Burma, then India.

Cleary Tea (Camellia sinensis ) was indigenous in China. China is the motherland of tea

China also has deep rooted tea culture, more than several thousand years old. There are abundant ancient Chinese historic records described the use of tea as medicine, as vegetable of food. There is no such ancient record exist in India. The history of tea in India is less then two hudred fifty years old.

Tea in Chinese Records

The orgin of the word Cha

Tea was called tu in Chinese ancient classic Shi Jing ( The book of Songs).

Tea was also called 'jia' in ancient Chinese classic Er Ya compiled in early Han dynasty : " Jia is bitter tu". The word tu was further anotated by a Jin scholar Guo Pu(276-324 AD) " Tu is a small plant, its leave can be brew into beverage".

Tea was also called "She' in a West Han monograph on dialect: Fang Yian. In Han dynasty, the world tu beside pronounced as 'tu' also took on a new pronounciation,

'cha'. The phoneme 'tu' later developed into 'te' in Fujian dialect, and later 'tea', 'te'

The phoneme 'she' later became 'soh' in Jiangsu province, Suleiman's 'Sakh' also came from 'she'.

The phoneme "jia' later became 'cha' and 'chai' (Russia, India)

In Shui and Tang dynasty, drinking tea became a wide spread custom, then spread west to Tibet

The first use of of the word Cha instead of 'tu' for tea was in Lu Yu's Cha Jing, The Classic of Tea of 760 AD.

Seven periods in the history of tea

From prehistoric to Spring and Autumn ( 221 BC) Tu was used as sacrifice for ceremony

According to Chinese historical record, ca 1000 BC, there were aleady tea farm in Sichuan and Yunnan

From end of Spring and Autumn to early West Han dynasty, Tu was used as vegetable food on table

From the hsitorical annal "Yianzhi Chunchiu": the prime minister of Chi (547 BC-490 BC) had egg and tea food on his table. Xia Zhong's Treatise on Food : "Since Jin dynasty, the people of Wu (now Suzhou city) cooked tea leaves as food, and called it tea broth".

From beginning of West Han to middle West Han, Tu was used as medicine From late West Han to The Three Kingdom, tea was imperial beverage From West Jin dynasty to Shui dynasty, the use of tea as beverage spread in the Chinese population.

From Tang onward, tea became one of the seven essentials of daily life During the Southern Song dynasty a Japanese monk ???? Eisai( Yosai): came to Tiantai mountain of Zhejiang to study Chan (Zen) buddhism(1168 AD); when he returned home in 1193 AD , he brought tea from China to Japan, planted it and wrote the first Japanese book on Tea:?????, Treatise on Drinking Tea for Health. This was the beginning of tea cultivation and tea culture in Japan

In Song dynasty,tea was a major export good, thru the silk road on land and silk road on the sea, tea spread to Arab countries and Africa. In mid ninth century, traveller Suleiman mentioned that people in China drink "Sakh", sold in cities of Empire.

Marco Polo mentioned tea in his Travel

In 1559, Giovanni Battista Ramusio mentioned "chai" in "Delle Navigatione et Viaggi," Vol 2.

1579, Two Russian traveller introduced Cha to Russia

The first tea monograph

The first tea monograph Cha Jing by Tang dynasty writer Lu Yu was completed around 760 AD. This is more than four hundred years earlier than the first Japanese tea monograpy by Eisai No known ancient Indian monograph on tea exist

There were about one hundred tea monographs from Tang dynasty to Qing dynasty. This treasure about tea culture is only begin to attract the interest of western scholars.

The History of Tea in China

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