Teemuseum in Hangzhou

Das 1991 eröffnete Nationale chinesische Teemuseum (chinesisch 中国茶叶博物馆 Zhongguo chaye bowuguan) in Hangzhou ist ein Muss für jeden Teeliebhaber. Es beinhaltet ein umfassende Sammlung zur Geschichte des Tees sowie von zeitgenössischen und historischen Teeutensilien.

Auf dem Museumsgelände selber befinden sich ein Restaurant und zwei chinesische Teehäuser, in denen man außer erlesenen Teesorten selbstverständlich auch ausgewählte chinesische Tees probieren kann.

Den nachfolgenden Text veröffentlichen wir mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Teemuseums in Hangzhou. Ein Übersetzung des Textes ist in Bearbeitung und wird demnächst auf dieser Seite veröffentlicht.

Hangzhou Tea Museum – Hall of Tea History

Shennong, as agricultural god, was also the inventor of Chinese medicine. He discovered the five cereals as well as various herbals, which could cure human diseases. It was said that Shennong tasted various herbals so as to master the characteristics of herbal medicines and was poisoned seventy-two times a day but was detoxified by accidentally eating tea leave.

This was the earliest description and written record about our forefathers‘ understanding of tea.

The uses of tea were closely related with the discovery of tea. Tea was developed into a beverage through a long application process during which it was at once used as medicine, food and sacrificial offerings.

Tea was spread to the ancient Bashu states by river transportation from the place of origin Yun-Gui Plateau of Southwest China. It then developed quickly in Bashu. Bashu district was the earliest tea producing area and so was called cradle of Chinese tea. In the earliest local chronicles „Hua Yang Guo Zhi“, it was recorded that people in Bashu states had begun to plant tea about 3000 years ago and they used tea as a local product to pay tribute to Emperor Zhou Wu Wang.

In the Han Dynasty, tea drinking was very popular in Bashu district and tea began to be a commodity in commercial circulation. Wang Bao, a Sichuan celebrity of the West Han Dynasty wrote in his document “ The contract with servant“ about „brewing tea and preparing tea utensils“ as well as „buying tea from Wuyang Town“. „The contract with servant“ was then a document for selling servants and has now become an important historical document about tea.

According to historical records, Wu Lizhen of the West Han Dynasty once planted eight tea plants on Shangqing Peak of Mengshan Mountain, from which there was a saying that the eight fairy tea plants were neither growing nor dying and those who drank four liang of the leaves would become celestial beings on the spot. The remains of Wu Lizhen planting tea can be seen now.

Although the people’s understanding of tea remained primitive, there was a tea manufacturing method at that time. The methods of cake tea processing and drinking were followed until the Tang and Song periods. The only change was that the processing was more careful and the drinking more meticulous.

According to historical records, there were a lot of tea scholars who were celebrities in ancient times, such as Yang Xiong and Sima Xiangru of the Han Dynasty.

In the West Jin and South-North dynasties, people used tea to keep honest against luxurious practices. In the most famous story, Lu Na served tea to his guests.

Around the South Dynasty in the fifth century, Xiao Ji, the Emperor Qi Wudi(479-502), stipulated in his will that he did not want posthumous offerings of cattle; only cakes, fruit, tea, rice and wine. The stories that tea was used as posthumous offerings could be traced back to as early as the Zhou Dynasty. It can be seen from this the spiritual values of tea were understood by the people at the early stages of civilization.

Upsurge in Tea of the Tang Dynasty

During the Tang Dynasty, tea-drinking customs spread quickly in the north of China on the basis of development in south China. The lourishing and influences of Buddhism were important factors in promoting tea-dinking customs to spread from the South to the North of China. This was fully reflected in the „What Feng heard and saw“ written by Feng Yan of Tang Dynasty. During the Kaiyuan period of Tang, a devilish subduing master from Lingyan Temple of Taishan Mountain subscribed to Chan (Buddhism) in a big way. Those who studied Chan or sat in meditation were required neither to sleep nor to eat food at night, but all of them could drink tea. So tea brewing and drinking could be seen everywhere. It gradually became a custom in the Buddhist circle because of each other’s following.

Another important factor for the flourishing of tea affairs was the appearance of tribute teas for imperial court use. Tea drinking was popular in the imperial court of the Tang period and there were many forms of tea ceremonies and tea parties. The imperial court attached great importance to tea production. In the Dali fifth year of Tang (A.D. 770), Emperor Tang Daizong had Guanpei (Governmental baking) established on Guzhushan Mountain in Changxing of Zhejiang (a special production base for plucking and processing tea for imperial court use) and he instructed governors of Huzhou and Changzhou states to supervise the processing of tribute teas and to be in charge of transporting the Zisun tea, Yangxian tea and Jinsha spring water to the court. There was a saying that various herbals had no courage to bloom before the emperor could taste the Yangxian tea. Once the new tea was plucked and processed, it should be transported around the clock to the capital city Chang’an for hosting a „Qingming Banquet“. It was reflected by poem of Li Ying of the Tang period that“ walk four thousand li, be sure to catch the Qingming Banquet.”

Lu Yu and his “Book of Tea”

„People have learnt new tea knowledge since Lu Yu was born in the world“. The publication of Lu Yu’s „Tea Classic“ in the middle of Tang had an epoch-making significance and consequently the tea culture was then promoted to an unprecedented height.

Lu Yu (A.D 733-804), also named Ji, was born in Jingling, Fuzhou of Tang (now Tianmen of Hubei Province). He was once an abandoned boy and his life was full of frustrations. He was adopted late by Buddhist monk Zhi Yi , who was proficient in conducting ceremony. When Lu Yu was young, he was in the good graces of Li Qiwu and Cui Yuanfu who were demoted to Jingling and Lu was trained by them.

After the upheaval of An and Shi, Lu Yu roamed to Huzhou and later dwelled in Zhaoxi in seclusion. He got acquainted with poet and monk Jia Ran and Yan Zhenqing, the Huzhou governor and great calligrapher. He sought quiet in the time of turmoil. He dedicated himself to practice, and traveled Jiangnan tea producing area to investigate tea affairs. According to his tea knowledge and tea tasting experience as well on the basis of summarizing the forefathers‘ experiences, he wrote the „Tea Classic“, the first book on tea in the world.

Lu Yu was respectively called Lu Zi by the later generations of tea scholars. The system of Lu’s scientific tea theory was called „Lu’s Science“ and the tea merchants worshipped him as a „tea god“.

„Tea classic“ was a special book on tea. It summarized and reviewed the popular tea customs at that time and discussed the origin, history, production, manufacture, brewing and tasting of tea as well as various humane and natural factors, which made the tea science become a special discipline.

The „Tea Classic“ consisted of ten chapters, including chapter one „The Origin of Tea“; chapter two „The Utensils“; chapter three „Preparation of Tea“; chapter four „Implements of Brewing; chapter five „Brewing“; chapter six „Drinking“; chapter seven „Historical Records“; chapter eight „Producing Districts“; chapter nine „General Summary“ and chapter ten „Memo Regarding Plates.“

Tea affairs in Tang Dynasty

The cake tea processing method was the major tea manufacturing method in the Tang Dynasty. The tea soup cooking with dressings was changed into pure tea brewing because of Lu Yu’s advocacy after the middle Tang. The plucked tea leaves were steamed in a steamer, ground in a mortar, compressed into cake, dried and strung with rind of reed or bamboo. The cake tea was ground into powder, shifted and cooked in a caldron before drinking.

Painting of Lanting Picture Obtained by Xiao Yi drawn by Yan Liben was a precious reference about tea cooking by people of the Tang Dynasty, were a typical scene of tea cooking by people of the Tang Dynasty is shown.

A series of tea sets used by the imperial family were unearthed in the underground palace of Famen Temple pagoda in Fufeng of Shaanxi in May 1985. It confirmed the existence of Lu Yu’s tea ceremony.

„30% for thirst quenching and 70% for tasting“. The greater contribution of Tang’s tea men whom Lu Yu represented was that they advocated technical skills of tea tasting and accomplished the transformation from the rough thirst-quenching drinking to artistic, fine tasting so that tea tasting became a sophisticated and cultural activity.

In his Tea Classic, Lu Yu advocated a tea theory, from emphasis on cooking to emphasis on tasting, including the utensils and the complete procedure he wanted a tea drinker to have a realm of calm, to concentrate attention on the tea, to make the tea tasting activity become a medium of cultivating one’s behavior and moral character as well as molding one’s temperament. It created a precedent for Chinese tea ceremony and set a model for the development of tea culture in later ages.

Tea Spreading in the Tang Dynasty

In the fifteenth year of Tang Zhenguan (A.D 641), tea was introduced into Tibet as the dowry of Princess Wencheng.

Tea had become a staple of border trade commodities in the Tang Dynasty. The new Tang’s book „Lu Yu’s Biography“ recorded that Huihe people traded horses for tea in the morning. This was the beginning of tea-horse trade, which lasted for more than one thousand years through the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Tea was then introduced into the Northwest, Southwest, Mongolia and Tibet.

Prosperous Song Dynasty Tea

The Song Dynasty was historically an important period during which tea culture was highly developed.

The major characteristics of the Song’s tea included exquisite workmanship of tribute tea- dragon-phoenix ball tea, elegant tea competition skills and tea serving arts.

Tea drinking method of the Song Dynasty was transformed into infusing method from cooking method used by the Tang people. The so-called tea infusing was that ground tea powder was put into a tea bowl, stirred with implements while boiling Dragon-phoenix ball tea was a general designation for Song’s North Garden tribute tea, i.e. the Dragon ball tea and the Phoenix Cake Tea.

Dragon-phoenix Ball Tea
The North Garden located in Phoenix Mountain of Jian’ou, Fujian Province. The Dragon-phoenix ball tea had already made during Song Taiping Xingguo period (A. D. 976-983). During Xianping period (A.D 998-1003), Ding Wei made „Big Dragon Ball“ to pay tribute. During Qingli period, Cai Xiang made „small Dragon Ball“ which got the better of the „Big Dragon Ball“.

The Dragon-phoenix ball tea was the greatest achievement of ancient Chinese cake tea production.

The greatest development and contribution of Song people to tea culture was reflected in the harmony with tea and related arts, it carried tea tasting toward the perfection of scholar tea. Scholar tea tasting was very popular in the Song Dynasty. The first-rate scholars such as Wang Yucheng, Cai Xiang, Fan Zhongyan, Ouyang Xiu, Wang Anshi, Mei Raochen, Su Shi, Su Che, Huang Tingjian, Lu You were all involved in the tea tasting.

Su Dongpo’s poem reads: „a fine tea had always been mentioned in the same breath with beautiful women“. It was a mature symbol of Chinese tea culture. The tea tasting procedure was developed from daily tea drinking.

The purpose of tea tasting of scholars, monks and priests of the past dynasties was mainly for intellectual enjoyment. So they wrote a lot of poems and prose about tea tasting and they advocated tea banquets, tea ceremonies and tea parties. For them, tea was a precious and noble drink and tea tasting was an intellectual enjoyment, means of cultivating moral character and nature, and realm of artistic atmosphere. Monk Qi Yi described exactly the realm: „autumn billows calm in the stone caldron, tasting mountainous tea as returning from sitting in meditation“.

Jingshan Tea Banquet-Spreading in the Song Dynasty

Jingshan mountain is now located on the north foot of Tianmu Mountain on the border of Yuhang and Lin’an counties, Zhejiang Province. Jingshan Temple, established by Monk Fa Qin, was once well known all over the world and rated the top of Jiang’nan Temples.

Fine teas had been produced on Jingshan Mountain for past dynasties. It was said that Monk Fa Qin planted several tea plants there and plucked them for offerings. It was fragrant in the valleys where his hands stretched plucking the tea leaves. The monks and priests of the later ages always used the fragrant tea from the Temple to serve their guests. In the course of time, a series of tea serving ceremonies were gradually formed, which was late called „tea banquet“. Nanura and Seiichi, two Japanese monks, went successively to Jingshan Temple to study Buddhism in the Song Dynasty.

Yeisai, a Japanese eminent monk, came to China to study Buddhism twice during the Song Dynasty. He brought tea seeds and tea tasting methods to Japan while returning from study, and he then wrote the book „Kitcha Yojoki“ (The Book of Tea Sanitation).

Original Purity and Simplicity Returning of the Ming Dynasty Tea

On the sixteenth day of ninth month in Ming’s Hongwu twenty-fourth year ( A. D. 1391), Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang issued an imperial edict that loose leaf tribute tea should be paid instead of the conventional ball tea. It was highly praised by people of the later ages that the Imperial Court fully considered the laboring people and stopped ball tea production, only tender tea buds were picked for paying tribute because the real tea flavor was lost when tea was ground with spice and compressed into small cakes.

The people then picked the best leaves just the flushing buds, heated spring water in a tripod, then infused and tasted it. The tea tasting system of the ages was found.

Tea competition of the South Song period and the North Song period was over and cake tea was replaced by loose tea. The tasting method of grinding and cooking tea was changed into the boiling water and infusing method. The epoch-making changes took place. Pure tea drinking lasting for the later ages started.

This drinking method was considered by the Ming people to be particularly simple, naturally interesting, and true flavor tasting. In fact, this infusion method was developed on the basis of loose tea drinking method in the folktales of the Tang Dynasty.

The New Pattern of Scholar Tea in the Ming Dynasty

Some scholars of the Ming dynasty such as Wen Zhengming,Tang Yan, Xu wei were all great men of letters who had talent but no opportunity to use it. In the fields of music, chess, painting and calligraphy, they were omniscient. They all had the hobby of tasting tea. They created a new situation in „Scholar tea“ of the Ming Dynasty. They all left lots of excellent works and precious materials for later generations.

Compared with their predecessors, they laid more stress on selection of natural environment and construction of aesthetic temperament and interest during tea tasting, which was fully reflected in their works. The great painters either played music, brewing tea, with the harmony of the tinkling of spring, breeze, music, and the sound of boiling water in tea pot, or sat opposite each other to taste tea in a hatched cottage, or stood alone against verdant hills and watched the river surging.

Once tea was involved in the nature, it was not only a physical product, but also a medium for people to correspond and to return to nature.

The Rise of „Tea Science“

Zhang Yuan composed the outstanding „Tea Records“ according what he learnt from his long term experience of tea tasting. Xu Cishu was particularly good at tea ceremony and wrote „Tea Reports“; among which Zhu Quan and his „Tea Manual“ had a especially important contribution.

Zhu Quan (A.D.1378-1448), the seventeenth son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, was considered to have „handsome manner, wisdom and eloquence „. He hid his light and dwelled in seclusion in the South for a long time to live out his life in retirement, during which time he kept his mind clear and calm by tasting tea, playing musical instruments and reading, paying no attention the world affairs. He clearly indicated that his fondness of tea was to use tea as a medium to express his lofty aspirations and to cultivate his moral character rather than to love the taste of tea itself.

Zhu Quan explored the loose tea drinking method after the ball tea processing was stopped. He reformed the traditional drinking method and the tea sets, and advocated simple process to keep the nature of tea.

Tea Road on the Sea- Spread in the Ming Dynasty

From 1405 to 1433, Zheng He, a Ming Sanbao eunuch, made seven long voyages to middle-southern peninsula, South Ocean islands, Bangladesh, India, Iran and Arab States. The farthest areas he reached were the east Coast of Africa and the Coast of Red Sea. Every time when he set out he brought him with tea.

South Asian countries played an important part in the spread of Chinese tea. It was these countries that played a role of medium between China and the Mediterranean or European Countries by sea. After the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Chinese tea was transported to Europe by way of these countries and so „the Tea Road “ by sea was formed. It was this route that promoted the spread of Chinese culture all over the Europe and America.

Tea Becoming Common Customs in the Qing Dynasty

During the Qing Dynasty, the main stream of Chinese tea culture – the spirit of traditional culture of nation began to enter common people’s life. Tea house culture and tea customs culture replaced the former elite tea culture. Tea culture penetrated into the city people’s daily life and became common customs and a noble national sentiment as it was integrated with traditional etiquette and order of importance and seniority in human relationships.

Spreading in the Qing Dynasty Foreign Trade

During the early Qing Dynasty, Chinese tea production developed with surprising rapidity. The tea field area and production volume were increased by a big margin. Chinese tea rapidly entered the world market as a staple trade commodity and once monopolized the whole world tea market.

Then tea entered the Commercial era.

Tea Houses in the Qing Dynasty

Teahouse trades in the Qing Dynasty prospered greatly. Various tea houses were distributed all over the cities and the country, they were beyond count and all afforded magnificent views. They constituted the basis of the modern magnificent teahouse phenomenon.

Teashops, Tea firms

Teahouses were distributed all over the country in the Qing Dynasty. The special teashops, tea stores, tea companies and tea firms appeared one after another. Hangzhou Wenglongsheng Tea Firm was found in 1730. It was a tea firm of great reputation in selling Westlake Longjing Tea of three-prior plucking (prior to Guyu festival, prior to Qingming festival, prior to Chunfen festival). Shanghai Wangyutai Firm was also well known for selling black tea and green tea from Anhui.

The Improvement Stage-The Early Period of the Republic of China

At the end of 19 century, tea industry developed in the south Asian  countries while Chinese tea production went from bad to worse, with decrease of yield and export because Western countries enforced blockade. After 1911, the men of insight whom Wu Juenong represented actively introduced modern science and technology as well as managing system to perform a series of improvements and reforms in tea industry. These laid a foundation for development of Chinese tea industry. But it made little progress. Tea industry then declined rapidly because transportation was blocked and tea areas were occupied by the enemy.

History is continuous. As one piece of fuel is consumed, the flame passes to another.

Tea entered the magnificent world from the luxuriant jungles of Southwest China, during which it went through numerous sufferings and protracted tortuous struggle.

Tea embodies the intimate relationship between humans and nature. It infiltrated into the lofty life ideal of the Chinese nationality since the beginning when tea was introduced into human life.