• Jan 21, 2021
  • by Terry WU
The Origin and History of Tea in China

Introduction: From the ancient times when Shennong tasted hundreds of herbs to the present day, the demand for tea has become more and more widespread in modern times. Tea drinking has also become the most common hospitality ritual in life.

1. Origin.

Ancient legend has it that it began in the time of the Yellow Emperor, in the Shennong Ben Cao Jing, it is said that Shennong tasted a hundred herbs, encountered 72 poisons, and got tea to solve the Shennong is our Emperor Yan, one of our ancestors. One day, he tasted a highly poisonous grass while he was boiling water. He fainted before the water boiled. I don't know how long it took, but Shennong woke up to a refreshing fragrance. With difficulty he rapped water to drink, only to find that the boiling water had turned yellow-green with a few green leaves floating in it, and that the fresh fragrance came from the pot. A few hours later, the poison had been lifted from his body. After a careful search, he found a plant above the town, and after studying it, he found out more about its effects and finally named it "tea". It is not known how credible this legend about tea is, but one thing is clear. Tea is a medicinal plant, its medicinal function is to detoxify.

"Shennong tasted the taste of a hundred herbs, the sweetness and bitterness of water and springs, so that the people knew what to avoid"

The two Han dynasties to the Three Kingdoms period, tea has been spread from Ba Shu to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, to the Wei Jin and North and South Dynasties period tea has been widely planted, performance: gradually in people's daily lives in a prominent position, and even some places also appeared to tea as a cultural practice of sacrifice. Tea has entered the upper class from the common people, not only the monks and Taoists used it to cultivate health, tea also became their new favorite among the cultural people at that time.

In the Tang Dynasty, "tea flourished from the Tang Dynasty, flourished in the Song Dynasty", and in the Tang Dynasty there was a tea sage named Lu Yu, who summarised the experience of making and drinking tea over the ages and wrote the book "Tea Sutra". In this book, Lu Yu gave a comprehensive discussion on the origins of tea, the characteristics of tea types, the methods of treatment, the real tea utensils, the taste of water and the customs of tea drinking. At that time he was also called to the palace and was appreciated by the emperor. Objective factors: the Tang Dynasty was focused on foreign relations, economic openness, and thus from various levels on the flourishing of tea culture played a role in pushing the wave, so the Tang Dynasty tea ceremony flourished at the same time also in the history of the development of China's tea culture opened up an epoch-making significance.

During the Song Dynasty, the practice of tea drinking in China reached an even higher level, and tea has become a daily drink that cannot be consumed without a day. There were monographs on tea drinking from the emperor down to the great officials, and at this time there were also tea households, tea rooms, tea houses and other places of trade and production. The most distinctive of these customs was the tea fight. At the same time, tea products were no longer just in the form of a single dough tea cake. Loose tea and end tea appeared one after another.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the processing and production of tea and drinking customs were greatly improved. Especially after the Qing Dynasty, the export of tea became an official trade route. The number of tea leaves sold between countries also increased. At this time, the green-fried method of tea production became widespread and the 'brewing method' replaced the old 'decoction method'. During the Ming Dynasty, there were also a large number of poems, paintings, literary works and monographs on tea and folk cultural activities such as drama, riddles and riddles were integrated. Tea culture also had a deeper level of development.

The Qing Dynasty saw the emergence of seven major tea systems: green tea, black tea, yellow tea, black tea, white tea. Flowering tea and oolong tea.

In modern times, tea has become one of the world's most popular healthy beverages as the variety of teas has become richer and more diverse. Various cultural exchanges on the theme of tea are also taking place all over the world.

2. The evolution of tea drinking methods

After the discovery of tea, the way people drink tea has evolved through three stages of development.

① Boiling tea. Whether it was Shennong who used water to boil tea, or Lu Yu's theory of decocting and boiling tea mentioned in the "Tea Classic". Mankind began by boiling tea leaves before drinking, Guo Pu in the "Erya" in the note mentioned tea "can be boiled as soup drink", that is to say, boiled tea also add corn and seasoning condiments, cooked into a porridge. Until the Tang Dynasty people were still accustomed to this method of drinking, and to this day, the ethnic minorities in remote areas of China are accustomed to adding other foods to their tea.

②Half-drinking and half-tea. By the Qin and Han dynasties, tea was not only used as a medicinal herb, but also made its appearance in people's lives. It gradually became a delicacy for guests, and people also created half-tea to play with the way tea was made and used at this time. They pounded the dough tea into the lake, added boiling water and processed and flavoured it.

③ Brewing tea. This way of drinking tea can also be called the whole-leaf brewing method, which began in the Tang Dynasty and flourished in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and it was a further step in the role of tea drinking. Purely brewed with tea leaves was called "Qingming" by the Tang people after drinking "Qingming" and then chewing the tea leaves, tasting its taste can be greatly enjoyed.

The origin of the word "tea"

Before the Tang Dynasty, people mostly called tea "tian", during which other words were also used, until after the Tang Dynasty, tea stains became the official unified name. The word "tian" is a morphological character, the head of the character grass means that it is an herb, which does not fit the identity of tea as a woody plant. To the Western Han Dynasty "Erya" a book, began to try to borrow the word "Catalpa" to represent the tea tree, but the original meaning of "Catalpa" refers to rowan, catalpa and other trees, with a reference to the tea tree will also cause misunderstanding, so there is "apply " character. On the occasion of the Chen-Sui period, the word "tea" appeared, changing the original character form and pronunciation, more popularly used in folklore, until the Tang Dynasty Lu Yu "tea sutra", the word "tea" gradually spread and used in formal occasions.

The ancient tea and horse route

The so-called Tea Horse Road is actually an authentic road for horse gangs.

The ancient tea and horse road first originated in the Tang and Song dynasties "tea and horse market", the main force in ancient wars were cavalry, the horse became the battlefield to determine the conditions of victory and defeat. And the ethnic minorities in the northwest of China will be tea and grain as an important necessity of life. In this way, mules and horses, furs, medicinal materials and tea, cloth, salt and daily utensils produced in the Tibetan region and the border areas of Sichuan and Yunnan, as well as in the mainland, flowed from south to north in the deep valleys of the Hengduan Mountains. And with the development of social and economic development and increasingly prosperous. The main trunk routes of the tea horse route are the Qinghai-Tibet route, the Yunnan-Tibet route and the Sichuan-Tibet route. The Qinghai-Tibet line was the first to develop, the Yunnan-Tibet line was the furthest route, and the Sichuan-Tibet line was the most influential and famous later on.

The Ancient Tea Horse Road is the highest terrain trade route in the world today, as well as ethnic integration and harmony, and it bears witness to the flesh and blood emotions of the various ethnic groups in China and Asia that have been forged over tea. It has made a remarkable contribution to the history of the spread of world civilisation.

The elegant name of tea

From ancient times to the present day, people have gradually realised the wonders of tea, not only using it for pharmaceutical purposes, but also making it a necessity in their daily lives, and the extent of their love for tea can be seen in the elegant names given to it.

In the Tang and Song dynasties, tea was called "moon cake" and "golden cake"; in the Tang dynasty, Lu Yu's "Tea Classic" referred to tea as "good wood" and "sweet dew".

With the emergence of a variety of famous tea, often hidden tea name to substitute for the word tea. Such as iron rosemary, big red robe, white peony, cinnamon, etc.

The study of tea culture

China is an ancient civilization with a history of 5000 years, the Chinese people most know how to drink tea early and also the most will drink tea. Tea drinking has a history of thousands of years. In a broad sense, tea culture is divided into two aspects: natural science and human science. It is the sum of the material and spiritual wealth created in the course of human social and historical practice in relation to tea. In a narrow sense, tea culture focuses on the humanistic science of tea, mainly referring to the spiritual and social functions of tea.

Chinese tea culture contains three aspects: material culture, spiritual culture and behavioural culture.

Material culture. The material level of tea culture refers to the sum of the way people engage in tea production activities and the results. For example, the planting and cultivation of tea leaves, processing and manufacturing, preservation and collection. As well as the tangible processes, products, objects, buildings, etc., such as the tea utensils, water and tea rooms used in tea drinking.

Spiritual culture. The spiritual level of tea culture refers to the sum of values, aesthetic interests, ways of thinking and other subjective factors that people gradually form in the process of long-term tea production, business, tasting and tea art activities. For example, the production of tea, the interest in tea drinking and the poems and songs about tea and other literary works. In the process of tea tasting, people understand life and combine tea tasting with life philosophy to raise tea drinking to a philosophical level and pursue spiritual pleasure, which is also known as the tea ceremony and tea virtue in tea culture.

Behavioural culture. The behavioural level of tea culture refers to the sum of the behavioural patterns gradually formed by people in the process of tea production, management and consumption, often in the form of tea art, tea rituals and tea customs. In the process of drinking tea for a long time, various ethnic groups and regions in China have formed their own distinctive tea drinking styles and tea ceremonies, taking into account their regional characteristics and national habits. Guests to tea is a traditional ritual in China, indicating the hospitality of the host, thousands of miles to send tea to show the homes of relatives miss, reflecting the strong affection.

After thousands of years of development, tea has now become one of the three most popular non-alcoholic beverages in the world. Tea culture has a long history and is very profound. Different eras, different nationalities, different classes, different social and natural environments are the different forms that tea culture has taken, constituting a long historical chain of Chinese tea culture. In the course of history, the content of tea culture has been constantly enriched and developed, constantly drawing on the distinctive characteristics of the times, and closely integrated with the various levels of social life in all periods, with a profound impact on the development of Chinese society.