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The Beginnings of Tea - China"s Favorite Drink

Harmonization Program
 discovering china, tea, history, history of tea, Cannabis, shen nong, chinese, china, chinese history, taiwan, oolong, jasmine, lu yu, tang dynasty

Опубликовано ntddiscoveringchina на YouTube 17.11.2012

Chinese people have drunk tea for several thousand years. The legend goes that Shen Nong discovered tea almost 5000 years ago.

Shen Nong is a legendary figure, sometimes referred to in English, as the "Divine Farmer." He is said to have taught the Chinese people the art of agriculture and well digging.

Shen Nong invented the plough and hoe, and identified a myriad of herbs, many of which are used in Chinese medicine.

A story goes that Shen Nong was drinking a cup of boiled water one day, and some leaves from a nearby bush blew into his cup. He was delighted by the infusion and thus tea was invented.

But tea didn't become widely popular as a beverage until during the Tang Dynasty. At first it was considered a medicinal tonic. China's ancient medical manual, the Ben Cao, attributed to Shen Nong, recorded that tea has the property to keep people awake.

It was this property that got Buddhist monks interested in tea drinking. Monks would meditate for long periods, often at night, and some monks started drinking tea to stop them from falling asleep.

During the early Tang Dynasty, tea was popular in the southern region of China, but not so in the north. Then a Buddhist master named Jiangmo, originally a southerner, came to spread Zen Buddhism at Lingyan Temple at the foot of Mount Tai, in what's now Shandong province.

Jiangmo would drink tea at night to keep himself awake while meditating. Other monks in the temple and later outsiders copied his habit.

Tea drinking became a customary practice as markets sprouted up around Lingyan temple selling teas like those drank by the monks. It led to a tea craze that swept across China.

At the height of this craze, along came a man called Lu Yu, who wrote a book called the Classic of Tea or Cha Jing in Chinese. The book became the world's first tea manual.

The Classic of Tea not only heightened the tea-drinking trend but also led to a craze for collecting tea ware. Lu Yu described in the book his 24-part tea set. Other ancient texts also documented the craze amongst collectors for buying different variations of these tea sets.

After the Tang Dynasty, the tradition of tea drinking changed. By the end of the Song Dynasty, improved tea production methods meant loose tealeaves tasted better than before, and this became the main form of tea in China.

In the Ming Dynasty people started to use the 'gai wan'—a cup with a lid—to brew and drink their tea. Then during the Qing Dynasty, tea trade between China and Europe flourished.

Today, tea remains one of the most popular beverages in the world.

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