The Concept of Cha Dao

The Concept of Cha Dao
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The Concept of Cha Dao

Origin of Cha Dao

China was the first nation to discover and start to use tea, and the first to put forward and develop the concept of Cha Dao.

The earliest record of the word ‘Cha Dao’ can be traced back to the literature of the Tang Dynasty, Jiaoran, a monk and poet of the Tang Dynasty, composed a poem on the benefits of drinking tea and the intrinsic connection between Cha Dao and Tao:

‘Three cups of tea can make me understand Tao, so why bother racking my brain to get rid of worries… One’s true nature can be preserved properly as long as he comes to appreciate Cha Dao,this is a truth that only Dan Qiuzi, the Taoist Immortal, knows best.’

Today, Jiaoran is believed to have come up with the concept of Cha Dao.

In mid-Tang Dynasty, Feng Yan wrote in his book The Records of What Mr. Feng Sees and Hears:

‘Lu Yu, a man born in Hubei Province, explained the benefits of drinking tea and the method of making tea in his book The Classic of Tea. Lu Yu made a set of 24 teawares and stored the teawares in a big container The tea set was admired by people from near and far. There were those so fascinated by the tea set that they would collect all 24 pieces and keep the entire set for themselves. Later on, Chang Boxiong polished and spread the contents of The Classic of Tea, making Cha Dao so popular that royalty and court officials were constantly to be found drinking tea .’

At that time, the tea party had already become a popular occasion for elegant social activities in upper-class society. A host usually served Ms guests with tea instead of wine, and while appreciating the tea, the host and the guests would together enjoy the surrounding scenery mid share their thoughts with each other.

China as a tea-loving nation, has developed the spirit of Cha Dao. Master Lu Yu creatively proposed ‘Morality and Frugality’ as the spirit of Cha Dao in his book The Classic of Tea, He explains as follows:

‘Tea is itself cold in nature; it is an optimal drink for people who live by the principle of morality and frugality. ‘

From Master Lu Yu’s perspective, tea is drunk not merely to quench thirst, but to cultivate the moral character of tea drinkers. The spirit Master Lu Yu suggested for tea drinkers is the very spirit of Cha Dao.

Following in Master Lu Yu’s footsteps, Liu Zhenliang, a eunuch of the Tang Dynasty, put forward Ten Virtues of Tea to express his view on the spirit of ChaDao, he wrote:

‘Tea disperses depression, banishes drowsiness, nurtures liveliness, wards off diseases, sets up virtue and courtesy,expresses respect, distinguishes tastes,cultivates body, refines aspirations, and promotes Tao practices.’

Some of these virtues fall into the scope of Cha Dao.

Zhao Ji, the Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, summarized the spirit of Cha Dao in his book Treatise on Tea as able to ‘cleanse filthiness, dispel stagnation, create serenity, and purify mind’. As far as he was concerned,the pleasant aroma and flavor of tea is relaxing and delightful, both physically and spiritually.

It is generally accepted that Chinese Cha Dao was formed in the Tang Dynasty.This can be attributed to changes in the tea drinking method during that time. People gradually ceased to boil and cook tea for an extended time, and began instead to delicately decant the tea and carefully sip it. Such a change contributed largely to the development of tea art, philosophy, tea culture and finally Cha Dao.

Rejuvenation of Cha Dao

China is the cradle of tea drinking and tea culture. Tea plants have rooted in the vast land of China, Chinese tea culture has thrived on them, and the soul of Cha Dao has been imprinted in this great oriental civilization.

There are over 600 species of tea plants in China, from which Chinese people have made many different types of tea. We have developed a complete system of tea cultivation, tea processing,tea brewing skills and tea drinking customs, and have spread tea seeds, tea drinking, tea culture and Cha Dao across the world. Tea has become a popular daily beverage worldwide, and it has made great contributions to both Chinese culture and cultures around the globe. Therefore, China has always been very proud of being the home of tea.

China was the first nation to propose the concept of Cha Dao. The emergence of Chinese Cha Dao can be dated back several hundreds or even thousands of years earlier than the emergence of Cha Dao elsewhere in the orient. Chinese Cha Dao has been greatly significant through history in the evolution of thought culture and humanity itself.

Although the Chinese people have continued their achievements in this field, developments in Chinese Cha Dao have gradually declined over the last few hundred years, A likely cause is the dark age at the end of the Qing Dynasty when China suffered continuous foreign invasions, endless wars, a failing economy and widespread poverty. Without food enough ta eat, people had no time or thought to enjoy a cup of tea. The word ‘Cha Dao’ has fallen into disuse within the tea industry itself, and regrettably, there hasn’t been any professional tea master or for many years. And it reached the extent that at international tea forums, people questioned the existence of real ‘Cha Dao’ in China.

Fortunately, the tide turned in the 1980s, after China reformed and opened up to the outside world. China has since witnessed a rapid economic development and attained a new prosperity. With improved living standards, Chinese people are once more able to have cultural and philosophical interests, and enhancing their spiritual me. More and more people have turned to tea as a daily pleasure in life, and a way to cultivate the mind. They actively participate in tea activities, tea cultural exchange and communication. Local and national tea culture seminars, forums and organizations have mushroomed, and tea fairs, competitions and other tea related events are increasingly popular. We are seeing a renaissance of tea culture. In modern China, there is an enthusiastic revival of tea and Cha Dao rising on the tide of revitalization of traditional Chinese culture.

Tea acts as an envoy of harmony and happiness. Cha Dao facilitates interpersonal relationships and stimulates mind cultivation. It gives people a sense of identity, the ability to operate well within society, as well as a grounded happiness and satisfaction of spirit, and so helps to fulill the aim to build a harmonious modern Chinese culture.

Tea is also beneficial to mental health. It creates a sense of calm and ease which serves as a solid base for mind cultivation and enlightened wisdom. Through learning and appreciating Cha Dao, people not only enjoy the charms of tea but also find a peaceful haven; a means rebalance from
which to resolve social problems and issues.

Tea is a bridge to friendly exchange and communication between people, regions and even countries. ‘Peace and Development has become the theme of modern times, and Chinese Cha Dao,with its concept of Cherish tea, love people’,bridges the distance between Chinese people and those from other parts of the world by allowing a better understanding of the culture, the ideas, and the spirit of this oriental dragon.

Cha Dao is the essence of oriental culture and humanity; it is a treasure that ancient Chinese civilization has brought to the world. And Cha Dao shares a common fate with the rise and fall of this civilization, la the context of Chileans rejuvenation, it is time for the Chinese people to continue and promote their extensive and profound Chinese tea culture and Cha Dao. By doing so, they may offer the world a way to find inner peace within the fastback and pressures of modern life.

It is foreseeable that, in the near future, Cha Dao will become part of modem lifestyle, pursued by people the world over.

Definition of Cha Dao

Cha Dao is the heart and soul of China’s extensive and profound tea culture. However, when it comes to the definition of Cha Dao, opinions vary among scholars from home and abroad.

To begin with, it would be beneficial for us to understand the suffix ‘ism’ in the word Cha Dao. ‘Cha Dao is writtenas ‘茶道’ in Chinese, so ‘ism’ here stands for ‘Tao’. ‘Tao’ plays a very important role in traditional Chinese culture, and it is the core of ancient Chinese philosophy. Tao is regarded as an ubiquitous yet untraceable concept, inclusive yet inexplicable. Here are some classic definitions of the word ‘Tao’ in ancient Chinese works:

‘Tao gives birth to one, one gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, and three givesbirth to all universal things. ‘

-Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

‘Tao is the origin of all universal things and the general law of their evolution.’

-Commentaries on Lao Tzu’s Teachings by Han Fei-tzu

‘That which is antecedent to the material form exists, we say, as an ideal method, or Tao; and that which is subsequent to the material form exists, we say, as a definite thing.

-‘I Ching

Tao reveals the origin, noumenon, general law or principle of things in the world. It may exist anytime and anywhere. We may find Tao through mountains and waters, plants, or heavenly bodies, and we may experience Tao in daily life. In other words, we are surrounded by Tao, it is a road that none of us can avoid but must walk through, such as the natural law of birth, aging, illness and death for all men. That’s why in Commentary on the I Ching, Tao was said to be that which’people use every day without knowing the nature of it,’ Chuang Tzu even said in Knowledge Rambling in the North that ‘Tao is in the excrement.’

The ubiquity of Tao means it is held so highly by the Chinese people that they do not utter the word ‘Tao’ lightly in the Chinese language. People prefer to use the terms ‘art’,’skill’ or ‘technique’ instead of ‘Tao’,such as ‘floral art’,’martial art’ ‘chess skill’ and ‘fighting technique’.

Only ‘Cha Dao’ uses the very word ‘Tao’ alongside ‘tea’, This shows the unique value of tea and significance of the word ‘Cha Dao’ for the Chinese people.

Cha Dao is a marriage of tea and Tao and a perfect combination of tangible objects with intangible moral ideas. Tao is often described as something abstract and intangible, a concept difficult to express. As the old saying goes, ‘The Tao that can lie spoken is not the Eternal Tao.’

Tea, however, is both concrete and tangible. You can have a general idea of what tea is imply by drinking it by kungfu tea cup and savoring its flavor. So people may at first perceive the nature of tea as the opposite to that of Tao.

Yet despite the differences between Tao and tea, the two are interconnected with each other. It is often said that the culture derived from tea is an intermediary culture, a step towards understanding Tao. Learning tea culture and participating in activities related to tea culture provides an effective way to approach, experience and understand Tao.

When people enjoy the grace of tea ceremony, appreciate the mellow of tea and experience the inner peace brought by tea in a calm and peaceful environment, Tao is no longer unpredictable, inexplicable or unreachable. Appreciating tea leads people to experience tea culture, from experiencing tea culture they may come to understand Cha Dao, and that is from understanding Cha Dao to comprehending Tao.

Cha Dao has become part of the etiquette of daily Chinese life. It is an art which brings aesthetic pleasure, and it is also a method of self-cultivation. Although Cha Dao has been defined from different perspectives by different scholars in ancient and modem times, the essence of Cha Dao can be summarized as a fundamental law of the act of tea drinking, a road towards the experience of the sweet aftertaste, the appreciation of art, and finally the comprehension of life Specifically, the content of Cha Dao can be defined by the following three aspects:

1.Experience of the Sweet Aftertaste

Firstly, the sweet aftertaste is a sensual and physical experience. You taste bitterness on the palate after a sip of tea liquor, and then when swallowing, you savor a sweet aftertaste that lingers in the mouth. That is how tea tastes: after the bitterness comes the sweetness. Such a gustatory experience is describes in Chapter V ‘Boiling’ of Classic: ‘Tea is bitter when sipping, and sweet after swallowing.’

Scientifically, it is the compositions in tea that form its flavor. The epigallocatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and theaine in the tea polyphenols are of & bitter taste, and the catechin, epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC) and flavonoid glycoside are of a sweet taste. In the process of brewing tea, these compositions dissolve in water; they mix with each other and form different combinations. As the taste buds on the tongue respond to the tastes differently, we first sense bitterness and later, sweetness. if there are more sweet compositions than bitter compositions in the tea liquor, a sweet aftertaste will always follow the initial bitter taste.

Secondly, the sweet aftertaste is a wonderful experience psychologically. It is human nature to favor the sweetness and avoid the bitterness. When we drink tea, the contrast presented by the initial bitterness and the later sweetness somehow gives us the equivalent mental emotion. We often say one can only tell the flavor of tea after three sips, ‘first bitter, second sweet, third aftertaste’. Tea drinking involves appreciating the color, the aroma and the first sharp flavor of tea, then a sensation of the sweet aftertaste which wets our lips, and lastly the tea force, and a moment of genuine and natural change on the palate. This complex experience brought about by tea echoes the ups and downs of life.

The experience of the sweet aftertaste is the manifestation and foundation of Cha Dao. Different people with different experience and at different stages of life will also experience the sweet aftertaste of tea differently. Hence the popular saying that life is like a cup of tea, only the one who drinks it knows whether it is sweet or bitter, whether it is hot or cold.

An interesting passage on the sweet aftertaste of tea in Cha Wu Ren Sheng (Enlightenment by Tea) written by Wu Yuanzhi and Wu Ran, says:

‘Unlike the sweetness of sugar come, the sweetness of tea is a kind of hidden sweetness, which exists yet is hard to catch a glimpse of it It contributes to the flavor of tea yet acts in a supporting rote. It is not the sweetness that tea is known for, yet subtly it is the sweet aftertaste that appeals to people. It seems tea brings us the bitterness but as a matter of fact, it quietly brings us sweetness.’

Thirdly, the sweet aftertaste awakens one’s contemplation of life. What makes tea uniquely surpass and other: beverage is the way tea implicitly conveys the meaning (of life and provoke a of deep thought. Pi Guangye, a poet of the Five Dynasties (907 – 960 A .D.), once said:

‘Before meeting Ms. Sweet-to-Soul, one has to first welcome Master Bitter-to-Mouth.’

Tea is thus honored as Master Bitter-to-Mouth’,which echoes the Chinese saying Good medicine for your health always tastes bitter’. Along the journey of life, there will be difficulties and setbacks, sufferings and ordeals, and we are not going to achieve anything unless we preserve tenacity and advance with courage. There are many stories about triumph over adversity, pleasure reached through toil, and sweetness coming after bitterness. For example, in ancient times, King Goujian of Yue (reigned 496-465 B.C.) slept on brushwood and tasted bile so as to remember his past humiliations while serving under Wu, before his ultimate conquest of Wu.

As Mencius said in The Works of Mencius:

‘Thus, when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger; and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and makes him earn his competence.’

The sweet aftertaste becomes the driving force for us to make a lifelong effort to strive for goals and success, like the classic English proverb ‘No pains, no gains’.

The sweetness is a repayment of the bitterness. Andit is only after we have experienced the bitterness that we are fully able to enjoy the sweetness. In this way, the flavor of tea not only brings pleasure to our bodies, but also nurtures our minds. That’s why it is said that experiencing the sweet aftertaste is the one sand only way to cross the threshold of Cha Dao.

2.Appreciation of Aesthetics

Beauty is, by definition, that which makes us feel pleasure.Xu Shen, the lexicographer of the Eastern Han (25 A.D.-220 A.D.) explained the word ‘beauty’ in his dictionary Shuowen Jiezi (Explaining and Analyzing Character):

‘Beauty (美), a word to describe the sweetness, is comprised by two radicals ‘sheep’ (羊) and ‘big’ (大).

According to his understanding, the word ‘beauty reflects the aesthetics of the ancient Chinese people: the bigger the sheep, the more beautiful it is.

Aesthetics was formed alongside mans understanding of nature, his interaction with it, and how it might serve his needs. This indicates a connection between man and nature that is visual and emotional. Man’s mental state is subject to his experience of the outside world. When we reflect on the health giving properties of tea, appreciate its appearance and flavor, and can also reflect on the philosophical implications of its subtle nature, then we the beauty of tea in its entirety.

Humans have developed thousands of beverages through history. But tea is the only one that not only refreshes body but also cultivates the mind.

We revere Lu Yu because he observed the humanistic beauty in the activity of drinking tea. He brought his understanding of this beauty to the worlds and connected Cha Dao with aesthetics. Lu Yu’s contribution to Cha Dao opened a new page in the development of Chinese tea culture.

The aesthetics of tea related activities are the artistic expression of Cha Dao. They represent the perfect combination of aesthetic principles with the ideas of Cha Dao. Firstly, there are immediate physical appeals to the sense organs, such as the color, aroma,and flavor of the tea,moving on to an experience of the artistic realm of tranquility, simplicity and purity. Tea quenches our thirst, and at the same time brings us inner peace.

Six distinct elements of aesthetics in tea related activities have been noted. These are known as the beauty of man, tea, water, utensils, atmosphere and art.

The beauty of man is the essence of all schools of aesthetics, and it is a superb display of natural beauty., Man makes the tea, chooses the water,arranges the utensils, creates the atmosphere, and performs the ceremony, Man is the key connecting all these aesthetic activities, and in the meantime he displays the beauty of man by elegantly performing each task. Therefore, the beauty of of man is the foundation of the beauty of Cha Dao. A tea master’s movements,his deportment, expression, and thoughts during the tea ceremony, reflect tea aesthetics and convey the beauty of Cha Dao.

Moreover, a tea master should also bear inner beauty to form the complete beauty of Cha Dao, The inner beauty of man is the combination of his manifest thoughts, sentiments, wills, moralities and behaviors, and the core of his inner beauty is goodness. According to Mencius, man’s goodness is composed of four elements: ‘kindness’, ‘righteousness’, ‘politeness’, and ‘wisdom’. These four elements are regarded as the key to achieving tone inner beauty and to understanding the beauty of Cha Dao.

Through systematic training and a dedicated study of Cha Dao, we may improve our overall temperament, foster our inner goodness and become elegant and graceful in our manner. Cha Dao cultivates our behavior, develops our inner world, and ultimately enriches our lives.

For a long time in China, almost all arts have been absorbing nutrition from Cha Dao, and Cha Dao has been drawing on the essence of various arts to form its own aesthetic system, the interactions between Chinese arts and Cha Dao make the two interrelated and inter-communicable. There is an ancient Chinese saying, ‘Learn six arts through tea and the six arts constitute the art of tea.’

3.Comprehension of Life

The comprehension of life means a unique way to explore, contemplate and comprehend the true meaning of life through appreciating tea and participating in tea activities. From a cup of tea,we may taste life’s flavor and ruminate on its value and meaning, In this sense, Cha Dao has profound philosophical. Mr. Chou Tso-jen once said something about tea that makes a lot of sence:

‘What is Cha Dao? To put it straightforwardly, it means to take a break from a busy life, to find joy amid hardship, to enjoy a Little beauty and harmony in a not-so-perfect reality,and to experience eternity in a flash.’

His experience eternity in a flash implies the comprehension of life.

Kurazawa Koyo, the president of the Japanese Tea Culture Association, proposed that the profound philosophical thoughts and different aspects of life in Cha Dao make it the essence of oriental culture. Tao is a path to a thorough understanding of life, whereas Cha Dao is a way to the heart.His view basically agrees with what we propose ‘that Cha Dao is a road leading to the soul’. Through Cha Dao, we can observe the outside world and ponder the ups and downs in life with a peaceful mind.

In short, the comprehension of life is to cultivate sentiments, to learn etiquette, to contemplate reality and to perceive the spirit of Tao and Zen. We do this by learning, by drinking and appreciating tea with kungfu tea set so as to improve personality, enrich the spirit, and reach a higher state of mind.

Cha Dao is gentle and modest, inclusive and harmonious, it is serene and pure. Many of these characteristics are also proposed by other schools of thought; Confucianism places its emphasis on ‘harmony’, Taoism abides in ‘harmony between man and nature’, ‘non-action’ and ‘letting the mind become still’. Buddhism, too, advocates the pursuit of serenity, both In the external environment and in the Buddhist’s spiritual world in order to practice and understand Zen. So Confucians, Taoist priests and Buddhist monks often like to drink tea. Tea perfectly complements their intent, it helps to create a peaceful atmosphere in which to dispel distracting thoughts, meditate and practice their own Tao. They see both Cha Dao and their own Tao through their practices,and the practices lead them to a better understanding of Cha Dao.

Cha Dao is extensive and profound, and it can be widely applied in different aspects of life. For some people, it is a method of self cultivation; for others, it is a way to build better interpersonal relationship; for still more, it is a means of social communication or of business operation and management.

Cha Dao always pursues truth, goodness and beauty, and it embodies Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions. Through understanding the truth, goodness and beauty of Cha Dao, we come to understand how to beatify, kindly treat and benefit oneself and others. Chinese Cha Dao unifies art, etiquette and self-cultivation. It is a unique fusion of the truth of nature, the goodness of humanity, and the beauty of art.

The comprehension of life begins with drinking tea, and ultimately reaches the level of developing a lifelong value, philosophy and belief. In this sense, tea plays an irreplaceable role in guiding and enlightening China’s national character, aesthetic standards and moral norms. That is the basic reason that tea has been hailed into the realm of Tao and bestowed with eternal vitality.

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