Well-Known People and Books About Tea

Chinese tea culture is of long standing. People not only found out various ways of making, cooking and drinking tea through practice, but also summarized them and put them down in books. After Lu Yu wrote The Book of Tea as an example, commentary about tea appeared in almost every historical time, with numerous articles in this respect.These have been crucial dyes for us to trace the historical development of tea.

Lu Yu and The Book of Tea

Lu Yu’s The Book of Tea was the world’s first commentary on tea, exerting a profound influence after its appearance. Books on tea in later generations were all affected by it in one way or another. Because of this, Lu Yu was idolized by later generations as “God of Tea,” “Saint of Tea,” Ancestor of Tea,” “The Immortal of Tea,” and so on. There also emerged innumerable stories and legends based on Lu Yu.

Lu Yu belongs to Tang Dynasty, bom around AD 733 and died in AD He was an orphan and was adopted by a monk named Zhiji It is said that one day when Zhiji went out he found three wile geese protecting a newly bom baby with their wings. Surprised at this, Zhiji took the baby bade out of compassion. Lu Yu grew up in the temple. Zhiji intended him to become a Buddhist, but knowing that Buddhists couldn’t marry nor have off springs Lu Yu was more inclined to Confucianism. Angry at this, Zhiji punished Lu Yu by making him do all kinds of chores like cleaning, herding, washing toilets, etc Tea drinking was very popular In temples at that time, so naturally Lu Yu got to know something about tea, Later, finding the temple loo stifling, Lu Yu ran away to join a theatrical troupe at the age of 12. He played puppet show, acrobatics and magic. Talented and versatile, Lu Yu was soon promoted to the position of director. During one show, he was recognized by an official who helped him get a chance to be educated. Afterwards, Lu Yu traveled around and inspected local tea areas, often consulting tea farmers as to how to pick and make tea. With years of accumulation, he withdrew to live in a remote mountain and put his heart into writing his book. Eventually Lu Yu succeeded in accomplishing the grandiose and ever-eminent masterpiece – The Book of Tea. Historical literature doesn’t say much as to exactly how fabulous Lu Yu’s tea-cooking skill really is, but folklores can make up for this lack. One story has it that once an official met Lu Yu near Yangtze River. Knowing that Lu Yu’s tea-cooking skill was the world’s best and the water in Nanling area of Yangtze River was of top quality the found it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and especially sent soldiers to Nanling to fetch were. Before long, a soldier brought the water. Scooping it out and glancing at it Yu said, “although the water is from Yangtze River, it doesn’t belong to Nanling but likely from the coast.” The soldier argued, I went to Nanling in personand hundreds of people saw me draw water there. How can it be wrong?” Lu Yu didn’t say anything. The soldier poured water into a cast iron tea pot. When it was half full, Lu Yusuddenly said, Stop! From here it’s Nanling water.” The soldier was astonished. The fact was the soldier did draw a full jar of water, but the boat was so unstable that half of the water spilled over. Afraid of being criticized, he refilled the jar with coast water,only to find that Lu Yu exposed his lie at one glance. Both shocked and scared, the soldier exclaimed that God of Tea did deserve his fame and dared not hide the truth longer.

Lu Yu wasn’t very good-looking and was innately inarticulate. But he was born with a generous heart, sincerely admiring other people’s merits and felt genuinely sad when seeing others’ demerits as if he suffered from those too. Because of this, many poets and personages liked to make friends with him. Writing The Book of Tea, Lu Yu made quite a sensation, so the emperor called for him to be an official. However, Lu Yu enjoyed a life of freedom and leisure, lingering in tea gardens every day and sang and relaxed with friends. In his old age, Lu Yu changed his hostile attitude towards Buddhism and became good friends with many famous monks and learnt much from them. Tales had it that Lu Yu was sent to his ancestral home after his death and buried beside the tomb of his stepfather monk Zhiji, as a compensation for his rebellion in youth.

The Book of Tea comprises three volumes, ten sections. The first section – source – deals with origin, name, type, producing place and characteristics of tea. Second section – tool -talks about picking and making tools and using methods of tea. Third section – making – expatiates the time and requirements of picking tea, explains the six steps of making tea, and classifies tea cakes into eight ranks in light of their shape and color. Fourth section – apparatus – records 23 kinds of tea-cooking tools. Fifth section – boiling – tells ways of cooking tea and evaluates water quality. Sixth section – drinking – reviews the history of tea drinking and shows different ways of drinking tea. Seventh section -history – is the largest part of the book. It collects literature on tea from ancient books, gathers 43 historical figures from ancient times to Tang Dynasty, and compiles 48 legends, anecdotes, fables, and so forth. Eighth section – production – divides tea leaf producing area in the whole country into eight parts, and classifies tea leaves of each part into four grades, with elaborate specifications. Ninth section -omission – discusses which apparatus can be omitted under what conditions in what ways. Tenth section – picture – is about Lu Yu’s advocacy of drawing the above content and hanging it on the wall for constant observance to guide one’s tea-cooking skill. The Book of Tea covers the whole process from tea picking to tea makings and refers to every aspect of tea culture. It can be called an encyclopedia of tea. This book is later translated into several languages and exerts an enormous effect in the world as well. As Lu Yu was gradually apotheosized, tea sellers in later generations put his statue in apparatus, believing that Lu Yu could bless them with a blooming business. Some sold their tea with Lu Yu’s statue as a gift. As long ago one bought a certain amount of tea, he could get a statue for free.

Cai Xiang and Record of Tea

Cai Xiang (1012-1067) was a top politician and tea expert as well as one of the four most successful calligraphers of Song Dynasty. Based on big- dragon tea roll, he invented the delicate looking, meticulously made, and superb tasting small-dragon tea roll, which soon became a nonesuch. Contemporaries exclaimed: gold was easy to get while small-dragon roll was hard to attain. Cai Xiang was expert on tea. Once upon a time, he visited a good friend. The host prepared small-dragon roll for him on purpose,but Cai Xiang said upon the first sip, there must be big-dragon roll in it.” The host immediately blamed the kid-servant who prepared the tea. The servant had only to admit that just now more guests arrived, Not having enough time to prepare tea, he mixed the two kinds of roll together. This story is similar to that of Lu Yu telling water but more credible. Cai Xiang was the inventor of small- dragon roll, so naturally he knew it like the back of his hand, Had the kid-servant known this, he wouldn’t have dared to lie in front of Cai Xiang,

Lu Yu’s The Book of Tea didn’t mention the most renowned tea in Song Dynasty – Beiyuan Tea of Fujian Province. Cai Xiang found this a big pity, so he wrote Record of Tea to compensate for this. Record of Tea consisted of two parts. The first part had ten items, dealing with quality of tea and ways of cooking and drinking. The secona part had nine items, talking about apparatus for cooking. Cai Xiang insisted that observing tea with eyes was like physiognomy because the outside told of the inside.Good tea cake was like the face of a healthy person. Its luster,sleekness and compactness were symbols for top -grade quality. Cai Xiang was also for the naturalness of tea and against the practice of adding spices into tea cakes.

Being excellent in calligraphy, Cai Xiang often called for tea to add fun to the pleasure of calligraphy writing. When asked for inscription, he was often given tea as gift. Cai Xiang never lost in any competition in tea. Because of his excellence in tea and calligraphy, his Record of Tea transcribed by himself of course became priceless, causing many people’s extreme jealousy. The book was eventually stolen by a subordinate who published it in secret. The manuscript being stolen, Cai Xiang felt very sorry,The published Record of Tea being full of mistakes, he felt even bitterer, So he had no choice but to spend time rearranging his book, This time he carved the content on a rock for safety’s sake,not having to worry about its being falsified or stolen again.

Zhao Ji and General Remarks on Tea

Zhao Ji (Emperor Huizong) was the eighth emperor of Song Dynasty. Though an incompetent emperor, he was a very gifted artist, making tremendous achievements in calligraphy, painting,literature, and other artistic fields as well. The kind of calligraphic style invented by him – Thin Jin Style – was a gem in its kind, not only enjoying a high reputation in its own time, but much admired by later generations as well. Emperor Huizong was also a superb painter and tea master. However, it was also through him that the dynasty of Northern Song (960-1127) was overthrown.

Zhao Kuangyin – the first emperor of Song Dynasty – was a military officer at first. He seized his power from the previous Dynasty. But to prevent others from following his steps and subverting his kingdom, he gave military power to civil offiers who didn’t know how to maneuver armies at all. As a result,Song Dynasty’s military strength was always fairly weak and it was always under threat from northern ethnic regimes. The situation came to its worst at Emperor Huizong’s time. He was the kind of person who lived his life as a kind of art. Completely immersed in artistic charm, he totally ignored the cruelty of reality. When the Nurchen nationality to the northeast of China rapidly rose up and threatened to devour the Song Dynasty, Emperor Huizong mistook it as a flourishing age of “reconstruction from min and prosperity of coastal regions” and started compiling his General Remarks on Tea. In 1125, Nurchen army invaded Song Dynasty in a big way. Hurriedly passing down the reign to Ms son, Emperor Huizong thought he could preserve himself this way, but his successor didn’t eave the situation, either. In the second year, Nurchen army marched southward again, breaching the capital of Song and capturing thousands of Song people, including Emperor Huizong and his son. Emperor Huizong suffered all kinds of tortures in the foreign land and finally died there.

Emperor Huizong was fond of drinking tea. He drew a picture called Picture Drinking Tea, in which he was dressed in common clothes and enjoyed himself taking and discussing tea with the surrounding ministers. It is recorded in reference books that Emperor Huizong once cooked tea for his ministers in person. His tea had white froth floating on the surface like scarce stars and a brilliant moon. General Remarks on Tea is Emperor Huizong’s summary of his predecessors’ achievements, and is also a summary of his own experience in tea drinking. The book contains merely 2800 words, but is comprehensive, divided into exordium and 20 catalogues of place, dimate, picking, steaming and pressing, making, differentiating, etc. The book has three main pints. First, it records and introduces the planting, picking and processing of Beiyuan Tea (produced in today’s Jian’ou county of Fujian Province) which represents the highest level of tea making at that time. Second, it introduces how to differentiate tea cakes. Third, it talks about the art of cooking teat and competition in tea. Emperor Huizong maintained that tea picking should be in the morning and shot after sunrise. Tea cakes that met three standards of “sparking in color, dense in texture, and sonorous in grinding” were of top quality. He opposed the partial emphasis on seeds and producing places of tea, and insisted that whether tea was good or not entirely depended on the facility or clumsiness of making techniques but not on the producing place. General Remarks on Tea put its stress on the part of competition in tea. His invention of “Seven Round” method of cooking tea was the most complex and delicate tea ceremony skill in Chinese history.

Zhu Quan and Guide of Tea

Zhu Quan (1378-1448) was the 17th son of Zhu Yuanzhang – the founder of Ming Dynasty, Since very young Zhu Quan was brighter than others and was entitled as a prince at the age of 14. Like Emperor Huizong, Zhu Quan failed as a political ruler. His brother Zhu Di (1360-1424) house-arrested him for his throne and didn’t release him until he succeeded in his coup and obtained the crown. After that Zhu Quan withdrew from society and devoted himself to Taoism in his later years, living a life free from worldly anxieties.

Zhu Quan’s Guide of Tea comprises two parts – preface and body, body being subdivided into discussion of tea and catalogue of tea. Discussion of tea copes tea’s functions, introduces five names of tea, and comments on works by earlier scholars. Despite that Zhu Quan highly appraised Lu Yu’s The Book of Tea and Cai Xiang’s Record of Tea and considered them the only ones of value among its kind, he put forward different opinions from theirs. Zhu Quan didn’t think much of tea cakes popular in Tang and Song dynasties, believing that the practice of “making leaves (into powder, grease and cake” stripped tea leaves of their natural taste, whereas Booking loose tea catered for the inherent nature of tea. Zhu Quan criticized Lu Yu for running after “curiosity” too much. This was in accordance with the trend of loose tea replacing iced tea and cooking method supplanting frying method.

Catalogue of tea includes four ways of drinking tea – tea estimating, water estimating, water boiling and tea cookings two ways of making tea – collecting and smoking with scent, and ten apparatus – stove, kitchen stove, mill, grain mill, etc. Zhu Quan made many interesting improvements on tea apparatus. Take teaspoon for Instance, People of past dynasties used gold, people of Ming Dynasty used silver or copper, but Zhu Quan substituted them with coconut shell He opposed Song people in using black-glaze porcelain, believing white porcelain could foil the brightness of tea and making it “clear and lovely.” He also criticized the contemporary practice of making tea shelves with wood, thinking “mottled bamboo and black bamboo are purest.” In short, Zhu Quan was against luxury, triviality and complexity, but was far natural and crude simplicity. He invented methods of making flower tea, suggesting plum blossom, sweet-scented osmanthus, and jasmine because they could add fragrance and loveliness to tea.

The best part in Record of Tea is Zhu Quan’s definition of atmosphere for drinking tea. For Zhu Quan, tea helped people to be “undisturbed by worldly worries and uplifted from vulgarities.” so it was “conducive to virtue cultivation.” Therefore, tea should be drunk in tranquil locations, either among springs and rocks, or in pine or bamboo forests, either under a silvery moon on breezy night or near a bright and clean window. While drinking tea by cast iron teacup, one should avoid vulgar talk and should “study metaphysics and seek truth, purify thoughts and elevate mind.”

Lu Tingcan and Additional Book of Tea

During the hundreds of years from Tang to Qing Dynasty, great changes took place in the producing places of tea, producing methods of tea, and the apparatus for making and cooking tea, It was at that time that a book about tea appeared, which made ample references and quotation and was also very practical. That was Additional Bock Tea.

This book followed the structure of Book of Tea, being divided into ten parts – origin of lea, tools of tea, production of tea, apparatus of tea, cooking of tea, drinking of tea, ceremonies of tea, making of tea, general information about tea, and pictures of tea. Making amendments and supplements to many tea books after Tang Dynasty, this book was not only ten times that of Book of Tea in volume, but differed very much from it in content, too. It can be called a general summary and comprehensive expression of Chinese ancient tea books. Its author Lu Tingcan was once an officially Wuyi, Fujian Province, which was a perfect place for a scholar fond of tea. He not only took peat efforts to study origin of Wuyi tea and understand relevant matters about it, but read widely to accumulate knowledge on tea. He wrote a draft of this book when be was still in his post After retiring to his hometown, he finished the book and presented to the world in about 1734.

In addition to the said works, two others are worth mentioning – Biographer of Ye Jia and On Tea and Wine. Biography of Ye Jia is a biography of tea written by the great poet Six Shi of Song Dynasty. In the book he compared tea to a loyal minister and noble man. On Tea and Wine is a dialogue-style article written in personification by scholar Wang Fu of Tang Dynasty. In the book tea and wine had a heated argument in self praising and opponent despising. In the end water came to make peace, arguing that both tea and wine couldn’t do without water, so they two had better stop the dispute and strived for mutual development. The article was easy and witty, full of humor, not common in articles with tea as a subject.

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