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Chinese Character 茶(Tea) and Its Pronunciation

The Chinese character 茶(tea, pronounced as cha) evolved from the character 荼(pronounced as tu), a kind of bitter vegetable. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Chinese pronunciation for tea had changed from "tu" to "cha", but the style of writing remained same. Some scholars believe that the character 茶(tea) first emerged in the Tang Dynasty during the Yuan He Period (806-820) under the reign of Emperor Xian Zong. With the development of tea production, more and more people began drinking tea. The Chinese character for tea was used more and more frequently. Some writers took one horizontal off the character 荼 and gave birth to present-day character 茶 (tea).

China is a large country with diversified dialects. The Chinese character for tea is pronounced differently in different areas. In Guangdong Province, it sounds like "cha" aroimd Guangzhou and "te" around Shantou. In Fujian Province, it is pronounced as "ta" in Fuzhou and again "te" in Xiamen. In the area along the Yangtze River and in North China, it has other different pronunciations sueh as "chai", "zhou" and "cha".

The Chinese pronunciation for tea was spread to other countries with the export of tea. Therefore, the pronunciation of tea in the world also originated from China. There are two major systems. One is mandarin pronunciation as "cha" and the other Xiamen dialect pronunciation in Fujian as "te" or "tey".

"Cha" the Chinese pronunciation for tea, was mainly spread to the countries around China.

In Japan, the Chinese character 茶(tea) is directly used. Tea is called "cha" in ancient Persian, "chay" in Turkish, "???" in Russian, "chai" in Mongolian, "chay" in Iranian, "sa" in Korean, and "chay" in Arabic.

In late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), western fleets set up offices in Chinese coastal areas near Xiamen. They adopted "te", local pronunciation for tea, and invented a new pronunciation of "tee" in English and "thea" in Latin. Later, the English word "tea" came into being. In fact, "the" in French, "tee" in German, "thee" in Dutch, "te" in Italian, "te" in Spanish, "tsai" in Greek, "tey" in the language used in the south of India, and "they" in Sri Lankan all evolved from the pronunciation "te" in Xiamen dialect and the English pronunciation of tea.