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Chinese Tea Art - Water

Now, let's talk about the relationship between water and tea art. Please imagine gurgling springs, the waves of rivers, misty vast lakes, and sweet and clear well water.

The relationship between water and tea is similar to that between wine and water. All wine experts understand that excellent water quality is essential for the best wine, while tea art is even stricter with water. It is impossible to make fragrant tea without good water. Therefore, famous tea experts are all proficient in distinguishing water. According to Xu Cishu, a tea expert of the Ming Dynasty, tea's finest qualities can be brought into play with the help of water; therefore, it is impossible to make excellent tea without good water. Zhang Dafu, a tea expert of the Qing Dynasty, even regarded the water as more important than tea - He believed that a cup of excellent tea contained 20 percent tea and 80 percent water. If you could not taste the flavor of a good tea, probably it was because of the poor water quality.

Lu Yu discussed tea water exhaustively in the Book of Tea.According to him, the water used to brew tea should be different from ordinary drinking water. Water from mountains was the best,river water was inferior, and well water was low grade. The water from mountain springs was better than that from waterfalls. The water from mountains would become undrinkable if it was stored in valleys for a long time, because there would be many insects and germs in the water. Therefore, tea water should be drawn from clear flowing water in sparsely populated areas. Dew drops from mountain stalactites, clear flowing springs and clear river streams were regarded as the sources of the best water for brewing tea. This principle is also reasonable from the modern scientific point of view, Zhang Youxin, a tea expert of the Tang Dynasty, wrote the Notes on Brewing Tea according to Lu Yu's experience. He listed nearly 20 famous varieties of water, suitable for brewing tea, arranged in the order of their quality, They were:

The Kangwanggu Valley Spray of the Lushan Mountain in Jiangzhou; Huishan Mountain Spring in Wuxi of Changzhou; Lanxi Mountain Spring in Qizhou; the frog-shaped river in the fan-shaped valley in Xiazhou; Huqiu Temple Spring on the Tiger Hill in Suzhou; the pool under the Stone Bridge of the Zhaoxian Temple on the Lushan Mountain in Jiangzhou; Lingshui Lake of the Yangtze River in Yangzhou; West Hills Waterfall in Hongzhou; Huaishui River Source in Tongbai County of Tangzhou, Dinglong Spring on the Lushan Mountain in Jiangzhou; Avalokitesvara Temple Well in Danyang County of Runzhou; Lingshui Lake in the upper reaches of the Hanjiang River; Chunxi Brook in the Yuxu Cave in Guizhou; West Valley Spray in Wuguan of Shangzhou; the Wusongjiang River in Suzhou; Southern Peak Waterfall on the Heavenly-Terrace Mountain in Zhaozhou; Binzhou Garden Spring; Yanling Beach in Tonglu of Yanzhou; and snow water.

Later generations are doubtful about whether these varieties of water were evaluated by Lu Yu. For example, the 16th source on the list was a waterfall, while Lu Yu opposed the brewing of tea with waterfall water. Zhang Youxin attached great importance to water, which promoted the further study of water quality. However,it seems unnecessary to arrange the sources in order, because various waters are suitable for brewing various teas, and everyone has his own taste. However, water experts of past dynasties shareda lot in common in their evaluation of tea water, stressing sweet and light flowing water with clean sources.

Emperor Qian Long of the Qing Dynasty (1736-1796) had not only a head for politics, but also deep love for Chinese traditional culture. He was keen on tea culture, and had original views on water quality because he had traveled extensively. He would weigh it with a special little silver dou whenever he found excellent water. Finally, he concluded that water from the Jade Spring Hill in Beijing's western suburbs and the Yixun River beyond the Great Wall was the lightest, while water from the Pearl Spring in Jinan and the Gold Hill Spring on the Yangtze River bank ranked second and third, respectively.

Tea experts of past dynasties had different understandings of water, and they arranged famous water in different orders. We cannot determine who is right, because the natural environment changes constantly, the quality of water in the same place can change over time. Lu Xing, a tea expert, put forward an important principle-tea art cannot do without high-quality water. Some experts believed that it was unnecessary to brew tea with famous water and Zisha tea sets, and people could get qualified water in all places. They held that people should learn to "cultivate water" in the light of local conditions, For example, water from the Yangtze River should be taken at midnight from the upper or middle reaches with their excellent vegetation, and quiet and secluded environment. Some people take water from the first snow, morning dews and light drizzle. Drizzle water should be caught with utensils in the open Before it falls to the ground, so it is called "rootless water." In ancient times, when air pollution was not serious, water vapor rose from the ground to the air and became rain or snow after being purified naturally, so the water was clean. At the same time, this method of taking water also implied the linkage of tea with the universal spirit. As far back as the Han Dynasty, Emperor Han Wu Di had a bronze statue of an "immortal catching dews." Today, there is still such a bronze statue in Beihai Park in Beijing-an immortal holding a plate high to catch rain and dew from heaven. The viewpoints of the Chinese tea culture experts fully reflected Taoist ideologies of absorbing the ultimate in nature in order to serve people, and seek natural beauty.