Tea In China: Form Its Mythological Origins To The Qing Dynasty

Tea In China: Form Its Mythological Origins To The Qing Dynasty

Steven D. Ooeyoung

MORE THAN TWELVE CENTURIES AGO, the first words of the Chajing, or Book of Tea, portrayed a stately evergreen deep within the primeval forest as the progenitor of all tea.1 Tea was native to the ancient kingdom of Shu, located in a remote and distant land known as Sichuan, or "four rivers." A continental basin isolated and ringed from the world by high mountains, narrow defiles, and steep, tortuous gorges, Sichuan incubated the distinctive Shu culture and a unique subtropical flora and fauna. The region was rich and fertile with abundant grain, minerals, timber, and plants. Tea was cultivated for thousands of years within Shu and the neighboring kingdom of Ba to the east, but it remained long unknown beyond their borders.

Legend described the tea tree as "luxuriant," and early lexicons compared its lush foliage to the shiny, vivid leaves of the gardenia. In early spring the profusion of buds and sprouts were picked from tea plants by hand. This first plucking stimulated a second growth and produced a harvest of even finer sprouts and buds. The regenerative powers of the tea plant echoed the rebirth and the renewal associated with spring by both humans and gods. On feast days, tea was offered to heaven and the ancestral spirits in ceremony and ritual In return, heaven bestowed an abundance of tea. In the wild, tea grew in majestic arboreal form. Such great trees were blessed by nature, growing for a thousand years to attain remarkable height and girth, their beauty attracting gods and sages.

Tea and Myth

Revered since the Neolithic, Shen Nong, the "Divine Cultivator," was also the "Sovereign of the Earth," the patron of agriculture (fig. i.i; see also p. 6). He roamed the wilds, searching for plants beneficial as medicine and food, and he examined the nutritional and pharmacological properties of each new discovery. His catalog thus became the first materia medica in apothecary lore (Karlgren 1946).

Myth relates that Shen Nong discovered tea while sit-ting in contemplation beneath a tall tree, A sprite descended from heaven in the guise of a gust of wind and blew into the branches, sending a shower of leaves into the Divine Cultivator's open cauldron of gently boiling water. Attracted by the pleasant fragrance rising from the steaming brew, the sage sipped the tea. He found flavor pleasantly bitter with a lingering,sweet aftertaste; its effects were soothing and refreshing. Shen Nong gave his imprimatur to the plant and to its use as a beverage.

As Shen Nong required proper names and characters to distinguish one plant from another in his records, he engaged the scribe of the Yellow Emperor, Gang Jie, the legendary inventor of writing. With an extraordinary set of four eyes, Gang closely examined everything in nature, naming all that he saw, inspired by the movements of stars and planets and the patterns of trees, rocks, and animals, On seeing the plant that Shen Nong presented him, Cang Jie bestowed the first name and character for tea (Needham 1986,196-97, figs, 32,33), Since the time of Cang Jie, however, tea has been called tu, she, ming, and chuan, reflecting differences in dialect, as well as the quality and character of the tea in question (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch, 1, pt. 1, 1a).


According to the Record of the Southern Realms beyond Mount Hua, tribute was exchanged between the Zhou dynasty, centered in Henan, and its allies to the south in Sichuan. The first Zhou sovereign, King Wu (r. 1049/1045- 1043 bce), sent palace concubines to Shu and Ba, binding Sichuan rulers through marriage to the Zhou aristocracy. In return, Sichuan sent tribute north to the Zhou in the form of copper, iron, salt, cinnabar, animals, preserved fish, timber, Vermillion lacquer, hemp, honey, and herbs. Tea was sent from the "backwaters of Ba" and from Shu, "good tea" from the mountains of Shifang and "rate tea" from Nar'an and Wuyang (Chen Binfan 1999,4).

During the Zhou, tea was used as an herb and beverage. Tea had been highly regarded within the medical, culinary, and alchemical arts since ancient times. As a medicinal plant, it was long employed as a stimulant to promote positive moods; it calmed and clarified the mind, sharpening mental while relaxing smooth muscle. A diuretic and antitoxin tea flushed the body of poisons and harmful wastes. It was also a mild disinfectant and an efficacious rinse that soothed strained, tired eyes and relieved skin ailments. When swished in the mouth, tea cleansed the palate and promoted dental health with trace minerals such as fluoride. Furthermore, vitamins contained in tea sustained overall physical well being.

The connection between tea and Daoism (see box, next page) is long-standing and significant. Among Daoists, tea was thought to possess miraculous properties that promoted health and longevity. It was in fact viewed as the portal to enlightenment and the fabled herb of everlasting life. The impressive preventative and curative powers of tea also led to its prescription by apothecaries and physicians m tome md remedy. Royalty and the aristocracy, ever in pursuit of heath and long life, sought out Daoist healers for their palace courts. Recommending tea as a medicinal herb, beverage, and food, physicians worked closely with the master chefs of noble house-holds, combining prescriptions of tea in nutritious recipes and savory dishes for the table, In the kitchen, tea was a bitter herb and vegetable used by cooks as one of the five flavors: salty, sour, hot, and sweet. Tea took many forms: fresh leaves, pulp, pastes, and gels in season, dried loose leaves or "bricks" of compressed leaves, and "wafers" and "cakes" of dried paste. Tea leaves flavored stews and soups and were eaten as vegetables. At meals, brewed tea freshened the palate and aided digestion; drunk as a beverage, tea was a custom and habit.

By the eighth century bce, the Zhou kingdom had fragmented into independent, ducal states, but tea as a commodity continued to be sent north as far as Linzi, the capital of the state of Qi (located in present-day Shandong). There, Yan Ying (d. 500 BCE), the chief minister to Duke Qing (r. 547-490 BCE) of Qi, chided Ms wayward lord for indulging in rich banquet fare. In the Spring and Autumn Annuals of Master Yan, a primer on moral rule, the minister urged his sovereign to be mew virtuous in deed if not in thought, Yan Ying was himself the model of frugality and simplicity, wearing plain cloth and taking "only coarse grain, five eggs, and the tender leaves of tea and herbs" for his daily meal (Chen Binfan 1999,3).

Far to the south, tea spread from Shu and Ba eastward along the Yangzi. In the principality of Zeng at the northern marches of the state of Chu, tea was found in the elaborate tomb of Marquis Yi (479-ca. 433 bce). The body lay in two nested lacquered coffins, and at the foot of die inner casket, a silk packet contained plant seeds (Wenwu 1989,1:452)—water caltrop, Sichuan pepper, cocklebur, and apricot-all used in the herbal tradition to treat respiratory and stomach ailments (Hsu et al. 1986, 253-54,382-83,363-64,705-6, respectively). Tea—as whole seeds and husks—was included to complete the ancient prescription for persistent coughing and painfully labored breathing (Hsu et al. 1986,279-80, 496).

The expanded use of tea as medicine and food coincided with the imperial ambitions of Qin, an autocratic state in Shaanxi destined to unify the country into an empire. In 325 bce, the ducal heir declared himself King Hui of Qin (r. 324— 311 BCE) and in the brilliant gambit of 316 bce invaded Sichuan to tap its abundant resources. For more than a hundred years, the Qin treasury overflowed with tribute from Shu and Ba. The vast wealth funded the statecraft, intrigue, and naked aggression required to conquer the rival states of the central plains and the southern kingdom of Chu (Sage 1992, II4-56; Kleeman 1998, 24-25, 39-41). Though short-lived, the Qin (221-207 BCE) unity created by the First Emperor established Sichuan and the south as integral to the empire and broadened the dispersal of tea.


The cultivation of tea also spread rapidly beyond Shu and Ba and eastward along the middle reaches of the Yangzi and, south into Chu. Dissemination was aided by the long association of the Han imperial family with the tea regions of Sichuan and Hunan. After the fall of the Qin, the rebel general Liu Pang (r. 206—195 BCE) was made King of Han and of Shu and Ba. Later, as the founding emperor of the Han dynasty (206 bce-220 ce), Liu Pang appointed his younger brother to govern Hunan as Prince of Chu (Watson 1961, 109—10); thereafter, many generations of imperial princes ruled from the provincial capital of Changsha in Hunan. In the second century bce, a place known as Tilling was a Han marquisate ruled by Marquis Xin, grandson of Emperor Jingdi (r. 157-141 BCE) and the son of Ding, prince of Chu (Nunome 2001,279). During the expansion of the empire and the ensuing peace, the fertile lands of Chu produced a southern tea industry, and Tilling (Tea Hill) was "named for the hills and valleys there that produce tea."

As in the past, tea continued to have an important role as tribute and an offering to the dead. On the death of a sovereign or noble, tea was offered at the ancestral altar and at the tomb as a sacrament and a contribution to the material goods placed in the grave, A small case of tea was found in the tomb of Xizui (d, ca. 168-164 BCE), A Chu aristocrat, she had been consort to Li Gang (d. 186 bce), the marquis and hereditary ruler of Dai and chief minister to the prince of Chu. Xizui, Lady Dai, was buried in an elaborate, timbered tomb containing chambered stores of food in covered bamboo baskets, ceramic jars, and sacks. One sealed basket bore a wooden label that read "jiasi, case of tea," a provision verified by the tomb's inventory that recorded "jia ytsi, tea-one case" (Wenwu 1974, 45: Zhou 1979,65: Yü 1987,10-11; Zhou 1992, 200-203). The tea came from Sichuan, but as Tea Hill lay just southeast of Changsha, the tea in Lady Dais tomb may well have been grown in the nearby "hills and valleys" of Tuling.

Regarding sources of tea, the great Han poet Wang Bao (active ca, 61—59 BCE), a native of Shu, considered the select tea from Wuyang, Sldhuan, to be the finest, In 59 BCE, wrote Contract for a Youth, a humorous tale about the onerous labors that he imposed as punishment upon a querulous and stubborn servant, who refused to fetch a jar of wine. Among the long list of the servant's chores was the instruction that while in nearby "Wuyang, he shall buy tea" and "when there are guests in the house, he shall... boil tea and fill the bowls." From this passage we learn that tea was not merely exchanged among the aristocracy at this time but was also sold in the market to commoners. The poet also revealed that tea had a role in the formal welcome and honor of visitors. Also significant, brewed tea was boiled by a servant and served in bowls. Doubtless, tea had ceremonial aspects at elegant court receptions and banquets during the Han dynasty, especially among conservative officials whose Confucian sensibilities dictated formality at every turn. Yet, Wang Bao, a distinguished and cultured official, described tea preparation and service elementary that his servant could carry it out.


THE LEGENDARY FOUNDER OF DAOISM (also known as Taoism) was Laiozi, the author of the Daode jing (The Book of the Dao and the De)y who was supposed to have lived (hiring the Zhou. D如 means "way" or "path," a concept that refers to an underlying oneness, which is the original state of the universe and the point from which all things emanate and to which they eventually return. In myth, Laozi is often referred to as being the embodiment of the Dao itself. De, another crucial Daoist concept, is used to describe the energy and power of the Dao. It explains the endless variation in and changing nature of things before they ultimately return to the Dao.

Early in its history, Daoism focused on harmony with others and with nature in sharp contrast to the aggression and political disharmony that characterized the time. It advocated wuwei, or "not doing," which meant refusal to participate in aggressive or unkind behavior, the pursuit of status at dominance, or the adherence to rigid hierarchies and regulations. Daoism placed emphasis instead on meditation, fasting, and health as means to realign the individual with the Dao.

Like other religions and philosophies, Daoism changed over time. In 142 CE, Zhang Daoling (34-156) established the Way of the Celestial Masters, which is the first known instance of an organized Dtoist religious system. Daoism gained widespread popularity from this time through the fourteenth century. At various points in its long history, it has stressed the prolongation of life and the search for immortality through magic: exploring charms, amulets, and various substances that could be used in elixirs to further these goals. Among these highly valued substances were gold, cinnabar, and tea. Daoism also incorporated belief in deities, some of which were hot-rowed from Chinese folklore and others of which bore resemblance to Buddhist counterparts introduced from India in the first century ce.

In the Tang (618-907), Daoism became the official religion of the imperial court. This was also a period in which Daoists increasingly engaged in monastic life, often taking vows of abstention and celibacy and living in seclusion The Daoist Way of Complete Perfection, which focused on refining human energies through breathing and meditation with the goal of prolongation of life and passible immortality, was founded by Wang Zhe (1113-1170) during the Song. This period also witnessed attempts to syncretic Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, which flourished through the Yuan.

The goal of achieving harmony among the three religious traditions did not, however, survive into the Ming dynasty when differences between Buddhists and Daoists became acute, Daoism flourished despite this, however, and in the Qing its ideas and practices made even further gains in acceptance into popular religious culture, Although the advent of Western colonial powers and later the effects of the Cultural Revolution were devastating to Daoism and other religious practices, today the study and practice of this long-standing religious tradition is once more growing in China and throughout the world.

By the first century BCE, choice tea was grown along the lower Yangzi. In the late the name Tilling slowly gave way to Chaling, the new pronunciation of Tea Hill. Tu was an ancient name for tea, but about the third century BCE, the character tu was altered by the deletion of a single brushstroke to produce the derivative ideograph cha. The new character cha as well as the character ming, meaning specifically "the young, tender buds and sprouts of tu," were formally introduced in 121 CE in the great dictionary Commentary on Literature and the Explanation of Words." The distinction between teas made of cha and ming leaves revealed the growing sophistication of tea production and tea drinking that continued throughout the latter Han period.

The medicinal efficacy of tea inspired Dietary Proscriptions, a book written by Hu Gong (active ca. 25—220), "Master of the Gourd," a mysterious healer of the Western Han, who made the claim that "bitter tea taken for a long time bestows immortality" with the caveat that it should not be used with chives, an herb that negated longevity (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 3, pt. 7,6a). Such teachings of everlasting life were part of a Daoist religious movement known as the Way of the Celestial Masters that taught the primacy of health and longevity dirough hygiene and diet. The cult was founded in Sichuan by Zhang Gaoling (34-156) who envisioned a utopian society free of poverty, sickness, and disease. The social order of the Celestial Masters was maintained by libationers, who presided over sacrificial rites before festivals and banquets and who enforced the prohibition on wine (Kleeman 1998,66-72). In lieu of alcoholic beverages, tea was promoted among the Daoist faithful as a healthy alternative that offered longevity and even life without end. As a drug, tea aided meditation and helped achieve states of spiritual transcendence. In the practice of alchemy, tea prepared and fortified the body for the physical rigors of the laboratory and die ingestion elixirs of immortality.

Three Kingdoms In 230, the scholar Zhang Yi (active ca. 227—230) compiled Branded Elegance, a lexicon that described preserved pulped tea, shaped ill the form of "cakes" using rice paste as a To make tea, he wrote that a tea "cake is first toasted until lightly browned" and next "ground into powder," then using a ceramic bowl, "hot water is poured over the tea until all the powder is covered" (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 3, pt. 7, 4a). In some quarters, the spread of tea as a custom and habit displaced wine as a beverage and offering.

Clearly, however, this was not the case in the court of Sun Hao (r. 264—280), the despotic, debauched king of the southern state of Wu, who was knowm for deliberately inebriating his officials by insisting they chink seven pints of wine at daily court banquets. At the court, the oficial Wei Yao (204— 273) who could not hold his liquor, was known for being "direct and outspoken" (Sima 1965 2:390). He frequently voiced blunts critical remarks before his ruthless, ill-tempered lord, endangering everyone^ including himself. In an uncharacteristic act of compassion, however, Sun Hao "secretly bestowed on him tea instead of wine" so that whatever criticisms Wei Yao uttered were, at the very least, spoken with a clear mind and a sober, if not quite temperate, tongue. The kings sympathy, h0wever, was short-lived, and in the end, the fickle Sun Hao executed the hapless Wei Yao.


In the third century, tea was commonly sold throughout the empire—as a beverage and a commodity—in the marketplace. The high censor Fu Xian (239-294) received intelligence of a raid on the stall of an old woman from Shu who sold tea porridge and tea cakes (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 3, pt, 7. 5a). Singular reports of petty officials harassing tea sellers suggested an increase in local oversight and greater corruption spurred by competition in the tea market (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch.3, pt.57a).

The northern scholar Zhang Zai (active ca. 280—289) elevated tea to a sacred libation in his poetry, declaring that "fragrant, beautiful tea is the crown of the Six Purities; its overflowing flavor spreads to the Nine Regions" (Ding 1969, 1:389-90). Zhang Zai composed these lines around 28o during a sojourn in Sichuan. Moved by his experience of tea, he noted its lowly scent, an aesthetic aspect described in literature for the first time, Zhang Zai also confirmed the use of tea throughout the archaic Nine Regions, that is to say, the entire country. Using literary license, he heretically exalted tea above the Six Purities—the four wines, water, and sauce—used as ceremonial and ritual offerings to the ancestral spirits.

Tea was also praised in the Ode to Tea by the poet (d. 316): "On the peaks of Mount Ling, a wondrous thing is gathered: It is tea. Every valley and hill is luxuriously covered with this wealth of the Earth, blessed with the sweet spirit of Heaven." The ode described a "perfect" tea of “thick afloat with the splendor of the brew: lustrous like piling snow, resplendent like the spring florescence." He instructed the adept to "take water from the flowing river Min" of Sichuan and "choose ceramics produced from Eastern Ou," the fine porcellaneous celadons of the southeastern kilns. Du Yü further advised serving tea with a ladle made of gourd—typically used for offerings—in emulation of the ritual gravity and dignity of ancient nobility. Tea was itself admired and praised, brewed, flowery loam and banks of froth likened to driven snow, showing pale and pure against finely glazed bowls of jade green, No longer restricted to the kitchen, making tea was a performative ceremonial, and aesthetic event in which masters, adepts, and skilled servants artfully employed the tasteful display and elegant use of beautiful implements and wares.

As an aesthetic endeavor, the art of tea was a matter of philosophical discourse, The learned Prince Yü (320-372)f ruler of the southern marquisate of Kuaiji, presided over a literary salon of Daoists and Buddhists of which Liu Tan (active ca. 335-345) was a prominent member. Liu Tan was chief minister to die prince and an eminent scholar of Daoism. He was also a master of the art of tea. As Liu Tan made tea before his lord, Prince Yü remarked "Verily Liu Tan and his tea possess the Truth" (Liu 1972, 13a). Moved by the moment, the prince reflected on tea as beyond mundane ritual and worldly beauty. Transcendent and ethereal, tea was in harmony with the Dao and the embodiment of the fundamental principles within nature: the Universal Truth.

As a medicinal plant, tea was part of the Daoist herbal tradition as far west as the Silk Road. A Daoist and native of the caravan town Dunhuang, Shan Daokai (active fourth century) was known to swallow several small stones as part of his daily health regimen. In addition to these, he took "preventative" pills containing "the essences of pine, honey, ginger, cassia, and fungus" which he downed with "two pints of a brew made from tea and minty perilla." He trawled east to Nanjing and in 359 headed far south for Nanhai where he entered the Daoist sanctuary on Mount Lofu. When he died at more than hundred years of age, his remains were sealed in a cave. When the tomb was later opened, it was recorded that his body appeared as it was when he was alive (Fang 197e, 8: ch. 95, lieh. 65,2497-92)Such tales of healthy longevity and incorruptibility continued to encourage Daoist alchemists to me tea to fortify their bodies for the rigors of meditation and the insertion of elixirs (Owyoung 2008b, 235-52).

Meanwhile, the literati of the time began to examine the social and spiritual import of tea. The famous encounter in which Commandant Lu Na (d. 395) greeted General Xie An (320-385) by serving tea is illustrative. Xie An, who had lived a life of leisure during his first forty years, later became the epitome of the scholarly recluse. When he finally accepted a government post, he was highly regarded for his detached and disinterested air, considered a manifestation of his true Daoist heart. On a trip to the southern town of Wuxing, Xie An visited Lu Na, a member of the illustrious Lu clan and a man of supreme cultivation. When seated, Xie An was served "only tea and fruit" with little ceremony. The paltry offering to so distinguished a guest flew in the face of custom and protocol, Xie An and Lu Na understood each other perfectly. Suddenly, however, Lu Na's nephew set out costly food and drink in precious vessel, enough for ten people, to repair his uncle's apparent lack of respect for an eminent guest. After Xie An departed, Lu Na cried out to his nephew in outrage, "You have never been able to bring honor to me. Why do you now disgrace my simple ways?" Fettered by petty convention, the nephew was blind to the virtues of simplicity and temperance that his uncle embraced. Xie An, however, knew instantly from the utter purity of his repast that Lu Na was a superior man and a kindred spirit in the Dao.

Southern and Northern Dynasties

At the fall of the Jin, the south fragmented into a number of small states with short histories, their rulers all the title of emperor. The golden era of wise Emperor Wen (r. 424-453) of the Liu Sung dynasty (420-479) witnessed the establishment of the first imperial tea gardens. The Wuxing noted that six miles from the county seat of Huchou near the shores of Lake Tai was "Mount Wen that produce imperial tea." To celebrate the tribute harvest, the governor of neighboring tea gardens at Changxing and Kunling held an annual "tea picking" banquet under a pavilion. In 491 and 493, Emperor Wu (r. 483-493) of the Southern Qi dynasty (479-502) altered imperial ancestral rites by incorporating tea as an offering/0 During the Southern Liang dynasty (502-557) the emperor bestowed an annual gift, ^gathered from the rarest things in the kingdom," which was then distributed to the noble houses of the principalities in the form of eight imperial provisions, including tribute tea."

In the north, the Northern Wei dynasty (386-581) was ruled by the Xianbei Toba, formerly nomads of the steppes who were highly sinicized and employed many Chinese officials at their court. Cultured and sophisticated, the Toba elite served tea as a point of courtesy, but they did not drink it, In fact, the Toba harbored a visceral dislike for tea, associating it with the effete manners of the decadent south. They sarcastically called tea drinking "drowning," and constantly mocked prominent southerners for their fondness of the drink while excoriating any Toba daring to consume it. Their favorite target was the minister Wang Su (464-501), a southerner who enlisted with the Northern Wei and rose to become president of the Department of State Affairs. Although esteemed by the Toba emperor, Gaozu (r. 471-499), Wang Su was the butt of jokes among the Toba aristocracy. His addiction to tea was so extreme, and he so incontinent as a result, that he was given the nickname "Leaky Goblet." After many years in the north, however, Wang Su attended a palace banquet and, to the surprise of the Toba, he ate mutton and drank copious amounts of koumiss, fermented mare's milk—a nomadic fare that he previously could not abide. Curious about this change, the emperor asked, "Among you of Chinese taste, how does mutton compare with fish stew, and tea with fermented milk?" Tipsy from the fermented milk, Wang Su earnestly replied, "Sire, lamb is the best of land produce, while fish leads among seafood... Only tea is no match; tea is a slave to koumiss (Loyang qielan ji gouchen 1969,116-17), The Toba princes gleefully repeated the phrase, and tea was thereafter disdainfully kjn0wn as theto fermented milk." Caught in his cups, Wang Su unwittingly furthered the denigration of his beloved tea. With the reunification of the empire, however, the northern revulsion to tea eventually waned.


The Tang high censor Feng Yan (active ca. 755-794) noted that "southerners are fond of drinking [tea], but northerners drank little at firsts." He credited Buddhist clerics of the Zen sect for "changing the minds of the northerners,"13 Zen Buddhism had been established by the Indian monk Bodhidarma (ca. 440-528) in Loyang, the Toba capital and a major carter of Buddhism. In legend, Bodhidarma drank stimulating tea as a meditational aid and thus began a Buddhist tradition of tea. The seventh Zen patriarch Bao Tang Wuzhu (714-774) promoted tea to the laity as "a catalyst for entering the Path"14 and leading to enlightenment so that believers "embraced the habit, everywhere boiling and drinking tea" (Feng, cited in Chen and Zhu 1981,211).

On the northern steppes, the expanding use of tea among nomads remained inexplicable. On seeing northern foreigners buy tea, Feng Yan expressed his amazement: "In recent years, the Uighur have come to court, driving their great horses to trade for tea, then returning to their homeland. How truly strange!" (Feng, cited in Chen and Zhu 1981, an). Gathered in sprawling Yürt-cities on the steppes of Mongolia, the cultured Turkic Uighur maintained vast herds of horses and a mighty cavalry to protect their substantial interests in trade along the Silk Road Allied to the Tang, the Uighur often came to the aid of the court. With the collapse of the Tibetan tribute treaties, the Tang imperial army lost an important source of equine mounts. The Uighur offered their herds, taking advantage of the Tang court to extort imperial princesses, silk, and fine tea. For nomads, tea was no mere luxury but an important supplement to their meat and dairy diet. Moreover, as an herbal medicine, it relieved many common ills. The great Tang physician Meng Shen (ca. 621-ca. 713) noted that among many tilings "tea is beneficial to the large intestine... it clears blockage." The Uighur thirst for the beverage neatly aligned with their trade interests: as caravaned purveyors, these nomads carried tea farther west to Central Asia and beyond. The Uighur were not, however, the only foreign traders and drinkers of tea. Before the break in Sino-Tibetan relations, the Tang sent diplomatic missions to Tibet. While entertaining the Tibetan chieftain Canbu, the Tang emissary, one Chang Lu, brewed tea to serve him. Curious about what herb was being used, Canbu asked, "What is this?" "It is tea," Chang replied Canbu then said, "I too have this" and called for his stores of tea— acquired through tribute and trade—to be brought out, identifying each one by place name, as would any southern connoisseur.

Feng Yan judged the tea phenomenon with a critical eye. Noting that "the ancients just drank tea," he recalled the aforementioned story of Lu Na who "prepared nothing, only tea and fruit" as an expression of the Dao. The simple yet refined drinking of tea, however, contrasted exceedingly with what Feng Yan condemned as "the severe addiction of people now: incessant, all day and through the night, a veritable epidemic." As for the practice of tea, Feng Yan remarked that "every house-hold keeps a case of tea implements. He attributed the fashion to the southern tea master Lu Yü (733-804) who "speaks eloquently ami profoundly of tea" (cited in Chen and Zhu 1981,211-12).

A foundling raised in a Buddhist monastery, the precocious and brilliant Lu Yü was educated in scripture as well as literary and Daoist works. In 780, he published the Book of Tea (fig, 1.2). The first work completely devoted to the subject it circulated widely to much acclaim and had considerable impact on the practice and appreciation of tea. It also garnered to author great fame in his lifetime. The formal style of tea abated by the book was extremely particular, full of rules, measures," all kept in an "elegant case ."Lu Yü's elaborate methods were hardly the simplicity of "just drinking tea" championed by Feng Yan. The broad popularity of the tea master's style and his influence at court, however, precluded any criticism Feng Yan might express for Lu Yü except through the irony of faint praise: "Near and far, everyone imitates him" (cited in Chen and Zhu 1981, 211-12). Not only did Lu Yü explain in detail the proper preparation and brewing of tea. he also subverted the then-prevailing notion of tea as Buddhist by revealing its true origins in Daoism.

Lu Yü explained the nature of tea with reference to its botanical, culinary, medicinal, dietary, and alchemical aspects. The vast majority of his sources and quotations were drawn from the works of Daoist sages, poets, physicians, apothecaries, and masters of esoterica, all illustrated with stories drawn from the Daoist apocrypha (see box, previous page). As for the art and practice of tea, Lu Yü combined the techniques of haute cuisine with the requisites of the gourmand to satisfy the demands of social custom and connoisseurship. Among Daoist adepts, however, prescriptive doses preserved tea as a stimulant and a meditational aid with the potency to produce transcendent states of mind. To inspire ritual gravity and solemnity, Lu Yü chose key equipage and utensils modeled on ancient ritual implements: the bronze tripod brazier and the gourd serving ladle. The brazier in particular had strong alchemical significance. As the furnace and fire for brewing tea, the brazier symbolized the creation of the Daoist elixir of immortality just as tea symbolized the herb of life (Owyoung 2008b, 232—52).

In the Tang, brewed tea was a "decoction," meaning that the essences of the leaf were extracted in water by either steeping, mixing, or boiling. Tea, whole leaves or powder, was steeped in a covered jar. Mixing was accomplished by pouring a stream of boiled water from a ewer over tea powder in a bowl. These informal methods were common in the household and marketplace. In a ceremonial context, however, Lu Yü boiled tea made from a tea cake that was first toasted, milled, and sifted to a very fine powder, Water was salted to improve flavor. The powdered tea was thrown into a cauldron of rapidly boiling water, the brew was then tempered with a measure of warm water and allowed to simmer and spume. Floating on the steaming tea, a fine, light foam appeared as "lustrous as drifting snow." Ladled into bowls, the tea was served with ample helpings of froth, the "floreate essence of tea" (fig, 1,3; Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 3, pt. 5, 2a).


APOCRYPHAL DAOIST TALE of the tea master Yu Hong' and the immortal Danqiu zi appears to have been especially significant for Lu Yu as he alluded to it twice in the Book of Tea. Yu Hong is initially introduced in the course of Lu Yu's discussion of tea utensils, specifically the archaic ladle, which was associated with the making of offerings:

The ladle or p'iao is also called hsi-sbao, sacrificial ladle. Split a gourd to make it.... The Chin retainer Tu Yu wrote in his Ode to Tea, "Potir tea using the bottle gourd. Its mouth is wide, its neck is thin, and its handle is short.^ Once during the Yongjia period, a man from Yuyao by the name of Yu Hong went up into Mount Baobu to pick tea. He happened to meet a Daoist who said, "I am Danqiu zi, 'Master Cinnabar bar Hill'... I pray you, Master, make daily sacrifices to me and I beg you, share with me the bounty of your tea bowl and sacrificial ladle."

The second mention of Yu Hong, which repeats and expands upon this encounter, occurs in part 7 this Lu Yu's treatise, where he discusses the history of tea. In this section, Lu Yu fteely mixed actual incidents and people with myths, orthodox and apocryphal Daoist tales, and fictional characters. He treated both Yu Hong and Danqiu zi as historical personages, assigning the former to the Yongjia period of Emperor Huai (r. and the latter to the If an dynasty.

Yu Hong from Yuymo went into the mountains to pick tea and happened to meet a Daoist leading three black oxen. The Daoist guided Yu Hong to Mount Baobu and said, "I am Danqiu zi, I have heard that you, Master, are superb at preparation and service in the art of tea, and I have long thought to call on you. Within the mountains is a place where supreme tea grows, a tea that I will present to you, In return. Master, I pray you make daily sacrifices to me and beg you share with me the bounty of your tea bowl and sacrificial ladled Thereafter, having established sacral libations of tea to the Daoist, Yu Hong and his family could enter the mountain to gather darning, the rare tea.

Ancient masters often roamed hidden mountains and valleys looking for the finest tea, which was believed to grow wild. Carried out alone in rugged country, this search became a time of communion between man and nature. In the heart of the tea master, it was also a spiritual quest, and the tea symbolised universal harmony. Mountain tea was "blessed by the sweet spirit of Heaven" and watched by the immortals protecting the "pure, high places." On Mount Baobu, part of the remote and; mystical Tiantai rangefe—favored by Daoist spirits and hermits—Danqiu zi offered Yu Hong daming, the rarest and finest leaf, a gift that allowed him to perfect the art of tea,

Danqiu means "mound of cinnabar,an ancient term that first appeared in the Han dynasty song "Distant Journey" in which a world-weary mortal casts off his material body and travels as an astral projection to an unearthly place: "I departed, and swiftly prepared to start off on my journey./ I met the Feathered Men on the Hill of Cinnabar; /I tarried in the ancient land of Immortality” (Hawkes 1985,196),

Cinnabar was a potent and Indispensable ingredient used in Daoist elixirs of immortality. The precious mineral came from the mines of Sichuan and its deep vermillion color wa$ intimately associated with the distinctive shanmanistic cultures of the south: Shu, Ba, and Chu, It was believed that by feeding on the large, dark ruby crystals of the mineral, mere mortals became feathered transcendents, gathering on high mounds of cinnabar and winging forever between the material and immaterid worlds. The Daoist superior of the avian beings was the same Master Cinnabar Hill who traversed time and space to meet Yu Hong and share in the tea master's quest.

The mortal Yu Hong sought supreme tea in material form, whereas the immortal Danqiu zi required the same tea in its most sacred and immaterial form. The gift of tea allowed Yu Hong to perfect the art of tea. For Master Cinnabar Hill only the extraordinary tea prepared by Yu Hong using his bowl and ladle would suffice as an offering. Yu Hong's tea offering ms special because he had selected the leaves with own hands from Danqiu zi's trees, The Story points to the relationships between mortal and immortal, material and spiritual, art and devotion, and the importance of tea in effecting them.

As already noted, tea masters had extolled the beauty of tea froth since the fourth century ce. Continuing the tradition, Lu Yü wrote poetically that the foamy efflorescence resembled "blooming duckweed whirling along the bank of a deep pond" or "chrysanthemum flowers fallen into an ancient ritual bronze" (Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 3, pt, 5,2a), In the Tang, fine tea was made from pale buds that were highly processed. Steamed, pressed, and pulped, the even paler tea paste was then dried into cakes, When ground into powder, caked tea produced a very pale beverage and a pale foam. The idea of the "white" hue of frothy tea set against a green, glared bowl prompted Lu Yü to favor fine celadons from the kilns of Yüe in the southeast. During the Tang, there were several centers of ceramic production, among the most important was Xing, which made exceptional white wares. Lu Yü, however, took umbrage at any judgment that Xing was superior to Yüe: "This is certainty not so. If Xing is like silver, then Yüe is like jade...If Xing is like snow, then Yüe is like ice." This was a matter of aesthetics, for celadon provided a greater contrast to snowy froth. Moreover, "Yüe ware is celadon, and thus the color of tea appears grcenish"(Lu Yü [1273] 1985, ch. 2, pt. 4,4b-5a).

The comprehensive character of the Book of Tea had broad appeal. Lu Yü covered the origins and sources of tea, its history and personages, production and manufacture, tools and implements, equipage and wares, and brewing and drinking methods. After his death in 804, tea merchants throughout the country came to regard Lu Yü as the "Sage of Tea," and his book as scripture. From the pottery kilns that supplied tea wares and implements, merchants commissioned miniature ceramic tea sets to give to favored customers. The set came complete with a small statue of Lu Yü wearing a Daoist tricorne miter and from the Book. Among aristocracy, as well as the wealthy and socially aspiring, the book became a primer on tea, codifying the art of tea and its aesthetic values for many generations.

As the influence of the Book broadened,the Daoist tradition of tea deepened through the spiritual activities of Lu Tong (575—835), a reclusive poet and connoisseur. Intimately connected to the highest levels of the Tang courts Lu Tong received gifts of rare tea from admiring patrons. On one occasion, he was presented with Yangxian,the priceless imperial tribute tea, in a case containing three hundred of the "moonshaped tea cakes." Surprised and humbled by the gift, Lu Tong shut himself away and donned his robes and cap; then he calmly prepared the rare tea and drank. Bowl after bowl, he sensed the tea transform him until he felt as though he had become an immortal spirit. Lu Tong memorialized the event in the "Song of Tea" with its famous seven lines:

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat.

The second bowl banishes my loneliness and melancholy.

The third bowl penetrates my withered entrails, finding nothing except a literary core of five thousand scrolls.

The fourth bowl raises a slight perspiration,

The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones.

The sixth bowl makes me one with the immortal, feathered spirits.

The seventh bowl I need not drink, feeling only a pure wind rushing beneath my wings.

Buoyed by the elevated Daoist sentiments resident within of Tean and the Book of Tea, merchandising, fashion, and cachet all combined to propel tea to even greater popularity In the eighth century, the general population stood at received gifts of rare tea from admiring patrons. On one occasion, he was presented with Yangxian,the priceless imperial tribute tea, in a case containing three hundred of the "moonshaped tea cakes." Surprised and humbled by the gift, Lu Tong fifty million, and the annual amount of tea consumed was prodigious, especially in cities and capitals where trends were rarely embraced in moderation. Far-flung and ever-expanding, the appetite for tea was satisfied by a relatively stable industry increasing production, and growing market volume. The estate at Mengding alone produced thirteen million pounds of tea per year. By the late eighth century, tea was the single important trade commodity (Twitchett 1963, 72), and by any economic standard, it was just begging to be taxed.

In 782, the first e¥er tax on tea was imposed by imperial order. The levy was set at a rate of ten percent of the average market price and had to be paid in cash. The steep rate and cash payment signaled that tea was an essential commodity with a high value, like lacquer, timber, or bamboo. Originally intended as a temporary source of disaster relief funds tea revenues were diverted to general government expenditures. In 783 the emperor was faced with breakaway provinces and rebellion Desperate for funds, the court forced the tea tax—one many ad hoc dudes—on the imperial capital of Chang'an. In light of the oppressive already in force, the tea levy set the half-starved citizens of Chang'an rioting and joining the advancing rebel armies, The emperor was tended to flee the city. flee the city. The imperial Act of Grace of 784 offered amnesties and |pardons for the emperor's return to Chang'an. It also rescinded and abolished the state monopolies on wine and salt and other duties, including the tax on tea (Twitchett 1963, 62; Chiu-Duke 2000,129). Eight years later, disastrous floods devastated forty prefectures killing twenty thousand people. Once again, a tea tax was imposed as an emergency measure, but just as before, the duty and revenues were later made permanent and channeled to government coffers.

The booming tea market had prompted merchants and provinces to devise a system of monetary transfer known as "flying money." On selling his tea and paying his taxes, a merchant in Chang'an deposited the profits in a chancellery maintained in the capital by his home province. Hie chancellery issued a receipt to the merchant, and a record of confirmation was sent south to the provincial pay officer. Returning home, the merchant submitted the receipt to the pay officer and was given the cash equivalent deposited at the chancellery in the capital. The system of "flying money" relieved the merchant from the danger of traveling with large amounts of heavy coin; saved the province from carting tax monies to the capital; and transferred tea taxes directly to the central government. The transfers of credit were forbidden by the state in 811, however, in a move to wrest financial control from the provincial governments. The following year the state allowed merchants to transfer credit through the provincial offices of the central government: Finance, Public Revenue, and the Salt and Iron Commission, thereby directly controlling monetary transfers (Twitchett 1963, 72; Gernet 1996,265).

In 835 the first state tea monopoly was established by the chief minister Wang Ya (ca. 760-835), who sought to concentrate economic power in his own hands. The monopoly abolished private growing, processing, and selling of tea and ordered the transplantation of all tea bushes to state plantations and the destruction of commercial stocks of processed tea. Opposition to die monopoly was so violent that to quell the protests, it was said that the throne would haw to "exterminate the population, or force them into resistance in the hills." Within months, the tea monopoly was rescinded (Twitchett 1963,64; Chen and Zhu 1981,460-61,462—63; Twitchett and Fairbank 1979,2:685).

The late Tang palace, the courts of the nobility, and the wealthy held the art of tea in highest esteem, sparing no expense for fine tea or costly equipage. The emperor possessed the rarest teas. In 770, an imperial tea estate was established near Lake Tai, west of Shanghai, and by the mid-ninth century, thirty thousand peasants harvested the gardens annual crop with a thousand more people processing tea into cakes19 that were packaged in fine paper, silk, and lacquered cases.

The opulent palace style was exemplified by the cache of tea utensils discovered beneath the twelve-story pagoda of the Famensi Monastery near Chang^an, Famensi was the repository of the finger bone of Buddha, a sacred relic that attracted patronage from many generations of the Tang imperial family. In 873, Emperor Yizong (r. 860—873) presented the temple with an offering of precious tea wares, which was augmented by a second gift of tea utensils in the following year by Xizong (r. 873—888), the succeeding emperor (Karetzky 1995,59, 182—84, 191—92), The majority of the tea utensils were gilt silver with repoussé, stamped, engraved, woven, and openwork designs, but among the tea ceramics was "secret color" ware, a rare celadon of extraordinary blue-green hue (fig. 14) . Caked tea was kept in a covered basket of woven silver wire (fig. 1.5); salt used in tea water was kept in a covered cellar of gilt silver that took the form of a lotus petal. A mortar and pestle of gilt silver (fig. 1.6), dated by inscription to 869, were used to grind caked tea into powder that was sifted in a fine-mesh gilded-silver casket and stored in a gilt-silver covered caddy in the shape of a tortoise. A silver spoon decorated with gilt flying geese measured tea powder into a rare, clear-glass tea bowl atop a matching stand (fig. 1.7), The absence of a cauldron and brazier marked the late Tang change to brewing tea with a ewer. Boiled water was poured from a spouted silver ewer into the bowl to mix the powder into tea (Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art 1999). The technique was widely adopted for its convenience by all tea drinkers.

Liao, Xi Xia, and Jin

The northern cultures—Qidan, Tangut, and Jurchen—of the steppes also made tea with a ewer. After the fall of the Tang dynasty, the north was ruled by a succession of sinicized groups. The highly cultured Qidan established the Liao dynasty (916-1125) with southern borders and settlements that reached beyond the Great Wall into Hebei Province, In the Qidan tombs of the Zhang family at Xuanhua, a wall painting depicted servants grinding tea into powder, heating a ewer of water on a brazier, and carrying cup stands and bowls of tea (fig. 1.8). To the west in the Ordos Desert within and beyond the great loop of the Yellow River, the Tangut founded the Xi Xia dynasty (1038-1227). From the eastern forests of Manchuria, the Jurchen declared themselves the Jin dynasty (1115—1234). More than thirty thousand pounds of tea were sent annually to the Tangut alone (Gernet 1996,355), and the Jurchen established tea gardens at the northern limits of the growing range—Shaanxi, Henan, and Shandong—in an effort to stem the flow of silver from the Jin treasury to the south. Despite state measures, however, imported tea accounted for the steep Jin trade deficit, and illegal tea smuggled into Jin across the border was not uncommon (Mote 1999,286-87).


At the end of the Tang, pretenders to the throne in the south founded the Southern Tang (937-975) and reigned briefly over a vast tea-growing region that included the great Yangzi watershed from Hunan and reached as far south as Guangdong. At Nanjing, the Southern Tang rulers presided over a court of poetry and painting. The last emperor Li Yü (r, 961— 978) was himself an important poet and calligrapher. During his refined and sophisticated reign, tea processing reached an apogee, especially in Fujian, which set the standard for imperial tribute tea.

In the north, the newly established Song dynasty (960-1279) gazed covetously southward across the Yangzi at the Southern Tang's great wealth in silk, ceramics, and fine tea. Within its own borders, the Song government monopolized virtually all tea, yet the most superior varieties lay beyond its grasp to the south. Marshaling his forces in 975, the Song emperor Taizu (r. 960-976) put an end to the Southern Tang with the capture of Li Yü. Taking possession of the tea gardens in Fujian, Taizu ordered the continuation of imperial tribute, conveying the tea north to the capital at Kaifeng. By 977 the Song emperor Taizong (r. 976—997) had established North Garden of Fujian, the foremost tea estate of the Northern Song (Liao 1996,12,19).

Located at the foot of Phoenix Mountain, North Garden was an official complex of forty-six plantations that grew, harvested, and manufactured "imperially fired" tea. This took the form of wafers or small cakes known as "molded tea." These were specially decorated with a dragon and phoenix. The rigorous refining process took as long as two weeks. On the first day, "small buds," the finest and tiniest tea leaves were carefully picked from the gardens; four hundred thousand buds were required to make a single wafer of the finest tea. The plucked leaves were selected and graded, washed and rinsed four times and then steamed over vats of boiling water. Excess water was expressed from the leaves in a small press; a larger, heavier press extracted jukes and oils overnight. The next day the leaves were ground by hand in a ceramic mortar with a wooden pestle with added measures of water to make a smooth pale paste. The tea paste was put into molds and heated over a very hot fire, then alternately roasted and immersed in boiling water three separate times. Next, the cakes were slowly dried over a low fire overnight. The following morning, the wafers underwent a cure by light smoking and low heat for as many as fifteen days; the length of time depended on the thickness of the cakes. At the end of curing, the hardened, dry cakes were passed over boiling water to bring out their color, placed in a closed room, and vigorously fanned until their surfaces appeared glossy. The beautifully colored wafers were known as "wax tea," their dark, rich luster resembling the finest lacquer,20 According to the Song shi (History of the Song Dynasty), the imperial estates in Fujian and Sichuan were the only places allowed to use this process in the manufacture of caked tea (cited in Liao 1996,17).

Some caked tea was commonly scented with a variety of fragrances: spices, floral essences, and musk. In the Record of Tea, Cai Xiang (1012-1067), a native of Fujian, tea connoisseur and attendant of the imperial tea estates, noted that one of the peppery fragrances was Borneo camphor, an expensive import known as "dragon brain." Aromatic teas came in the shapes of squares, rounds, and flowers colored red, green, yellow, and black. The cake surfaces were elaborately decorated, The smallest cakes measured about three and one-half centimeters; the largest, about ten centimeters. The names of the teas were auspicious and ornamental, often suggesting preciousness and long life: Gold Coin.) Jade Leaf of the Long Spring, Inch of Gold) Longevity Buds without Compare, Silver Leaf of Ten Thousand Springs Jade Tablet of Longevity, and Dragon Buds of Ten Thousand Longevities (fig. 1.9). Each cake was set in a protective surround of fine bamboo, bronze, or silver and was wrapped in silk; broad, green bamboo leaves; and then more silk. Sealed in vermillion officials, the tea was enclosed in a red-lacquered casket with a gilt lock sent in fine, silk-lined, bamboo satchels by express to the emperor. The first tea cakes of the season were known as "new tea for examination from North Garden" and were so rare that even the throne was initially presented with one hundred small squares.The emperor shared a cake tea with members of the imperial family, the distribution determined by rank and lineage.

In addition to caked, very fine whole, dry, loose-leaf teas had been produced since the Tang by the famous gardens in Sichuan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian, Song loose tea of the eleventh and twelfth centuries included Forged in the Sun, Twin Wells, Sleeping Dragon, and Precious Cloud varieties. Twin Wells was particularly esteemed by the literati and often mentioned in the writings of poets of the Northern Song. Named after the village of Shuangjing, near Hongzhou in Jiangsi Province, Twin Wells was developed in the mid-eleventh century on only a few acres of land by the family of the great Song calligrapher Huang Tingjian (1045-1105). Described as a white tea, Twin Wells was made from very small leaf buds that were shaped like tiny, pointed hooks covered with a fine white fuzz. The picked leaves were selected and graded, washed and rinsed) and steamed. Then the tea was thoroughly and gently dried in small amounst in a warm metal pan to retain the distinctive hook-shape of the tiny leaves. Twin Wells was best stored in a small, fine stone jar, but it was also kept lightly compressed in a pouch of thin red or blue silk, the colors chosen to contrast with the leaves. Huang Tingjian was naturally fond of Twin Wells and gave it as a gift to his friends among the literati, who poetically referred to it as Eagle's Talons and Eaglets Grasping Claws for its sharp, hooked leaves. Singing its praises in their poetry, Huang Tingjian and other famous poets made Twin Wells the most highly regarded loose-leaf tea of the time (Zhu 1985,129; Chen Zongmou 1997,125,183-84; Liao 1996,24-25).

For more than a century, the central government monopolized all tea production in the south with the exception of Sichuan, a region that remained geographically isolated and administratively semiautonomous. The situation changed dramatically in 1074 under the New Policies implemented by the minister Wang Anshi (1021—1086) to promote the state s share in the empire's growing economy and to build the military, Sichuan tea proved critical to the success of these reforms. Under increasing pressure from Tangut forces of Xi Xia, the Song formed an alliance with the Tibetans, who would serve as a military buffer in the northwest and a major source of much-needed horses: royal mounts, as well as war, post, and work animals. The Tibetan horse traders, who came in great numbers, were primarily interested in bartering for tea, prompting government reformers to purchase tea from Sichuan, ship it to the northern outposts, and sell it in exchange for horses. The tea was presented in the form of compressed "blocks" and "bricks" of leaves. Tibetans preferred the rich, dark color and earthy character of "aged" teas.

The mutually beneficial commercial arrangement between the traders and the Song fostered the development of the Sichuan Tea and Horse Agency, the most powerful state institution in the northwest. As a consequence, however, the Sichuan tea industiy—an insular, local, high-quality tea producer—was transformed into a government bulk processor of low-quality tea for distant transport. With the emphasis on quantity rather than quality, gardens were planted with more tea bushes, the intensive cultivation incorporating "waste" and marginal hill land. Harvesting began early in the late winter flush, nearly stripping the plants of leaves, stems, and twigs to force a second budding in early spring. Third and fourth harvests later in the year produced even more leaves, but summer and autumn harvests were declared illegal by the government in an attempt at quality control. In order to meet quotas and increase profit, the processors resorted to ways of increasing the gross weight of manufactured tea. Cuts in processing saved costs in labor and in fuel for firing, and they reduced the drying time, the latter allowing greater water retention in the leaves and adding weight to the tea at the risk of mold and rot. Government tea inspectors, rewarded for meeting and exceeding quotas, were punished for passing "mixed, ersatz, coarse, or rotten and old autumn-leaf" tea. In reaction to corrupt practices and low-quality tea, the horse traders retaliated by selling herds of old, diseased, and stunted mounts at higher prices (Paul Smith 1991,12-47, 76,119, 225—27, 260, 277-84). "The folly of light-fingered bureaucrats and wily merchants, however, hardly touched the palace courts of the aristocracy or the elegant salons of the literati.

By the eleventh century, the Song had established an inspired variation on the Tang art of tea. Although the basic concerns of color, fragrance, and taste remained constant, the preparation, service, and aesthetics evolved to an extraordinary state. In the Song art of tea, the beverage was prepared by wrapping the hard tea cake in fine, clean paper. The wrapped cake was set in a pounding device and broken with a mallet. The bits and pieces of cake were ground to a powder in a small hand-mill. The tea was then sifted to an extremely fine dust with the powdery consistency of rice flour. Fine loose teas like Twin Wells were pulverized using the same implements and techniques. A measure of tea powder was spooned into a warm bowl. Then a small, precise amount of hot water was poured into the bowl in a thin, forceful stream from a narrow-spouted ewer. This technique, known as "pointing," mixed and liquefied the tea to a creamy, milky consistency. Next, the remaining measure of hot water was poured streaming from the ewer, and the tea was then briskly whipped to a froth with a bamboo whisk, line tea master presented the bowl to the guest who drank the tea in a few foamy sips.

Froth remained the key to a good howl of tea. Producing a thick spume of tea became a game of skill popular with all tea drinkers but particularly the literati and aristocrats (fig. 1.10.) Known as the "tea contest" and the "tea war," the game began as a way to examine the quality of tea from the spring harvest. In the Tang dynasty, the poet Bo Juyi (742-846) revealed that officials of the imperial estates at Huzhou and Changzhou "argued the merits" and "critiqued the quality" of the new spring tea (Lu and Cai I995, 164-66), The tea contest was introduced to the Song court on a query from the emperor Renzong (r, 1022-1063), who wanted to know more about the Fujian style of examining tea. In response, the aforementioned connoisseur Cai Xiang, intendant of the imperial estates, wrote his Record of Tea, Only new, unscented tea from Fujian was used for examining tea. As in the Tang, a very pale or "white" tea was preferred. The wafer was made of tea buds that produced a powder as white as fine paper. In one form of the game, the purity of the natural fragrance and the sweetness and smoothness of taste were criteria used to judge tea. Another game required full mastery of making tea, from breaking and pulverizing the cake to boiling water and wielding the whisk. A fine, thick froth was the goal, and the winner of the contest was judged by the way the foam clung, a feature known as "biting the bowl," and whether or not it betrayed unwanted traces of liquid, or "water scars." The close examination of the white froth required bowls of highly contrasting hues, the darker the color, the better.

Cai Xiang praised Jian ware bowls of "purple-black with hare's fur markings," The thick, unctuous iron glaze on Jian wares was transmuted by fire, into an extraordinary range of markings, inspiring names that referred to texture, pattern, and iridescence like "partridge feathers," "oil spots," and the "hare's fur" mentioned by Cai Xiang, Later, the emperor-aesthete Huizong (r. 1101—1125) wrote Treatise of Tea in the Daguan Reign Period, a discourse on the finer points of the tea contest, Huizong, a connoisseur and avid tea contestant, noted that bowls of "deep black" hue with minute markings of "jade gossamer" were best, An extremely rare Jian ware glaze was known simply as "butterfly" (fig, 1.11), blue-black color with clusters of luminous spots that appeared to vibrate and flutter (Marshall Wu 1998, 22—31, esp. 30; Rousmaniere 1996,43-58). the rare tea they held, prized Jian ware bowls were sent in large quantities to the palace as imperial tribute from Fujian (Chang 1982,10; see alto Zhang Linsheng 1978,79-90).

Deep within the walls of the palace in Kaifeng, tea was served to the emperor and his consorts in their private apartments by a personal staff supervised by the Court of Palace Attendants, a service agency comprised of eunuchs, At functions of state, high-ranking eunuchs worked closely with the Court of Entertainment and its Office of Fruit and Tea to arrange official receptions and banquets hosted by the throne. The emperor honored students of the National University and School for the Sons of the State in a ceremony punctuated by loud commands to "ascend the hall," "rise" after bowing, and "sit and take tea." Tea was one of the most important gifts presented to foreign rulers, ambassadors, and dignitaries. Visiting embassies returned to their native lands laden with return tribute, including gold and silver metalwork, ceramics, silk, and many varieties of fine tea disbursed from the great stores of the Court of Imperial Treasury. On imperial tours of inspection, the emperor presented tribute teas to monasteries and temples (Liang 1994,190-99), Members of the prestigious Hanlin Academy, ministers and civil officials, military officers, and functionaries were given monthly allotments, as tea was considered one of seven necessities of daily life: fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea (Zhu 1985,41-531 Liao 1996, 12).

In the pleasure districts of the Song capitals, Kaifeng in the north and Hangzhou in the south, teahouses abounded, packed cheek-by-jowl with restaurants serving gourmet banquets, brothels with beautiful and talented courtesans, and wine houses serving exotic drinks. Exquisite teas vied with fine wines, such as the costly Plum Blossom Steeped in Snow, in establishment with names like House of Pure Happiness and House of Eight Immortals. One of many teahouse districts in Kaifeng was marked by grand architectural facades of crimson lacquer erected in the middle of the avenue (Meng [1174] 1982, ch. 2,59). In the southern capital at Hangzhou, storied tea pavilions were covered with elaborate scaffolds decorated with fragrant flowers. Places like Mommy Wang's House of Tea attracted wealthy merchants, officials) and literati who gathered to taste the season's new tea. Paneled in fine wood and embroidered silk, the teahouse was scented with cut flowers and cedar trees grown stunted and gnarled as bonsai in small basin; scrolls of painting and calligraphy by famous artists bedecked the walls. Service plates of fine ceramic ware and silver were used to present superbly cooked dishes that would be accompanied by fine wines. In teahouses, patrons typically heard the latest tunes sung by an attractive chartreuse accompanied by female musicians and a graceful dancer whirling in silks.

In sharp contrast, pushcarts and peddlers in the streets below sold tea by the bowl to thirsty passerby for a copper coin.23 The street peddlers offered a quick version of powdered tea made by "pointing" a thin, forceful stream of hot water from a ewer into a small bowl (fig. 1.12). They mixed powder and water with such skill that whisking was unnecessary. Other ways of preparing tea relied on the ancient medicinal methods of decocting herbs by boiling and simmering. As in the Tang, the Song boiled tea powder in a cauldron, but tea was also brewed by simmering whole leaf teas, the drink strained and ladled into bowls. Simmering extracted the tasty herbal essences directly from the leaves in a naturally fragrant, lightly colored brew.


From die far north, the Mongols led by Genghis khan (1162-1227) destroyed the states of the Tangut,Xi Xia, and Jurchen Jin and were poised to conquer the rich lands of the south. Unlike the highly sinicized steppe cultures that preceded diem, the Mongols maintained nomadic traditions, depending on herding, military, and equestrian skills. They marked the seasons with migrations to graze their herds in the grasslands^ and raided settlements for iron, cloth, and tea. According to legend, the Tang court made a marriage alliance with a northern chieftain and sent an imperial daughter. Responsible for the welfare of her new family, the princess taught her husband s clanswomen to combine tea with milk, making a hearty drink that supplemented their diet of meat and dairy and helped to fortify them against the rigors of the harsh northern dime. The practice of drinking milk-tea spread to other nomadic herding cultures who used the milk of ewes, marcs, and cows. The basic recipe entailed making a cauldron of boiled brick tea and adding milk and salt until a second boil thoroughly blended the brew and produced a fragrant aroma. The milk-tea was ladled.

Three days without tea, confuses the body and exhausts the strength, making one loath to rise from bed." Milk and tea were presented by Mongol rulers as gifts to their families, officers, and warriors. Milk-tea was served as ceremonial welcome to visitors at home, tribal councils, and seasonal clan gatherings, Along with meat, dairy, and grain, milk-tea was offered in rituals to the deities and ancestors (Chen Zongmou 1997, 545-48; Xu 2000,487-88; Owyoung 2007).

The Mongols eventually descended from the steppes and attacked the dynastic Song. Khubilai khan (r, claimed his capital at the site of present-day Beijing in 1264, Outflanking the Song, the khan took control of Sichuan and Yünnan and established an agency for tea production in Shu in 1269, taking over the processing of compressed brick tea and the northern markets. As pressure from the Mongols mounted, the Song court lingered on at Hangzhou. Finally, the Song empress dowager negotiated a surrender for her grandson, the boy-emperor, and in February of 1276 the dying dynasty gave way to Mongol rule. As in battle and war, the Mongols initially governed with ruthless efficiency. Remarkably, tea among the khans first priorities. The southeastern tea industry was quickly secured, the tea sent north to the nomad capitals, military post exchanges, and trade. Within a month or so of its founding, the new Yüan dynasty (1279-1368) and its bureaucracy organized twenty-three thousand peasants for the spring harvest. Adopting imperial custom, new tea, picked and processed at Huzhou and Changzhou, was sent as tribute to the Khubilai khan in Beijing. By 1282, a levy on tea produced in the Jiangnan region sent tax revenues to the Mongol court. In the south, duties on tea provided control of the commodity and its market as well as the much-needed income (for the growing civil and military bureaucracies and the foreign wars—Japan, Annam, Champa, Khmer, Burma, and Java—fought by the armies of Khubilai khan the later years of his life (Chen 296-97,299-300; Grossest 1970,286-91; Mote 1999,466-67, 476-97).

The change from the Song to the Yüan dynasty was reflected in the art of tea. Boiled and mixed methods of preparing tea became rarified and passe, and few practitioners subscribed to powdered tea except among the conservative elite. Within a few decades of the Mongol victory, the scholar Wang Zhen (active ca, 1295-1309) wrote in the Book of Farming that "all tea is steeped from selected tender buds: first it is infused in boiled water...and then drunk as a decoctions. Today, in die south, most tea is brewed this way." Wang Zhen also revealed technical changes in his descriptions of leaf tea manufacturing, The best tea was made from new buds "as fine as needles" that were steamed, spread out on bamboo mats to bamboo. The tea was then stored in baskets of woven bar lined with bamboo leaves. Fine quality tea made of larger and leaves was also made in great quantity.

The treatment and storage of tea became an obsession among some literati who believed that different but desirable qualities were achieved by enhancing tea. A few tea lovers were quite imaginative in their quest for the novel and unique. One such connoisseur was Ni Can (1301-1374), a reclusive artist known for his fastidiousness and a curious recipe for "lotus blossom tea." a rarity that he made during the summer months when the ponds and lakes of his native Jiangsu were filled with lotus flowers and the air laden with their fragrance. In his collected writings Pavilion of the Pure and Hidden, Ni Can described rowing in a skiff "before breakfast, just as the sun rises," plowing through lotus thickets to select buds that were barely opened. Reaching out over the water, he filled each living flower with tea and bound it closed with hempen string, leaving the tea to absorb the floral scent of the lotus throughout the warm day and overnight. Early the next morning, the tea was collected from the flower buds and placed in a paper bag. The process of filling flowers and taking the tea out was repeated over three straight days, using the same tea, before the finished leaves were sealed in a covered pewter jar and stored away. Fine tea, perfumed by the lotus, imparted to Ni Can and his tea an aura of refinement and purity.


The Mongol dynasty lasted less than a hundred years, falling before the armies of Zhu Yüanzhang (1328—1398), who established the Ming (1368—1644) and restored indigenous rule. Even before assuming the throne, the future emperor made the tea industry a focus of government reform, and in 1361 instituted tea taxes in regions under his control (Taylor 1975, 43). Born a commoner, Zhu Yüanzhang followed plebeian customs and tastes, preferring Guzhu, the Huzhou leaf tea long papular among his subjects. Such preferences were reflected in the record Herbs and Plants (1378) by the early Ming writer Ye Zichi (d. 1385?) who declared, "The people have stopped using powdered tea from Jiangxi; leaf tea is everywhere." In a stunning move that shook the practice of the art of tea, Zhu Yüanzhang abolished caked tea as imperial tribute in the late summer of i39i? Like the Song emperors, Zhu Yüanzhang praised the imperial gardens of Fukien: "Of all the tribute tea under Heaven, only that of Qianning is supreme." But addressing the civil officials and the five hundred tea-producing households of Qianning, the emperor ordered the cessation of caked tea and specified instead four kinds of whole leaf bud tea—Plucking Spring, First of Spring, Next of Spring> and Russet Sprouts—to be sent to the palace.

Zhu Yüanzhangs proclamation on tea was fiscally motivated and may also provide some evidence of compassion tor those who labored to produce it. As a form of tax, tribute tea was sent directly to the palace and dispensed by the emperor at his discretion. There was no profit made from the incredibly labor-intensive caked tea, and the emperor viewed its production as a hidden levy on the peasantry and unnecessary. To the emperor, the complex manufacture of so luxurious a form of tea represented a highly burdensome corvee and inefficient tax. The throne, moreover, sought to "disturb the patterns of corruption surrounding the levy of powdered tea" (Brook 1998, 127) and thereby gain greater control of the commodity and its market. Like salt, tea was a state monopoly that banned private production and strictly governed the industry and trade. The central government benefited from the revenue. Relieved of the duty to make caked tea by imperial decree, the south concentrated on the production of leaf teas. The imperial ban, state monopoly, and shifting market stimulated a greater aesthetic appreciation for whole tea in its dried but natural form. creating a new art of tea based on steeping leaves in a pot to make a fragrant infusion,

Caked tea, however, did not readily die away. Among the aristocracy and conservative elite, the art of tea continued to revolve around it. The emperors own son, Prince Ning, preserved the old forms of caked tea. Named Zhu Quan (1378-1448), the prince was an accomplished master of Daoist alchemy (Ho 2007,84—87), drama, music, incense, and tea. In his work entitled Startled Immortals} Gods, and Hermits (1408), he described his many implements for the preparation of caked tea, which had not changed since the twelfth century. Following Song practice, Prince Ning powdered caked tea and whisked it in a large bowl before ladling the brew into smaller bowls. Arranged on a bamboo stand, the tea was presented by a young servant. In his Treatise on Tea (1440), written some three decades later, the prince described the ceremonial etiquette of tea: The host rose, raising a bowl and offering it to the guest, saying. "For the gentleman to refresh the mind." The guest rose, receiving the bowl and raised it saying, "Nothing else can so completely dispel loneliness and melancholy^ Each sat and drank together, their empty bowls taken by the servant who then withdrew. In the treatise, Zhu Quan sang the virtues of tea that "need not be made into paste for cakes," as if subtly revealing that his private stores of caked tea had diminished or disappeared altogether.

Nearly fifty years later in 1487, Qiu Jun (1420-1495), a native of Guangdong and the grand secretary at court, wrote that "nowadays, only Fujian and Guangdong use powdered tea. Moreover, leaf tea is used throughout China, and even among foreigners this is so. The world no longer knows of powdered tea." About the same time, the celebrated minister Wang Shu (1416-1508) noted that the government rescinded its prohibitions on private growing and processing of tea, allowing the industry and market to flourish.

With the demise of its caked and powdered forms, tea was generally brewed in a way that was very different from earlier methods. In the Ming, leaf tea was steeped to extract its herbal essences. To make tea, water was boiled in a water pot of lead or ceramic in a bronze brazier fueled with fine charcoal. Tea was first put in a silver tea washer—a colander with a catch basin一to rinse the leaves with warm, boiled water poured from a bowl. The warmed, moist leaves were transferred to a stoneware teapot that was filled with hot, boiled water to steep the leaves; the infusion was then poured into small cups (Owy-oung 2000,31). In the first infusion. hot water was allowed to steep for a short, prescribed amount of time, then the entire pot was poured out into cups and served. Meanwhile, the leaves rested in the pot without heat or water so as to preserve their remaining essence for the next infusion. On each successive incision, steeping time was slightly lengthened to maintain a balance of aroma> color, flavor, and potency.

According to Ming sources, there were more than fifty famous teas in production during the sixteenth century, ineluding teas from Guzhu, Dragon Well, and Tiger Hill. Most were green teas that were slowly dried by heat in a hot pan, Yangxian tea was especially popular among the literati, and unlike the pan-fired teas of the Ming, its leaves were first steamed and then dried over a low fire. Historically and geo-graphically related to the great Guzhu tea of the Tang dynasty, Yangxian tea was produced in Changzhou near the famous pottery town of Yixing near Lake Tai. Once lauded as Tang and Song imperial tribute, Yangxian tea was enjoyed as a rare tea in the repertoires of Ming tea masters such as Wu Lun and Wang Lai. Their discriminating taste and style were as sought after as the tea they served.

Wu Lun (1440-1522) was from Yixing, living among the surrounding "hills and streams" as a reclusive tea master known as Hermit of the Distant Heart (Central Library 1978,253). He was friends with the renowned painters Shen Zhou (1427-1509) and Wen Zhengming (1470-1559) and crossed Lake Tai to visit the artiste in Suzhou. As a tea master, Wu Lun was overtly partisan in his appreciation of the products of his hometown Yixing. He was not only partial to Yangxian tea but also promoted the teapots made at the local kilns by Gong Chun (active 1506-1521), a young servant in Wu Lun's own household who learned to make ceramics from an old monk at nearby Chinsha Temple (Wu Shan 1995, 1062). Gong Chun perfected the use of the local clay's and their special properties, creating teapots supremely suited for stuping tea and thus starting the Yixing tradition of tea wares (see Bartholomew, this volume). His master Wu Lun, serving Yangxian tea infused in a fine teapot made by Gong Chun, attained an extraordinary level of tea that was rarely surpassed by other tea masters in the Ming (fig. 1,13).

The connoisseurship of tea was an aesthetic realm far removed from the mundane, a sphere of refinement and sophistication often shared among the literati at tea gatherings. On such occasions, a tea master was the center of a day devoted to artistic, literary, and culinary pursuits; his role was something akin to a master of ceremony. Wang Lai (1459—1528) was a favorite in Suzhou circles, traveling by boat, leisurely wandering here and there, "whistling and swaggering about in the mists and waves." Remembered as a witty and brilliant conversationalist, Wang Lai often stayed as a guest in the garden studio of the famous painter Shen Chou, frequently presenting the elder gentleman with a gift of rare tea.

Once in the winter of 1497, Shen Chou was joined at his house by four other literati for an intimate gathering at which Wang Lai prepared and served tea with a Yixing pot (figs, 1,14, 1.15), The marvelously subtle art demonstrated by Wang Lai during the party so moved Shen Chou that he wrote an essay in praise of the tea master. "The work no longer survives, but it was recorded that: "Shen Chou dedicated fathering for Tea to Wang Lai. Wang is fond of tea and his style of tea preparation is especially wonderful. He often brings Shen Chou beautiful tea, brewing and serving it to the old man, always in this fine manner. At this gathering, the old man sipped through seven cups and savored the full beauty of it all.

In the sixteenth century, the taste for Yangxian tea gave way to Tiger Hill, a tea grown in the Suzhou area and the most ismom tea of the Ming. Tiger Hill tea was known for its scent of "wintry beans" and a "pure and light taste" scent of bean flowers, When brewed with spring water from Mount Hui in nearby Wuxi, the tea was clear "like the color of moon light" or "White like jade" (Owyoung 2000, 31—32).

Grown on the slopes of a small mountain by Buddhist monks, demand for the tea exceeded the limited annual yield. Covetous officials commandeered much of the production, and die monks routinely adulterated the tea.

As a rare tea, Tiger Hill was brewed with Yixing teapots made by the celebrated potter Shi Dabin (b. ca. 1567) who began his career by imitating the works of Gong Chun. Initially, he made “large” teapots (17.7 cm high), but under the influence of the literati, Shi Dabin created smaller pots (137 cm high; fig. 1.16) to better nurture the fragrance and flavor of tea. Highly prized for brewing tea, Shi Dabin's pots were also appreciated for their excellent workmanship and the fine, satiny patina they acquired through constant use. Although many tea drinkers preferred using Yixing wares, some thought that teapots of porcelain, pewter, silver, or gold made superior tea.

In the early seventeenth century, there were nearly fifty books devoted to the subject of tea. Wen Zhengheng (1585— 1645), a great-grandson of the artist Wen Zhengming, wrote the Record of Superlative Thinly a catalog of gentlemanly pursuits that included a section on the connoisseurship of tea. He recorded seven noteworthy teas, including Yangxian and Tiger Hill, and made recommendations on tea wares and equipage as well as boiling water, charcoal, and the tea room. Wen Zheng-heng also noted a general change in harvesting and processing tea, from the selection of tea buds to the picking of slightly more mature leaves: "In harvesting tea, one need not pick too fine a leaf. Fine leaves are tea buds, these first teas are deficient, lacking in flavor." Yangxian tea with its small, pointed, oblate buds shaped like “birds’ tongues” was the only exception to the rule (Owyoung 2000,31-43) .

At the end of the Ming, the tea tradition was nearly three thousand years old and had undergone centuries of development and appraisal, spurring innovation and changes in style. The one constant of tea was flavor. The paramount interest of the connoisseur was taste and the singular ability to summon experience and knowledge in the appreciation of tea. In the late Ming, there was no finer connoisseur than Zhang Dai (1597—1680?), a literatus with a most discriminating palate. On one occasion, Zhang Dai was served Yangxian tea, popularly known as Lo-chieh, by the region's foremost tea master Min Wenshui. In 1611, Zhang journeyed to the old capital of Nanjing to visit friends who had studied tea with Min Wenshui. They encouraged Zhang to visit Min at his studio. Zhang Dai arrived at sunset but had to wait for Min, a doddering old man of seventy, to return. When Zhang Dai began to speak, however, Min suddenly excused himself and only returned much later to ask what Zhang Dai wanted. Explaining that he had wished to meet the old tea master for a long t time, Zhang said, I don't taste master Min's tea today, I just won't leave." Min Wenshui was pleased, invited Zhang into a well-appointed tearoom, and began preparing tea in a Yixing teapot, then serving the brew in an exquisite porcelain cup from the imperial kilns, As he looked dubiously at the undistinguished liquid in the cup, Zhang Dai was suddenly struck by its beautiful fragrance and shouted, “Excellent!" He then asked, "What kind of tea is this?" Min Wenshui replied, LangYüan, 'tea of the immortals,' a palace tea." Zhang Dai took a sip and said, “Don’t fool me. It is made using the same method as LangYüan, but the flavor is not die same.” Trying to cover up a smile, the tea master asked, "Does our guest know where it was produced?" Zhang Dai took another sip and queried, "Why is it so similar Lo-chieh?" then stuck out his tongue and exclaimed," Wonderful, wonderful!"


The history of tea and the art it inspired continued to evolve dirough die Qing dynasty (1644-1912), invigorated by the keen interest and connoisseurship of the palace, court, and intelligentsia. The innovations and customs the common people were also echoed in the marketplace, the forms of tea expanding from green teas to include white, black, and, yellow, and scented teas under myriad names, In the early Qing, Wuyi in Fujian produced a tea called Wulong. Commonly known as Black Dragon, or oolong, Wulong, like most teas, was made by heating leaves in a iron pan and drying them over a low fire. Brittle and green, freshly picked leaves were allowed to change chemically though the interaction of natural enzymes and oxygen, wilting in the process and turning color, Green tea underwent little oxidation of the leaves and retained a green color; Wulong was semi-oxidized, half russet and dark; and red and black teas were fully oxidized and dark in hue. In the case of Wulong tea, the heating by pan-firing arrested the oxidation, coloration, and deterioration of the leaves. Drinking fine Wulong produced a sensation known as houYün, or "harmony of the throat."

The Qing emperor Qianlong (r.1755—1796) was a sinicized Manchu whose nomad ancestors had moved from Liaoning to conquer the Ming. As in the past, imperial tribute tea was sent northward to Beijing for palace use at court and state functions. The emperor followed the Manchu and Mongol custom of drinking milk-tea on a daily basis as well as serving it at official banquets and meetings. The Qianlong emperor drank milk-tea from a bowl carved from white jade and inscribed with his poetry (fig. 1,17). Tribute teas were also enjoyed by the Manchu, prepared and drunk in common fashion; the vast bulk of the tea, however, was distributed in the form of imperial gifts to offcials, diplomats, and foreign princes, The dispersal of fine tea through foreign trade and diplomacy introduced tea to a greater international audience, including Europe and America (Owyoung 2007).

The teahouse continued as an important feature of urban life. A morning at the teahouse was filled with the latent news and gossip, and business was often conducted over cups of hot tea. Ordinary and fine teas were prepared and served with small dishes of fruit, nuts, and seeds. Customers ordered tea and drank until their leaves steeped our and had no more flavor. The teahouse was also a place of entertainment. Storytellers were popular among the day crowd, their tales by the sharp rap of wooden clappers or the staccato of a beaten drum. In the evening,performed traditional songs accompanied by the lute or zither.were full-scale restaurants with several floors to accommodate coming to chat informally over tea of celebrate and feast.

The Qing literati greatly expanded devoted to tea, compiling previous records into compendia and adding their own contributions to the literary tradition. Scholars wrote monographs on individual teas such as Tiger Hill and Dragon Well, detailing the origins and history of each, the peculiarities of processing, the pairing with specific spring waters, preparing tea with various utensils, serving, drinking, and critiquing. Like literature and alchemy, tea was an endeavor rich enough to engage fully the philosophical and intellectual mind. Historically associated with eremitic and spiritual life? tea offered a respite from worldly cares, yet it also provided the fortitude and clarity of thought to deal with them. The late Qing transmitted the scholarly tea tradition through modern, English-speaking literati like Lin Yütang (1895-1976), A native of Fujian, he drank Iron Goddess of Mercy tea infused in a small Yixing pot, made thick and strong, and served in small Of the meaning of tea, Lin Ymtang wrote "On Tea Friendship" and the attitude of a tea drinker: "Thus chastened in spirit, quiet in mind, and surrounded by proper company one is fit to enjoy tea." The "proper company" he recommended "must be He further explained: "To drink alone is called secluded ; to drink between two is called comfortable... to drink with seven or eight is called [contemptuously] philanthropic," (Lin Yütang 1937,331-31,esp. 224-27), An eminent man of traditional values, Lin Yütang wrote of tea m a cultural pursuit, a way of exploring the human condition and a means of bridging the gulf between East and West.