The Ming Dynasty is a time of period in which the Chinese Tea Ceremony was experiencing integration and innovation, new concepts and new norms. It was a colorful era of the Ancient Traditional Teas and it is another peak period in the development of tea, but also the sprouting period of modem Chinese Tea Ceremony.
Before the Ming Dynasty, Chinese teas were mainly divided by production shape into two groups: Cake tea (flake tea) and Loose tea (or Buds tea). Before the Ming Dynasty, Cake tea was the main stream which the tribute 'Dragon Round tea' and 'phoenix Cake Tea' are both Hake teas. In the early Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang put a massive labor force to “reforme the loose tea whilst ceasing producing the Dragon Round Tea"， which was the official start to replace the tribute Flake Tea with Loose Tea. The tea manufacturing techniques were driven to change after the change on tribute tea, the creations of Green Tea, Half-fermented Dark Dragon Tea and Fully-fermented Black Tea were gradually successful. The art of savoring tea has changed as well. The Ming is the sprouting period of Modem Chinese Tea Ceremony, during which the person who devoted most to the development was Zhu Quan.
Zhu Quan (1378A.D.~ 1448A.D.), the 17th son of the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, an intelligent child, being crowned as King Ning at the age of 14, but being frustrated in an internal fight among the royal family and built a fine house in Nanchang to study kinds of knowledge. He was indulged in the Tea Ceremony, wrote Spectrum of Tea, which displayed the development of the Tea Ceremony in three aspects.
(1)The “Boil Drinking Law", a direct brewing method which started a new age of drinking tea.
Zhu Quan criticized the Grinded Cream Tea, the Dragon Round Tea and the Phoenix Cake Tea since the Tang and Song dynasties in his Spectrum of Tea. He believed that the flake tea is "Miscellaneous of all aromas and gold colored, which ruined its true flavours. Only boil it and savour it you could get the nature of it." Hence Zhu Quan "adores the new and reformed the old fashion." He respected the “the beauty of nature," aPPreciated the natural from of tea and its original color, flavor and taste. He was SO brave to reform the cumbersome traditional procedures and the first to "drink clearly".
(2) He created an atmosphere that "Explore and participate in the world, clear the mind and cheer up the spirit".
Zhu Quan not only approached the innovation of tea savoring methods, but also deliberately pursued the atmosphere of savoring tea. He stressed in the Spectrum of Tea that the State of Human" should be the virtuous people; the “environment should be natural and tranquil; the “State of Mind" should be open-minded and concentrated on the tea brewing; the "Tea savoring atmosphere" should be prepared with aromatic tea and the apparatus, which should be using such productions of stone, porcelain，bamboo and coconut shell. Only when you reach these requirements that you could get the perfect atmosphere to savour tea.
(3) The improvement of tea art and tea utensils.
In order to meet his new simple cooking and drinking methods, he simplified Lu Yu's “24 Devices" and only preserved and improved the necessary tea utensils. Regarding the procedures of "Tea savouring", he got rid of of many unnecessary bits and added the incense before tea savouring, which shows the ideal of integration with the nature.Zhu Quan said "Tea has a remarkable affection on human body; it could inspire you on literature, help you to drive away the sleep, and entertain you when you talk with friend."
Zhu Quan's view on the Chinese Tea Ceremony adores nature and atmosphere, in pursuit of quiet hills, clear spring water, pure tea, relaxed heart, clean devices and company of virtuous people. This "six-clear" is naturally combined together in tea savouring to create a harmony, makes people realize a “tea flavoured life" and having good memories. Because of this, the aesthetics in the Spectrum of Tea has been kept for a long time.
Besides Zhu Quan, there are many other classical scholars who did excessive contributions for the transformation of the traditional tea ceremony to the modem tea ceremony.
"Water is the Mother of Tea" About the relationship between water and tea, Xu Cishu proposed that "the aroma of tea could only be revealed by water. It is nothing without water." Zhang Yuan put forward that "Tea is the spirit of water; water is the body of tea. How could you know the spirit without water and the body without nice tea". About the methods of delivering tea, three delivering methods was originally created in the Ming Dynasty.
"Water after tea, is the low delivering method; tea in half amount of water and water again, is the middle method; tea after water, is the above delivering mothod. It is suggested that the middle method in Spring and Autumn, the above method being used in summer and the low method in Winter.”
It is vital to wash and clean the utensils with hot water before brewing tea in the Ming Dynasty, which meant to raise the temperature of tea cup and teapot.
Before officially preparing water,it is necessary to “first wash the tea in hot, which removes the coldness and dusts, and then boil it would be better." For the aroma of tea people in the Ming Dynasty had a very good summary. Cheng Yongbin said in his Tea Notes that "cheer up the spirit and dispel the disease, which is true aroma; relax the muscle and fragrant smell, which is excessive aroma; not too raw nor too mature, which is new aroma; at ease without exceptional smell, which is clear aroma." Zhang Yuan in his Tea Notes mentioned that "pure aroma is the inside and outside keep accordance; not raw nor mature is clear aroma; proper heat treatment results in Orchid aroma and prepared spirit before the water is true aroma"
About the time of pour, people in the Ming Dynasty also had a introduction. Zhang Yuan's Tea Notes said, "A slight moment after tea being brewed, pouring tea slowly but drinking tea immediately. It is not good to pour tea quickly otherwise tea would not be brewed adequately; it is hard to catch the best flavor of tea because it only exists in a fleeting moment.
In the tea utensils aspect, the Yixing purple-sand teapot rose exceptionally in the Ming Dynasty, which became a quite popular fashion, and the scholars and other dignitaries were keen to collect them. All of above set up a very massy foundation for the modem tea art.
Under the guidance of these theories, a more clear and extraordinary tea fashion had been formed in the Ming Dynasty than in former times. Under the guidance of these theories, a more clear and extraordinary tea fashion had been formed in the Ming Dynasty than in former times. Wen Zhengming, Xu Zhening, Tang Xianzu, Dong Ji and Zhu pu are the representatives.
Wen Zhengming's View on People Related to Tea:
My home is just in the mountains which would not go any further. The grass and wood experience life from the wind and rain with me. Taking farm tools and standing by a spring tree.We laughed when we met because we felt the same.
Wen Zhengming's View on Tea Atmosphere:
Far from the Tai Lake, traveling to the destination. swept away the grass and tasted the spring water by myself. How beautiful are the bamboo, the clouds and the river. Afterwards, anyone else would still feel real nature again.
The Tea Ceremony in Wen Zhengming's eyes (an extract):
Can not fall asleep because of tea,I got up and brew it.There is no need to mention the past, I have been awake from a cold dream.
Xu Zhenqing's Brewing Tea:
Huishan in Autumn, the water is pure, I took utensils with me,to brew good tea I have to follow the principles, hence reading 'The Bible of Tea’ under the flower trees.
Tang Xianzu's Bamboo Tea Brewing:
In front of the Junzi Mountain, a beautiful view of bamboo and clouds. Boiling the Jade Well Hill Spring Water and trying the tea after the rain by the Tao River.
Dong Ji's Brewing the Snow Tea:
Brewing the Snow Tea in the snow room, watching the plum blossom with the snow. I shall be delighted to tell people, to take this as the first festival after the New Year.
Zhu Pu's Writing for the Master Yangquan:
Wash bowls and prepare for the new buds of tea brewing, the peaceful mind of Tao contains tranquility. What can I get to serve the Buddha with, perhaps brewing the flowers with water in porcelain bottle would be nice.
Through these poems, the elegant tea things of the Ming Dynasty can be seen. No wonder the scholar Fang Yizhi of the Ming Dynasty proudly said, The wonderful tea drinking, today we have better development."