The Holy Famer Tasting Herbs

The Holy Famer Tasting Herbs

Our study begins with the material effect and the use of tea as a drink.

The discovery and the use of tea in China can be traced back to the ancient time of Holy Farmer (a legendary ruler, the second of the Three August Ones, who was supposed to have invented the plough and discovered the curative virtues of plants). The Chinese people often call themselves descendants of Yan Di and the Yellow Emperor. According to historians' research of the texts, Yan Di refers to the Holy Famer. About 5,000 years ago, the Holy Famer, who was thought of as the God of Farming, invented many farm tools and taught people how to grow crops. China is a country where the ancient farming revolution was accomplished very early. Archaeological excavation and historical records prove it is a reliable fact rather than a legend that the Holy Farmer founded methods of agricultural production. The Holy Farmer was also the God of Medicine in Chinese legend. To save the common people from pain, the Holy Famer selected various wild plants as medicine. Fearless of the sacrifice, he tasted the wild plants himself to learn their effect on the human body. It is said that one day he got poisoned seventy-two times when gathering and tasting herbs on a mountain. Later he found a plant, which was tea. He brewed the leaves in a pottery tripod and then drank the liquid As a result, the toxins in his body disappeared. Since then, the Chinese people have treated tea as a precious medicine bestowed on human beings by the cosmos. The story illustrates that the Chinese people first used tea as medicine.

Early in the Zhou Dynasty (c. the 11th century-771 B.C.), tea was used as medicine by people from commoners to the royal family. For example, the Sichuan people paid tribute, including tea, to the Wu Emperor (living in about the 11th century B.C.) of the Zhou Dynasty. In the Ritual of Zhou (an ancient Chinese codex and record reportedly written by Lord Zhou about 3,000 years ago) there are more records about the officials in charge of the use of tea in the royal court of the Zhou Dynasty.

Some people think that tea was regarded simply as a vegetable for some time. However, tea was specially used as a magical drink in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). In the Han Dynasty tea was universally grown, laying a foundation for its wide use. In the famous Tombs of the Han Dynasty (built in the second century B.C.) at Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan Province, a box of tea was discovered. In tombs of the reign of Wendi (on the throne from 179 B.C. to 156 B.C.) in Jiangling, Hubei Province, a corpse and a box of tea were found. All these finds show that in the early Han Dynasty nobles used tea and buried it with the dead as a treasure.

After discovering tea, the Chinese people used it as a medicinal herb, a vegetable, and a drink successively over 3,000 years. During this period, the use of tea did not have a spiritual dimension, though it was used as a magical medicinal herb. The great leap for tea occurred once it began to be used as a drink instead of a medicinal herb.