The Spread of Chinese Tea Culture to Japan and Korea

The Spread of Chinese Tea Culture to Japan and Korea

The spread of Chinese tea and tea culture to eastern countries, especially lo Japan and Korea, is noticeable. There are several reasons for the spread. Civilized early, Korea and Japan, like China, have many detailed records about the spread of tea and culture. According lo historical documents and cultural relics excavated, China is the cultural source of Korea and Japan. Therefore, Korea and Japan absorbed not only Chinese tea, but also its material and spiritual forms. Korea and Japan, where tea is drunk without refreshments, imported Chinese tea just after the Saint of Tea Lu Yu established the system of tea culture in the Tang Dynasty. Every change of the tea culture from the Tang Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty spread abroad, and Korean and Japanese (student studying in China were first enlightened by the Chinese culture.

According to records, in 593, in the reign of Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty (581-601), China introduced tea to Japan along with the spread of its culture, art and Buddhism to apan. During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, on April 8, 729, which was the first year of the reign of Mikado Amahira, a grand tea drinking activity was held in the Japanese royal court. That day, Mikado gathered 100 monks to expound the texts of Buddhism in the royal residence. The next day, the monks were granted tea. Over 70 years later, the founder of the Japanese Tiantai (Tien-tai) Sect of Buddhism, came to China in 804 (the 20th year of Zhenyuan during the reign of Emperor Dezong of the Tang Dynasty). The next year (the first year of Yongzhen during the reign of Emperor Shunzong of the Tang Dynasty), he returned to his country with a lot of Buddhist scriptures and Chinese tea seeds, which were planted on a Mountain near a river. Another outstanding Japanese monk came to China also in 804, but returned to Japan in 806. He learned the Truth-Word Sect of Buddhism in Chang'an (today’s Xi’an), China. When he returned to Japan, he took with him tea seeds, a stone mortar with which to process tea, as well as the skills of processing tea by steaming, pounding and roasting. At that time, encouraged by the monks, the Japanese started to drink tea by Japanese tea set as people of the Tang Dynasty did They boiled cake tea, and added such condiments as sweet kudzu vines and ginger. Owing to the limited quantity of tea trees planted, only the royal family and a small number of monks drank tea at the time.

After the reign of Hirayasu, Japan made fewer contacts with China over almost 200 years from the Five Dynasties (907-960) to the Song and Liao dynasties. For some reasons, tea was stamped out in Japan, It was not until the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) that Japanese monk Eisai reintroduced tea into Japan.

When he was 14 years old, Eisai left home and was initiated into monkhood, studying in the Buddhist institute of the highest leaning dedicated to the Japanese Tiantai sect. At the age of 21, he was determined to study in China. In the fourth year (1168) of Qiandao during the reign of Emperor Xiaozong of the Southern Song Dynasty, Eisai started off in Mingzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang Province, traveled through famous mountains and visited magnificent temples south of the Yangtze River, paid respects to Master Xu'an of the Chan Sect at the Longevity Temple on the Tiantai Mountain, and moved to the Jingde Temple on the Tongshan Mountain with Master Xu'an. At that time tea drinking prevailed, and Eisai enjoyed the local customs. He lived in China for 24 years, and returned to Japan in the third year (1192) of Shaoxi during the reign of Guangzong of the Song Dynasty. Therefore, Eisai knew not only the general skills of Chinese tea art, but also the tea art of the Chan Sect. This is one of the major reasons why the Japanese tea art specially stresses Dhyana. After he returned to Japan, Eisai personally planted tea trees, and wrote Health Preserving by Drinking Tea, which absorbed the ideas of The Book of Tea by Lu Yu, and specially stressed such functions of tea as health care and cultivation of one's moral character. Eisai was the real founder of the Japanese tea art.

In the Yuan (12714368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties, Japanese monks continued to come to China. In particular, eminent Japanese monks mastered the tea-drinking skills of both the Ming Buddhist monks and the scholars, combined their skills, and created the Japanese tea art, which started to reach perfection. It can be seen from the above that the Japanese introduced, and then, according to their own national traits, improved Chinese tea art and the skills of planting, producing and drinking tea by Japanese teacup. It is not, therefore, a surprise Chat the Japanese retained the ancient Chinese tea art and formed a branch of the Chinese tea culture.

According to reliable records, tea was introduced from China into Korea during the period from 632 to 646. From then on, the Chinese custom of drinking tea and Chinese tea art were introduced into Korea. On the tablet inscription for Master Zhenjian, an eminent Korean monk (755-850) who set up the Double Stream Temple in Korea, was written, "If the Chinese tea is received again, put it into a stone pot and boil it with firewood."

Drinking tea became a ceremony in Korean temples during this period. The book Travels in the South by a Korean writer, who mastered the skills of making tea, reads "I had intended to boil tea to present the revered Xiao, but found no spring water. Suddenly the spring water in the rock crack gushed out, smelling sweet like milk. So I tried making tea with the spring water." It can be seen from this that Korean monks not only boiled tea in ceremonies, but also paid attention to tea art and the quality of water used to make tea. In 828 (the second year of Dahe during the reign of Emperor Wenzong of the Tang Dynasty), an envoy from Korea took tea seeds away with him from China.

Rom then on, the Koreans started to plant and produce tea. At present, Koreans produce more than 1.5 million kilograms of tea annually in over 20,000 mu (1,334 hactares) of major tea plantations.

In the Southern Song Dynasty, the Chinese did business with Arabia, Palestine, Italy, Japan, India and other countries. Foreign businessmen often traveled between ports of China. At that time, (Quanzhou, a major port opening to foreign countries, had frequent trade contacts with several Asian and African countries. Tea produced in Fujian Province was sold abroad in large quantities. In particular, Fengming Tea (todays Shiting Green Tea) produced in the Lotus Peak of Nan'an became a major product exported to South Asia, due to the fact that the tea helps digestion, diminishes inflammation, and increases the discharge of urine.

In the Ming Dynasty, 23ieng He made voyages to the Western world seven times, and traveled through Viet Nam, Java, India, Sri Lanka, the Arabian Peninsula and the eastern part of Africa, each time taking tea with him. At that time, tea drinking was popular in Southeast Asia.

The countries of Southeast Asia not only imported Chinese tea, but also introduced from China the skills for planting tea. Tea planting began in Indonesia in the 16th century, with the major plantations in Sumatra, to 1684 and 1731, Chinese tea seeds were introduced into Southeast Asia in large quantities. The year 1731, in articular, witnessed a remarkable success in the germination rate.

Tea was introduced to India by Tibetans. It is estimated that Indians started to get some idea of the skills of drinking Chinese tea in the Tang and Song dynasties. In 1780 and 1788 the East India Company imported some tea powder into India, which gradually became one of the big tea-producing countries.

It was of great importance that the countries of South Asia planted Chinese tea and formed the habit of drinking tea. This is because Chinese tea was exported by sea through these countries to the Mediterranean and European and African countries, and a tea route leading to the West developed after the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Through the countries of South Asia the Western countries imported the skills of planting and producing Chinese tea, produced large quantities of tea by virtue of the favorable natural conditions and the cheap labor force of Southeast Asia, and then transported the tea to Europe. This was much more convenient than the purchase of tea directly from China in the Ming Dynasty and the early Qing Dynasty, Therefore, the popularity of planting and drinking tea in South Asia not only reflected the extension of Chinese tea culture, but was also a prelude to the development awl spread of Chinese tea culture towards the West So further study of the custom of drinking tea in South Asia and its influence upon the West is a major requirement.