Stage 4: Wider reading :

Unit 6: Development Of Tea

Development Of Tea

The natural habitat of tea borders on Eastern Tibet, and in Tibet, tea was found to be used by Bogle and Manning last century in several forms: as brick tea;

as a thickish infusion with milk, butter and salt, even with Yak hairs or as a paste made with barley meal.

The latter is akin to the soups that preceded tea in China, and this may well have favoured its use in the first place.

Furthermore, the green leaves of the tea plant can substitute for green vegetables over a large part of the year in such a land, deficient in their supply, so that their vitamin content favours their medicinal use,especially in strong concoctions.

Early stories also indicate the use of strong concoctions to promote wakefulness during prolonged meditation and the Zen Buddhists of Japan still use strong concoctions in the tea ceremony.

Taken together, it seems highly likely that tea was used originally as a medicine, and found its way to China via Tibet as a thickish green soup.

Tea became a serious competitor of wine at this time, perhaps because it was cheaper, perhaps because it filled a social need.

Among the 20,000 manuscript scrolls obtained by Aurel Stein at Dunhuang from Wang YuanLu a Dialogue, or Chinese prose composition of dialectic character, was found.

It was (ca. -290) in the Dui Chu Wang Wen (A Reply to the Queries of the King of Chhu).

As such it appears to have enjoyed a considerable popularity amongst the inhabitants of Dunhuang, for no less than six copies were found, and this may readily be appreciated for its title was: "A dialogue between Mr Tea, Mr Wine"

It portrays in question and answer form, the advantages of tea and wine, and concludes with a verdict by Mr Water, that demands the enmity between the two be dropped, for they are brothers and must be so to the very end.

"In one's life there are only four great things, Earth, Water, Fire and Wind.".

If tea has no water, what would be its appearance?

If wine has no water, what would be its complexion?

Even so, I do not call myself the capable and sainted, and what need is there for both of you to argue about your merits?"

Thus, the Shi Lu Tang Pin, or sixteen boiling qualities, contains 16 short articles on the method of boiling water for tea.

There are three on attention to the instant of boiling, three on care in pouring out, five on the kettles to be employed, and five on the fuel used.

Lu Yu devoted a considerable part of his Cha Qing to such matters on water for the infusion of tea.

During the Ming, Xu XianZhong discusses sources of water, purity, flow, taste, temperature, quality, etc, and sets out the characteristics of water from 39 different sources.

The quality of water varied greatly, and this was no doubt very obvious to the northerner, who might well have experienced the variability of waters when traveling under desert conditions.

It was quite logical that the emphasis should have been placed here in the writings of Lu Yu and those that followed him.

Lu Yu showed a predilection for Taoist symbolism, for he "considered blue as the ideal colour for the tea-cup, as it lent additional greenness to the beverage, whereas white made it look pinkish and distasteful.

It was because he used brick-tea.

Later on, when the tea-masters of Song took to powdered tea, they preferred heavy bowls of blue-black and dark brown.

The Ming, with their steeped tea, rejoiced in light ware of white porcelain".