Following the Way of Tea
The simplicity of tea is a stark contrast to its deep meaning and significance in Chinese philosophy. The practice of drinking tea started in ancient China and then spread throughout the world. Despite its global popularity, the Chinese way of tea is the most culturally rich.
An Accidental Discovery
Historical accounts state that the first tea was ‘brewed’ in 2737 BC. While resting during one of his trips around the kingdom, Emperor Shen Nong’s servants boiled water for him to drink.
While doing so, some dried leaves near the pot fall into the liquid. The result was a brown liquid that the emperor curiously drank and found to be refreshing.
He pursued various ways of growing and enjoying tea throughout the years. Tea became an essential part of Chinese life, putting it on the same plane as firewood and rice.
In the Spring and Autumn Period, the medicinal benefits of tea was discovered. This further increased its popularity in China and in other parts of the world too.
Refreshing the Body and Spirit
People drank tea not only to quench their thirst but to nourish the spirit as well. The tea culture, referred to as ‘cha wenhua,’ went hand in hand with such philosophies and ideologies as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
Tea was given as religious offerings in the Western Zhou Dynasty. It was also used as a meditation drink for monks in the Three Kingdoms and the Northern and Southern Dynasties.
The Chinese way of tea is said to result in clarity of mind and joy of spirit. As people participated in tea making ceremonies and rituals, they become more attuned to their environment and to their inner spirit.
Chinese tea is usually made following the gongfu cha method using Yixing teapots and other tools. All the steps and implements used in making tea are believed to enhance the flavour of the resulting brew.
These traditional practices have been passed on from generation to generation. They still continue to be part of Chinese life to this day.
Modern Way of Tea
Traditional tea cultivation, preparation, and consumption are detailed and documented in the book Tea Classics by China’s tea sage, Lu Yu. The book also lists the essential tea wares and describes the occasions when they are to be used.
The way of tea is used to convey respect for the elders, to reconnect with family and friends, to apologize, and to show gratitude among others. Despite the modern times, traditional families observe the same basic rules in tea preparation and consumption.
Still generally faithful to tea tradition, tea ceremonies and rituals are held in various locations in Modern China for locals and visitors alike. Tea shops, in fact, are one of the more popular destinations for tourists.
These destinations, considered to be entertainment spots these days, give people a glimpse and feel of the tradition of drinking tea as a way to express morality and connect with the spirit. Through these places, people today can experience the way of tea and gain its benefits like the ancient Chinese did.