Tea in the Tang Dynasty
The most popular and oldest beverage in the world is Tea. In today`s world after water, tea is considered to be the most preferred beverage. One of the important feature in Chinese culture since long time has been Tea drinking. It is being told and notified that Tea is one of the seven key basic necessities in Chinese culture including rice, salt, oil, soy sauce, fuel & vinegar.
Currently almost 25 countries plant tea as a crop which leads to nearly 1,500 varieties of tea for us to select from. Tea is considered as the national drink of China and they are also the primary producers of the same.
Invention of Tea
According to Medonkey (2011) in 2737 BC Chinese ruler Shen Nong accidentally invented tea. He was a scholar, innovative scientist, had passion towards art and was also an herbalist. The emperor strongly had a belief that one of the factors for a good health was to drink boiled water. During Shen Nong`s ruling, drinking boiled water for hygienic precaution was followed by all of his servants and subjects.
Tea in Tang Dynasty
During the development in south China, Tea drinking habit quickly spread in north China in Tang Dynasty. Few of the key reasons for promoting tea drinking custom which spread from South China to North China was because of the influences of Buddhism which was reflected in a book by name “What Feng heard and saw” which was written by Feng Yan who belonged to the Tang Dynasty. Subscription to Chan (Buddhism) happened in a big way when a devil subdued the master from Lingyan Temple of Taishan Mountain during Kaiyun period. Whoever did meditation or understood Chan can drink tea and were not required to sleep or eat food during the nights. Thus drinking of tea and brewing was seen all over. Later because of the following in the Buddhist circle slowly tea drinking had become a custom (Quah & Lim, 2012).
Also one of the key reasons for the tea drinking to flourish was the usage of the same in the imperial courts. Multiple tea parties and ceremonies during the Tang period lead to the popularity of tea drinking. Tea production gained importance because of the attachment with the imperial court. Evans (1992) stated that, processing methodology of cake tea was the primary method of tea manufacturing during Tang Dynasty. After plucking the Tea leaf the same was steamed in a steamer, grounded in mortar, condensed into a cake and then after drying it is strung with bamboo or rind of reed. Before drinking, the cake tea was powdered, moved and cooked in a caldron as stated (Cotterell, 2007).
Lu Yu in his tea theory from his Tea Classics clearly stated, the importance of cooking to tasting that includes the utensils and the overall process which he felt a tea drinker should have for him to maintain calm, to concentrate on the tea, to mold one`s temperament, and to cultivate one`s behavior along with character during the activity of tea tasting. This lead as a precedent for the Chinese tea ceremony and also created a model for the enhancement of tea custom in later ages (Abramson, 2008).
James, (n.d.) stated that, in the initial period tea was meant as a medicine in China. Only when the emperors, priests and high class people began to drink tea during the 6th century it was considered as refreshment. Lu Wu a Buddhist priest in 760 was the first person in the world to write a book on tea (Gupta et al., 2002). The book had the procedure on how to make the tea, the right temperature required to heat the water along with the list of utensils required. Drinking tea had become a habit for all over the years. Maintaining collection of tea varieties had become a social status amongst the high class people and the intellectuals.
Based on the above discussions one can easily conclude that Tea that was accidentally invented during the Tang Dynasty like its aroma soon spread to capture the world with the efforts of the Chinese. During the rule of Tang Dynasty tea soon became part of the Chinese culture as it not only became a reason for social and royal gathering but also acquired a prominent place in the Chinese art and culture and also became a symbol of social status. The spread of the tea can be attributed to the Buddhists culture where it was considered as a drink that would keep the followers away from food and sleep.
Abramson, Marc S. (2008), Ethnic Identity in Tang China, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978-0-8122-4052-8
Cotterell, Arthur (2007), The Imperial Capitals of China: An Inside View of the Celestial Empire, London: Pimlico, ISBN 978-1-84595-009-5
Evans, J. C., (1992). Tea in china: The history of china`s national drink. Contributions to the Study of World History,, (33), doi: ISSN: 0885-9159, ISBN 0-313-28049-5
Gupta, S., Saha, B., and A.K. GIRI. (2002). Comparative antimutagenic and anticlastogenic effects of green tea and black tea: A review. Mutation Research 512:37-65.
James, A. B. (n.d.). Buddhist laymen and tea during the tang dynasty (618 – 907). Retrieved from http://www.cbs.columbia.edu/Benn_handout.pdf
Medonkey. (2011). Tea culture. Anti Essay. Retrieved from http://www.antiessays.com/free-essays/78189.html
Quah, H. T., & Lim, T. W. (2012). Tea drinking in the tang dynasty. Retrieved from http://www.easterntea.com/tea/tang.htm