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Lu Yu, the Saint of Tea

Chinese people always attach the same importance to the quality of their material and their spiritual lives. For instance, they eat and drink to satisfy their physiological requirements, and to refresh and form their minds as well. Drinking alcohol, always regarded as etiquette at banquets and sacrificial ceremonies, is also customary for soldiers who are to go into battle to show their heroism and boldness. Chinese people are particular about the aroma, color and taste of their food dishes, which are taken not only to fill the stomach, but also as objects with aesthetic value.
So naturally, tea, a drink specially advocated by intellectuals, became a material full of cultural and ideological meaning. It was the Tang people who further developed the art of making and drinking tea, imbuing the whole process with the rhyme of a poem and making the drinker meditate on the philosophy of life. Lu Yu, the first person who perfected the art of tea, created the tea ceremony and promoted tea culture, was addressed respectfully as the "Saint of Tea" in Chinese history.

Lu Yu, born at Jingling, Fuzhou (present-day Tianmen County in Hubei Province), lived during Tang's flourishing ages of Kaiyuan and Tianbao. An orphan abandoned by his parents, he was taken in by Jigong, an elderly eminent Buddhist, and brought up in a temple named Longgai. Jigong loved tea very much and grew many tea plants around the temple. Little Lu Yu learned many arts of cultivating and making tea from Jigong, and gradually became an expert. According to legend, once when Jigong was called up to teach Buddhism at the imperial court, he felt quite disappointed at the tea there. But one day he was suddenly overjoyed after taking several sips of tea, saying, "Ah, it's made by my disciple Lu Yu. He's come." It was true. Lu Yu had been specially summoned to make tea for him.
Though growing up in a Buddhist temple, Lu Yu was more interested in Confucianism. The reclusive life in a lonely temple was too much for him. So he managed to flee away and join a theatrical troupe. As he was clever, he not only acted but also wrote many humorous plays. Later he won the recognition of Li Qiwu, prefect of Jingling, who helped him to go to nearby Mount Tianmen to learn Confucianism from an old scholar. But the good times did not last long. Lu Yu's study was interrupted by An Lushan's Revolt in the north, which drove the emperor Tang Xuanzong south to Sichuan from the capital Chang'an. Lu Yu was forced to go with the fugitives to Huzhou, a tea-growing area in the south. There he collected much useful information about the cultivation, picking and baking of tea, and also made friends with the most famous poets, monks, calligraphers and statesmen of the period through their mutual love of tea. On the basis of profound discussion with his friends on the art of making and drinking tea and his own long-term exploration of the theory of tea culture, Lu Yu wrote The Book of Tea, the first treatise on tea and tea culture in the world.

The Book of Tea by Lu Yu and the Tea Culture in the Tang Dynasty
Cha Jing - The Classic of Tea

The original Cha Jing consisted of 3 books and 10 chapters; Book 1 of Cha Jing consisted the first 3 chapters, Cha Jing book 2 consisted of chapter 4 only, Cha Jing book 3 consisted of chapters 5 to 10. After the Tang Dynasty Cha Jing was bound into a single book and the three volumes version was no longer available.

In the ten chapters of Cha Jing written over a thousand years ago, it covers a series of subjects ranging from tea culture, tea art, tea history, botany, biology, agriculture, medicine, geography, hydrology, pottery, tea farming machinery to tea production.

The text in Cha Jing is surprisingly sparse containing about 55 pages and just over 7000 Chinese characters. This is because Cha Jing was written in a traditional classic literary language called Wen Yan Wen, a highly condensed, refined and poetic styled written Chinese often used by scholars and poets. Unfortunately today there are not many people who fully understand or appreciate this beautiful classic literary language.

Below is a quick run-down on the contents of each of the 10 chapters in Cha Jing;

Cha Jing; Chapter 1. Source of tea.

The ancient giant tea tree in Bashan Xiachuan area. Features and characteristics of tea tree. The Chinese character CHA and five other Chinese characters that also mean tea. Features and characteristics of quality tea leaves. Soil and topography versus tea quality. Benefits of good tea and tea to avoid. The influence of geographical region, plucking seasons and cultivation methods in relation to tea quality.

Cha Jing; Chapter 2. Tools for tea.

Describes 15 tools and equipments for cultivation, harvesting, production and processing of tea. Tools for making compressed tea brick, construction and recommended materials, specifications and instructions for these tools.

Cha Jing; Chapter 3. Tea processes.

The right time of the day, season and climate for plucking tea leaves. Drying and storing of collected tea. Texture and features of quality tea brick. Understanding process methods and how to identify quality tea brick.

Cha Jing; Chapter 4. Tea-ware and Utensils.

This chapter is a user manual on 25 utensils for brewing tea including specifications and instructions, construction and recommended materials. The effect of these utensils to tea brew.

Cha Jing: Chapter 5. Tea making.

Methods and steps for baking tea brick before brewing, storage of baked tea brick. Types of water and water quality, things to look out for and timing of boiling water. Steps and methods in preparing tea. (The brewing methods are designed for tea of Tang period.)

Cha Jing; Chapter 6. Tea drinking.

Reasons for drinking tea, how or when tea drinking started and its progress to Tang Dynasty. Various types of tea and their drinking methods. Tea should be drunk pure without adding any ingredients to it, good tea brew should begin with careful preparation from cultivation to brewing. Methods of sharing tea with acquaintance.

Cha Jing; Chapter 7. Tea records.

Begin with an index list of influential individuals related to tea before the Tang period. A collection of literatures and historical records on tea legends and famous people, folklore and customs, tea poems and tea stories, health benefits of tea in recorded medical books, tea as medical herb and tea cure formula, tea usage in cooking and tea recipes.

Cha Jing; Chapter 8. Tea producing areas.

Tea producing areas in Tang China, grading and comparison of tea quality from these areas.

Cha Jing; Chapter 9. Handy methods for tea.

Tools and methods that can be excluded in cultivation and processing under abnormal conditions. Tea utensils and brewing methods that can be simplified or improvised under various outdoor and unusual habitat environments.

Cha Jing; Chapter 10. Illustrating Cha Jing on Placard.

How to transfer Cha Jing onto placards or large scrolls for hanging on the wall for quick references.

The Book of Tea is not only a treatise on tea, but also a reflective synthesis of natural and social sciences and the material and ideological world. It creates an art of the process of drinking tea, including its baking, water selection, the display of teasets and drinking, all of which are imbued with an aesthetic atmosphere. The book also accentuates the moral factor in the art of tea. Lu Yu held that people who loved drinking tea should excel in virtue. He made the golden mean of Confucianists, the perseverence of Buddhists in seeking truth and the Taoists' theory that man is an integral part of nature all blend harmoniously in the process of drinking tea, allowing the drinker to attain mental purity in the aroma of tea. The Book of Tea is regarded as the authoritative summary of Chinese tea culture before the mid-Tang period. Later Tang thinkers continued to write works on tea culture, such as the Sixteen Varieties of Tea by Su Yi, which added new ideas to the art of tea, and the Comments on the Waters for Making Tea by Zhang Youxin, which detailed the value of the water in the rivers, springs, pools and lakes of the whole country. Liu Zhenliang, a eunuch who had reached a high level of attainment in tea culture, even summarized the ten virtues of tea. However, these thinkers were only experts standing on the shoulders of Lu Yu, who pioneered tea culture and became the saint of tea in the eye of later generations. Late in the Tang Dynasty Lu Yu was posthumously called the God of Tea. In China gods did not come from Heaven, but were seen as the spirits of great people. Lu Yu, an eminent contributor to the culture of tea, was undoubtedly worthy of the title.

Lu Yu is the foremost important person in the developing, promoting of tea culture and tea industries. Here is a quote from Professor Chen Shidao of Song Dynasty(960-1279) who wrote in the Foreword for the Song reprint of Cha Jing: 'The first treatise on tea was originated from Lu Yu. The systematic development of tea industries and tea culture also initiated by Lu Yu. Thus in regards to tea, Lu Yu's noble merits and unparalleled achievements are irrefutable facts'.

Today Lu Yu is often known as the patron Saint of Tea, the founder father of tea art. Sometimes also referred as sage of tea by many scholars and even worshipped by many in the tea industries as the deity of tea or tea god. In reality Lu Yu's life was never god or fairy tale like. Lu Yu worked on his dream and worked towards achieving it just like any other notable man. However Lu Yu's infinite enthusiasm and obsession in tea had created a lot of voluntary support and help along his way!

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