Chinese Tea Culture

China is the hometown of tea, which has several thousand years of history. Before Tang Dynasty, Chinese tea was exported by land and sea, first to Japan and Korea, then to India and Central Asia and, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, to the Arabian Peninsula. Not only is tea good for health, but it also help people clear their minds, therefore, many people likes drinking tea.
In my paper, I'm going to introduce Chinese tea in four parts, including the origin of Chinese tea, the varieties of Chinese tea, the efficacy tea and the tea drinking customs.


The seven things in the house are firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea.

1. The Origin of Chinese Tea

Tea is native to China, and Chinese tea culture has a long history. Originally tea was used as a medicine instead of a drink.
According to the legend, because the ancient people didn't know which plant was edible, Shennong tasted all the plants personally and was poisoned many times. It was tea that helped him get rid of the poisoning effect. That's the so-called The Holy Farmer Tasting Plants. Later the ancient Chinese got to know more and more about tea, and instead of being regarded as a medicine, it became a drink. Tea not only quenches one's thirst, but also helps reduce one's internal heat.
During Wei Jin Southern and Northern Dynasties, on one hand, gentries preferred tea than wine when exchange academics for tea could make them sober. On the other hand, Buddhism was introduced in China through the Silk Road, which publicized the agelessness by drinking tea.
Chinese tea reached its golden age in Tang and Song dynasties. In Tang dynasty, Lu Yu's The Tea Classic, systematically recorded the properties of tea trees; the traits of tealeaves; tea-growing, picking and making; tea-brewing techniques and tea drink ware; experiences with tea and so on. The manuscript also introduced the origins of tea as well as tea-related matters before the Tang Dynasty, labeling tea production areas at the time. The book is an important work of contribution to Chinese tea culture. In Song dynasty, as the development of teahouses and varieties of tea, the tea processing technology is more mature ever since.

2. Varieties of Chinese Tea

Tea is made from leaves plucked from tea trees. Due to different processing procedures, it results in green tea, red tea, oolong tea, white tea, yellow tea, etc. Apart from these, there are also date tea, ginseng tea, fruit tea, eight-treasure tea, lotus seed-heart tea, etc.
Green tea refers to tea made without being fermented. It's thus made because the tea liquid and tea leaves are greenish. Green tea can help people reduce their inner heat. Lushan yunwu tea is the most well-known green tea. Some people say that the green tea symbolizes the strong scholarly air of the Jiangnan (south of the Yangtze River) people, simple and elegant. (Yang min et al. Chinese Culture144)
Black (red) tea is another top-grade green tea. It has a feminine quality, bringing a sense of peace to people.
Oolong tea's leaves are green in the center and red at the edge. It symbolizes the wisdom of the old, rich and polished. Legend has it that a person named Wei was a devout believer in Buddhism, everyday he offered a cup of tea to Goddess Guanyin. One day, he found a tea tree with glistening tealeaves, and then he transplanted it in his own home. Wei regarded the tree as a special gift bestowed on him by Goddess Guanyin and named it “tieguanyin”. (Yang min et al. Chinese Culture145)
Yellow tea is non-fermented, non-rubbed, non-scented tea with natural fragrance. The most famous yellow tea is “yinzhen baihao”(silver needle with fine hair on them), which has a history of more than one thousand years. The tealeaves are silver in color and have fine white hair on them, with the tea liquid yellowish in color and sweet in taste. (Yang min et al. Chinese Culture146)

3. Efficacy of Tea

Tea can improve vision, clear the mind, and benefit diuretic functions and so on. Not only do the Chinese believe that having tea regularly can prolong life and benefit health, modern science has also proven that tea is a natural health drink good for the body.
Recently, it's reported that people can achieve facial cleaning, fat reducing and prevent cavities by drinking oolong tea.
Many people is costumed to drinking chrysanthemum tea in summer, because they believe that chrysanthemum tea is good at reducing fever, improving vision and resentencing radiation.
Jasmine tea can is good for stomachache and menstrual disorders as well as clearing the mind, improving sleep.
Honey tea is good at nourishing, moisturizing, stopping pain, etc.
Black tea is beneficial for body fat removal.
All in all, tea is good for improving people's inner world and health.

4. Tea drinking customs

A hostess serves tea at a traditional Chinese tea house. There are several special circumstances in which tea is prepared and consumed.

4.1. as a sign of respect
In Chinese society, the younger generation always shows its respect to the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Inviting and paying for their elders to go to restaurants for tea is a traditional activity on holidays. In the past, people of lower rank served tea to higher ranking people. Today, as Chinese society becomes more liberal, sometimes at home parents may pour a cup of tea for their children, or a boss may even pour tea for subordinates at restaurants. The lower ranking person should not expect the higher rank person to serve him or her tea in formal occasions, however.
4.2. For a family gathering

When sons and daughters leave home to work and get married, they may seldom visit their parents. As a result, parents may seldom meet their grandchildren. Going to restaurants and drinking tea, therefore, becomes an important activity for family gatherings. Every Sunday, Chinese restaurants are crowded, especially when people celebrate festivals. This phenomenon reflects Chinese family values.

4.3. To apologize

In Chinese culture, people make serious apologies to others by pouring tea for them. For example, children serving tea to their parents is a sign of regret and submission.

4.4 To express thanks to your elders on one's wedding day

In the traditional Chinese marriage ceremony, both the bride and groom kneel in front of their parents and serve them tea. That is a way to express their gratitude. In front of their parents, it is a practice for the married couple to say, "Thank you for bringing us up. Now we are getting married. We owe it all to you." The parents will usually drink a small portion of the tea and then give them a red envelope, which symbolizes good luck. Another variant is for the to-be daughter-in-law to serve tea to her to-be parents-in-law, symbolizing that she is to become a part of the latter's family.

4.5. To connect large families on wedding days
The tea ceremony during weddings also serves as a means for both parties in the wedding to meet with members of the other family. As Chinese families can be rather extended, one or two hundred people, it is entirely possible during a courtship to not have been introduced to someone. This was particularly true in older generations where the patriarch may have had more than one wife and not all family members were always on good terms. As such, during the tea ceremony, the couple would serve tea to all family members and call them by their official title. Drinking the tea symbolized acceptance into the family. Refusal to drink would symbolize opposition to the wedding and is quite unheard of since it would result in a loss of "face". Older relations so introduced would give a red envelope to the matrimonial couple while the couple would be expected to give a red envelope to younger, unmarried relations.

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