Tea Drinking In The Tang Dynasty
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Tea Drinking In The Tang Dynasty

Tea Drinking Methods Beginning to Take Shape in the Tang Dynasty

From south west China along the Yangtze River, tea entered the Tang Dynasty when Lu Yu lived, during which time it went through barbaric, prosperous and declining stages over thousands of years.

The Tang Dynasty was in the middle stages of the long feudal society, where national power was the most strong, the economy the most developed and the culture the most flourishing. As a great power in that world, the Tang Dynasty had a developed network of communication and its political and cultural influence was far beyond its territory.

Historical literature reads that tea became popular in the Tang Dynasty and was in vogue in the Song Dynasty. It took about 600 years from the Sui Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty; the most flourishing period of tea culture. Tea production was greatly promoted because of the development of the feudal economy and the increase in social productivity. Tea as a major commodity entered in the daily life of common people. A lot of famous teas and tribute teas appeared then. It was in this period that there appeared books on tea, dealing in tea and taxes on tea. Tea drinking customs and techniques began to take shape in the Tang Dynasty and they had great influence on the later ages. The publication of the "Tea Classic" written by Lu Yu had an epoch-making significance on the development of Chinese tea culture.

Upsurge in Tea of the Tang Dynasty

During the Tang Dynasty, tea drinking customs spread quickly in the north of China on the basis of development in south China. The flourishing and influences of Buddhism were important factors in promoting tea drinking customs to spread from the South to the North of China. This was fully reflected in the "What Feng heard and saw" written by Feng Yan of Tang Dynasty. During the Kaiyuan period of Tang, a devil subduing master from Lingyan Temple of Taishan Mountain subscribed to Chan (Buddhism) in a big way. Those who studied Chan or sat in meditation were required neither to sleep nor to eat food at night, but all of them could drink tea. So tea brewing and drinking could be seen every where. It gradually became a custom in the Buddhist circle because of each other's following.

Another important factor for the flourishing of tea affairs was the appearance of tribute teas for imperial court use. Tea drinking was popular in the imperial court of the Tang period and there were many forms of tea ceremonies and tea parties. The imperial court attached great importance to tea production. In the Dali fifth year of Tang (A.D. 770), Emperor Tang Daizong had Guanpei (Governmental baking) established on Guzhushan Mountain in Changxing of Zhejiang (a special production base for plucking and processing tea for imperial court use) and he instructed governors of Huzhou and Changzhou states to supervise the processing of tribute teas and to be in charge of transporting the Zisun tea, Yangxian tea and Jinsha spring water to the court. There was a saying that various herbals had no courage to bloom before the emperor could taste the Yangxian tea. Once the new tea was plucked and processed, it should be transported around the clock to the capital city Chang'an for hosting a "Qingming Banquet". It was reflected by poem of Li Ying of the Tang period that walk four thousand li, be sure to catch the Qingming Banquet.

Tea Affairs of the Tang's People

The cake tea processing method was the major tea manufacturing method in the Tang Dynasty. The tea soup cooking with dressings was changed into pure tea brewing because of Lu Yu's advocation after the middle Tang. The plucked tea leaf was steamed in a steamer, ground in a mortar, compressed into cake, dried and strung with rind of reed or bamboo. The cake tea was ground into powder, shifted and cooked in a caldron before drinking.

Painting of Lanting Pictrue Obtained by Xiao Yi drawn by Yan Liben was a precious reference about tea cooking by people of the Tang Dynasty, were a typical scene of tea cooking by people of the Tang Dynasty is shown.

A series of tea sets used by the imperial family were unearthed in the underground palace of Famen Temple pagoda in Fufeng of Shaanxi in May 1985. It confirmed the existence of Lu Yu's tea ceremony. "30% for thirst quenching and 70% for tasting". The greater contribution of Tang's tea men whom Lu Yu represented was that they advocated technical skills of tea tasting and accomplished the transformation from the rough thirst-quenching drinking to artistic, fine tasting so that tea tasting became a sophisticated and cultural activity.

In his Tea Classic, Lu Yu advocated a tea theory, from emphasis on cooking to emphasis on tasting , including the utensils and the complete procedure he wanted a tea drinker to have a realm of calm, to concentrate attention on the tea, to make the tea tasting activity become a medium of cultivating one's behavior and moral character as well as molding one's temperament. It created a precedent for Chinese tea ceremony and set a model for the development of tea culture in later ages.

Adapted from: www.cnteainfo.com

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