sillybearhappyhoneyeater

a thread about tea (another one lol)

Recommended Posts

I think this deserves its own thread, so I've decided to branch out of the cha gongfu thread to talk about something specific to tea in China.

 

 

I've personally been studying tea ceremony/the way of tea in China for about six years.  I know that isn't a very long time, but I've been a pretty serious student and have visited many of the most important and also some lesser known places specializing in tea and pottery.

One thing I have come to recognize and something I want to address with this thread is the very complex and often misunderstood relationship between tea and Chinese religion.

Last year, a very good book called Tea in China by James L Benn was released by the Hawaii University Press, I strongly encourage anyone wanting to expand their understanding of tea as something related to Buddhism and Daoism to read this book, since it is the definitive work on this subject.

 

My personal experience in researching modern and historical tea culture has been that many of the ideas surrounding a Buddhist tea culture are badly mixed up with romanticism, both Chinese and Western.

Many people here will know the phrase "Tea and Zen, one taste," and certainly it would be incorrect to say that tea has no relationship with religion in China.   Having said that, the relationship is considerably different and more practical than most people assume it to be.

Aside from the two great sages of tea, Jiao Ran and Lu Yu, there were not very many people trying to put tea and Buddhism together in medieval Chinese writing, at least not in the practical sense.  There are however many writers who discuss drinking tea at Buddhist shrines, or even the spiritual effects of drinking a very good bowl of mo cha (Chinese historical matcha).   What is sorely missing is a Buddhist or Daoist classic on tea culture, leading me to strongly believe that the relationship between tea and religion is not a spiritual one, but rather a monetary one.

 

Some of the earliest tea producing mountains in China were monastic in nature, and the monks there produced and sold tea, just as monks in Europe make and sell various types of classical beer.

The purpose of selling tea was to serve as a way to get tourists to give money to the temples and historically speaking, it drove tourism.   As a modern person, it may seem very funny to imagine medieval Chinese tourism, but in ancient China it was quite common.  So common in fact that Wang Chongyong wrote an article in his document "Wang Chongyang fifteen upright discussion," about why it is better to travel alone to find a monk to teach you the Dao than to meet up with friends, get drunk and look at flowers (Chongyang zushi was actually a huge fan of da song guan chrysanthemum's, which grew in the area he erected one of his temples in Kaifeng Henan. These crysanthemum's make a great flower tea which lowers body heat among other things).

Tea tourism was just as much of a thing in ancient China is it is today.

 

In terms of monks drinking tea to meditate, the purpose was not one of internal alchemy, it was more likely because the caffeine helped them stay awake during long hours of meditation.  As far as I know, this is not recorded in Chinese history, but does have some record in Japanese monastic histories.

Tea and alchemy are quite different, and I have personally done considerable research to try to find out if they have any connections.

My current understanding is that modern Cha Dao tea ceremony in both Japan and Taiwan were invented in order to help people practice "Xing gong," or consciousness practice.   The individual movements of these tea ceremonies are designed to calm the mind and the caffeine and l-theonine in the tea also does much to slightly alter regular consciousness.   Modern tea ceremony is a type of meditation practice, although perhaps it is more comparable to Qi gong and calligraphy than it is to neidan and zazen.

 

The fact of the mater is that the ancient Chinese tea ceremonies of the tang and song dynasty were lost after the Mongol invasion and that by the time of the invention of the tea pot in the Ming, tea was considered as a naturalized practice and not its own art with its own methods.

 

When we consider tea from the perspective of serious meditation practice, it should best be considered as one of the "Small arts and side doors,"  and can't be viewed as a serious route to collecting elixir and refining the foetus.  This doesn't mean it can't help you cultivate yourself, just that it shouldn't be treated as the main feature.  just as there are very few masters who attained enlightenment by doing taijiquan alone, there are also very few who do so using tea alone.

 

These days there is some popular argument that tea from ancient pu'er bushes create a special kind of Qi in the body that can cause alchemical effects, and while there is some basis in truth to this (the tea can open your meridians, not just pu'er, but many kinds, it can be quite shocking the first time),  this particular type of Qi is post heaven qi and has no relationship with the "opening of the mystery gate," which is the real basis of neidan.  it can be classified in the same genre as Qi that is taken in from eating healthy food, sunlight, breathing etc...   Again, it is of value to practice, just as any aspect of healthy life style is.  

on the other hand, it is important to recognize that the only currently existing tea self cultivation cults existing today were all started by americans, such as Mr.Wu De of the global tea sage hut.

These people have decided to try to go back to some imagined historical epoch in which tea was a primary method of self cultivation, and in my personal opinion (again, i don't expect everyone will agree with me here), they are misleading their students.   One of the really important things to remember about Chinese culture is that most things that were worth writing down were recorded for posterity.  Tea really has no classics which are dedicated to meditative self cultivation, but instead, the many classics of tea are all focused on either agricultural or provisions regarding quality of tea.   Most ancient tea classics are either teaching how to properly grow and make the stuff, or how to buy real tea and not get ripped off.   This is a very important distinction, because it shows that the ancient understanding of tea in China is actually quite similar to the modern understanding.  There are documents dating back to the Ming dynasty that discuss how much fake Long Jing tea is grown around Hangzhou and how to avoid it.  Anyone who has ever learned about Longjing tea will surely sigh and empathise with the sentiments expressed in that article.

 

The reason why I make threads like this is to try to put out more truth into the community.  It actually isn't fun a lot of the time, because it ruffles feathers and in some tea communities has actually gotten me attacked by business people who have narratives (and profits) to protect.  There are two things I'm really interested in though, one is tea and the other is meditation, and I feel that we need to be engaging in a lot more well researched and honest talk about these things, not just superstitious and romantic posturing.

I'm happy for everyone to share here, and if you disagree with anything I've said, I'm happy to hear your opinions.  If it turns out I was wrong and you were right, I'll amend this post to reflect on the information you have shared.

 

I hope everyone is enjoying their day and that you have a fruitful and beneficial fall season full of warmth, kindness, and love.  :) :) :)

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In China we visited a famous tea place in Shanghai set in a park. We took part in the tea ceremony and bought a beautiful tea pot and several teas-including one which is a flower. I do know one thing, it definitely cleans out the kidneys.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
On 10/23/2016 at 1:50 PM, sillybearhappyhoneyeater said:

I think this deserves its own thread, so I've decided to branch out of the cha gongfu thread to talk about something specific to tea in China.

 

 

I've personally been studying tea ceremony/the way of tea in China for about six years.  I know that isn't a very long time, but I've been a pretty serious student and have visited many of the most important and also some lesser known places specializing in tea and pottery.

One thing I have come to recognize and something I want to address with this thread is the very complex and often misunderstood relationship between tea and Chinese religion.

Last year, a very good book called Tea in China by James L Benn was released by the Hawaii University Press, I strongly encourage anyone wanting to expand their understanding of tea as something related to Buddhism and Daoism to read this book, since it is the definitive work on this subject.

 

My personal experience in researching modern and historical tea culture has been that many of the ideas surrounding a Buddhist tea culture are badly mixed up with romanticism, both Chinese and Western.

Many people here will know the phrase "Tea and Zen, one taste," and certainly it would be incorrect to say that tea has no relationship with religion in China.   Having said that, the relationship is considerably different and more practical than most people assume it to be.

Aside from the two great sages of tea, Jiao Ran and Lu Yu, there were not very many people trying to put tea and Buddhism together in medieval Chinese writing, at least not in the practical sense.  There are however many writers who discuss drinking tea at Buddhist shrines, or even the spiritual effects of drinking a very good bowl of mo cha (Chinese historical matcha).   What is sorely missing is a Buddhist or Daoist classic on tea culture, leading me to strongly believe that the relationship between tea and religion is not a spiritual one, but rather a monetary one.

 

Some of the earliest tea producing mountains in China were monastic in nature, and the monks there produced and sold tea, just as monks in Europe make and sell various types of classical beer.

The purpose of selling tea was to serve as a way to get tourists to give money to the temples and historically speaking, it drove tourism.   As a modern person, it may seem very funny to imagine medieval Chinese tourism, but in ancient China it was quite common.  So common in fact that Wang Chongyong wrote an article in his document "Wang Chongyang fifteen upright discussion," about why it is better to travel alone to find a monk to teach you the Dao than to meet up with friends, get drunk and look at flowers (Chongyang zushi was actually a huge fan of da song guan chrysanthemum's, which grew in the area he erected one of his temples in Kaifeng Henan. These crysanthemum's make a great flower tea which lowers body heat among other things).

Tea tourism was just as much of a thing in ancient China is it is today.

 

In terms of monks drinking tea to meditate, the purpose was not one of internal alchemy, it was more likely because the caffeine helped them stay awake during long hours of meditation.  As far as I know, this is not recorded in Chinese history, but does have some record in Japanese monastic histories.

Tea and alchemy are quite different, and I have personally done considerable research to try to find out if they have any connections.

My current understanding is that modern Cha Dao tea ceremony in both Japan and Taiwan were invented in order to help people practice "Xing gong," or consciousness practice.   The individual movements of these tea ceremonies are designed to calm the mind and the caffeine and l-theonine in the tea also does much to slightly alter regular consciousness.   Modern tea ceremony is a type of meditation practice, although perhaps it is more comparable to Qi gong and calligraphy than it is to neidan and zazen.

 

The fact of the mater is that the ancient Chinese tea ceremonies of the tang and song dynasty were lost after the Mongol invasion and that by the time of the invention of the tea pot in the Ming, tea was considered as a naturalized practice and not its own art with its own methods.

 

When we consider tea from the perspective of serious meditation practice, it should best be considered as one of the "Small arts and side doors,"  and can't be viewed as a serious route to collecting elixir and refining the foetus.  This doesn't mean it can't help you cultivate yourself, just that it shouldn't be treated as the main feature.  just as there are very few masters who attained enlightenment by doing taijiquan alone, there are also very few who do so using tea alone.

 

These days there is some popular argument that tea from ancient pu'er bushes create a special kind of Qi in the body that can cause alchemical effects, and while there is some basis in truth to this (the tea can open your meridians, not just pu'er, but many kinds, it can be quite shocking the first time),  this particular type of Qi is post heaven qi and has no relationship with the "opening of the mystery gate," which is the real basis of neidan.  it can be classified in the same genre as Qi that is taken in from eating healthy food, sunlight, breathing etc...   Again, it is of value to practice, just as any aspect of healthy life style is.  

on the other hand, it is important to recognize that the only currently existing tea self cultivation cults existing today were all started by americans, such as Mr.Wu De of the global tea sage hut.

These people have decided to try to go back to some imagined historical epoch in which tea was a primary method of self cultivation, and in my personal opinion (again, i don't expect everyone will agree with me here), they are misleading their students.   One of the really important things to remember about Chinese culture is that most things that were worth writing down were recorded for posterity.  Tea really has no classics which are dedicated to meditative self cultivation, but instead, the many classics of tea are all focused on either agricultural or provisions regarding quality of tea.   Most ancient tea classics are either teaching how to properly grow and make the stuff, or how to buy real tea and not get ripped off.   This is a very important distinction, because it shows that the ancient understanding of tea in China is actually quite similar to the modern understanding.  There are documents dating back to the Ming dynasty that discuss how much fake Long Jing tea is grown around Hangzhou and how to avoid it.  Anyone who has ever learned about Longjing tea will surely sigh and empathise with the sentiments expressed in that article.

 

The reason why I make threads like this is to try to put out more truth into the community.  It actually isn't fun a lot of the time, because it ruffles feathers and in some tea communities has actually gotten me attacked by business people who have narratives (and profits) to protect.  There are two things I'm really interested in though, one is tea and the other is meditation, and I feel that we need to be engaging in a lot more well researched and honest talk about these things, not just superstitious and romantic posturing.

I'm happy for everyone to share here, and if you disagree with anything I've said, I'm happy to hear your opinions.  If it turns out I was wrong and you were right, I'll amend this post to reflect on the information you have shared.

 

I hope everyone is enjoying their day and that you have a fruitful and beneficial fall season full of warmth, kindness, and love.  :):):)

 

Somehow I don't think I was even aware that this was an issue.

 

 Also interested in what you said about calligraphy.

Edited by dmattwads

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites