The Classic of Tea
According to Tea Lore, Lu Yu was an orphan of Jinling county (now Tianmen county in Hubei province) who was adopted by a Buddhist monk of the Dragon Cloud Monastery. He refused to take up the monastic robes and was assigned menial jobs by his stepfather. Lu Yu ran away and joined the circus as a clown. At age 14, Lu Yu was discovered by the local governor Li Qiwu who offered Lu Yu the use of his library and the opportunity to study with a teacher. During the An Lushan and Shi Siming rebellion period, Lu Yu retired to Shaoqi (now Wuxing county, Zhejiang). During this period, Lu Yu made friends with many literati, including the calligrapher Yan Zhenqing and the poet Huang Pu Zheng and wrote his masterpiece: Ch'a Ching.
For Lu Yu, tea symbolized the harmony and mysterious unity of the Universe. "He invested the Ch'a Ching with the concept that dominated the religious thought of his age, whether Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian: to see in the particular an expression of the universal" (Shapira, et al., 150).
Huang Fuzeng's poem about Lu Yu
Saw Lu Yu off to Pick Tea
Thousand mountains greeted my departing friend
When spring tea blossoming again
With indepth knowledge in picking tea
Through morning mist or crimson evening clouds
His solitary journey is my envy
Rendezvous in a temple of a remote mountain
We enjoyed picnic by a clear pebble fountain
In this silent night
Lit up a candle light
I knocked a marble bell for chime
While deep in thought for old time.
Content of the Tea Classic
Lu Yu's Tea Classic was the earliest treatise on tea in the world. It could be said the most famous work on tea yet at only about 7000 Chinese characters the book is not large. Written in the literary language of the Tang Dynasty, a condensed, refined and poetic style of Chinese. The "Tea Classic" is made of "Three Scrolls Ten Chapters (三卷十章)"; each chapter is briefly explained below.
One: Origin (一之源)
This chapter expounds the mythological origins of tea in China. It also contains a horticultural description of the tea plant and its proper planting as well as some etymological speculation. The ancient giant tea tree in Bashan Xiachuan area. Features and characteristics of tea tree. The Chinese character "chá" and five other Chinese characters for tea. Characteristics of quality tea leaves, soils and topography compared to tea quality. Benefits of good teas and bad teas. The geographical region, harvest seasons and growing methods in relation to tea quality.
Two: Tools (二之具)
This chapter describes fifteen tools for picking, steaming, pressing, drying and storage of tea leaves and cake. Tools for making compressed tea brick, construction and recommended materials, specifications and instructions for these tools.
Three: Making (三之造)
This chapter details the recommended procedures for the production of tea cake. The right time of the day, season and climate for plucking. Drying and storing of collected tea. Texture and features of quality brick tea . Understanding process methods and how to identify quality brick tea.
Four: Utensils (四之器)
This chapter describes twenty eight items used in the brewing and drinking of tea, including specifications and instructions, construction and recommended materials. The effect of these utensils to tea brew. Lu Yu’s Tea Ware:
- crushing block (砧椎)
- brazier (風爐)
- charcoal basket (炭筥)
- charcoal mallet (炭檛)
- fire chopsticks (火筴)
- cauldron (鍑)
- cauldron stand (交床)
- tea tongs (夾)
- paper wallet (紙囊)
- crushing roller (碾)
- sieve box (羅合)
- tea holder (則)
- water vessel (水方)
- water filter bag (漉水囊)
- gourd scooper (瓢)
- bamboo tongs (竹夾)
- salt container (鹺簋)
- boiled water vessel (熟盂)
- bowl (碗)
- bowl basket (畚)
- brush (劄)
- water basin (滌方)
- spent tea basin (滓方)
- tea cloth (巾)
- utensil table (具列)
- utensil basket (都籃)
Five: Boiling (五之煮)
This chapter enumerates the guidelines for the proper preparation of tea. 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 the Tang Dynasty.
Six: Drinking (六之飲)
This chapter describes the various properties of tea, the history of tea drinking and the various types of tea known in 8th century China. Reasons for drinking tea, how or when tea drinking started and its progress through the 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.
Seven: History (七之事)
This chapter gives various anecdotes about the history of tea in Chinese records, from Shennong through the Tang Dynasty. Begin with an index list of influential individuals related to tea before the Tang Dynasty. A collection of literature 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.
Eight: Growing Regions (八之出)
This chapter ranks the eight tea producing regions in China. Tea producing areas in Tang China, grading and comparison of tea quality from these areas.
Nine: Simplify (九之略)
This chapter lists those procedures that may be omitted and under what circumstances. 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.
Ten: Pictorialize (十之圖)
This chapter consists of how to transfer the contents onto placards or large scrolls for hanging on the wall for quick references. The silk scrolls that provide an abbreviated version of the previous nine chapters.
- The Classic of Tea (ISBN 0-316-53450-1); Lu, Yu; Intro & Translation By Francis Ross Carpenter, Illustrated by Hitz, Demi;Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co. 1974
- The Classic of Tea: Origins & Rituals (ISBN 0-88001-416-4); Lu, Yu; Translated by Carpenter, Francis Ross. Preface by Carpenter;New York, New York, U.S.A.: Ecco Press. 1995
- The Classic of Tea in All about tea (ISBN 1-57898-652-4); Lu, Yu; Translation of the University of London library copy of Cha Ching. Acknowledgments for providing the translation: Sir Edward Denison Ross and Mr Z. L. Yih (translator). Published on pages 13 to 22 of All about tea by William H. Ukers vol. 1. Reprinted by Martino Publishing, 2007 (original publication: New York: Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Co, 1935).