The Classic of Tea, also known as The Cha Jing, is an ancient Chinese text written by the famous tea master Lu Yu during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). This book is considered one of the most comprehensive guides to tea culture, and it covers everything from the history of tea to the proper way to brew and serve tea.
History of The Classic of Tea
The Classic of Tea was written by Lu Yu during a time when tea was becoming increasingly popular in China. As a tea master, Lu Yu was deeply passionate about tea, and he spent many years studying and refining his knowledge of the drink. The result of his efforts was The Classic of Tea, which was first published in 780 CE.
The Classic of Tea was written in a time when tea was more than just a drink. It was a symbol of culture, etiquette, and social class. As such, Lu Yu’s book not only covers the proper way to brew and serve tea, but it also delves into the cultural significance of tea and its place in society.
Contents of The Classic of Tea
The “Tea Classic” is a remarkable piece of work that continues to have a profound influence on tea culture in China and beyond. Lu Yu’s insightful and poetic writing has helped to establish tea as an essential part of Chinese life, and his treatise remains an essential guide for those who seek to understand and appreciate this ancient beverage.
Lu Yu’s Tea Classic is the earliest treatise on tea in the world. It could be said that 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.
Chapter 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 chapter describes the ancient giant tea tree in Bashan Xiachuan area, features and characteristics of the tea tree, the Chinese character “chá” and five other Chinese characters for tea, the characteristics of quality tea leaves, soils and topography compared to tea quality, and the benefits of good and bad teas. The chapter also explores the geographical region, harvest seasons and growing methods in relation to tea quality.
Chapter Two: Tools (二之具)
This chapter describes fifteen tools for picking, steaming, pressing, drying, and storage of tea leaves and cake. It covers tools for making compressed tea brick, construction and recommended materials, specifications, and instructions for these tools.
Chapter Three: Making (三之造)
This chapter details the recommended procedures for the production of tea cake. It covers the right time of the day, season, and climate for plucking, drying and storing of collected tea, texture and features of quality brick tea, and understanding process methods and how to identify quality brick tea.
Chapter 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 chapter also explores the effect of these utensils on tea brew.
Chapter Five: Boiling (五之煮)
This chapter enumerates the guidelines for the proper preparation of tea. It covers 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. The chapter also explains steps and methods in preparing tea. The brewing methods are designed for tea of the Tang Dynasty.
Chapter 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. It covers reasons for drinking tea, how or when tea drinking started, and its progress through the Tang Dynasty. The chapter also explores 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. The chapter also covers methods of sharing tea with acquaintances.
Chapter Seven: History (七之事)
This chapter provides various anecdotes about the history of tea in Chinese records, from Shennong through the Tang Dynasty. It begins with an index list of influential individuals related to tea before the Tang Dynasty. It is 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.
Chapter Eight: Growing Regions (八之出)
This chapter ranks the eight tea-producing regions in China. It provides information on the tea-producing areas in Tang China, grading, and comparison of tea quality from these areas.
Chapter Nine: Simplify (九之略)
This chapter lists those procedures that may be omitted and under what circumstances. It describes tools and methods that can be excluded in cultivation and processing under abnormal conditions. The chapter also explains tea utensils and brewing methods that can be simplified or improvised under various outdoor and unusual habitat environments.
Chapter Ten: Pictorialize (十之圖)
This chapter explains how to transfer the contents onto placards or large scrolls for hanging on the wall for quick references. The silk scrolls provide an abbreviated version of the previous nine chapters.
The Legacy of The Classic of Tea
The Classic of Tea had a significant impact on tea culture in China and beyond. Lu Yu’s book was widely read and studied, and it helped to establish a standard for tea brewing and serving that has endured for centuries.
The Classic of Tea also played a role in the spread of tea culture throughout the world. As China began to trade with other countries, tea became a valuable commodity, and Chinese tea culture began to influence other cultures. Today, tea is enjoyed in many parts of the world, and The Classic of Tea remains a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history and culture of this beloved drink.
The Classic of Tea is a comprehensive guide to tea culture that has endured for centuries. Written by the famous tea master Lu Yu during the Tang Dynasty, this book covers everything from the history of tea to the proper way to brew and serve it. The Classic of Tea helped to establish a standard for tea brewing and serving that has endured for centuries and played a role in the spread of tea culture throughout the world. Today, The Classic of Tea remains a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history and culture of this beloved drink.