The Classic of Tea
is the very first monograph
in the world, written by Chinese
writer Lu Yu
CE and 780
CE (age of Tang Dynasty
According to popular legend, 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 magnum opus
: Chá jīng
For Lu Yu, tea symbolized the harmony and mysterious unity of the Universe. "He invested the Chá jīng 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 Pu Zheng'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 nigh
Lit up a candle light
I knocked a marble bell for chime
While deep in thought for old time.
Content of Chá jīng
Lu Yu's Chá jīng (茶经) was the earliest treatise on tea in the world.
The Ch'a Ching is divided into the following 10 chapters:
- 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.
- This chapter describes fifteen tools for picking, steaming, pressing, drying and storage of tea leaves and cake.
- This chapter details the recommended procedures for the production of tea cake.
- This chapter describes twenty eight items used in the brewing and drinking of tea.
- This chapter enumerates the guidelines for the proper preparation of tea.
- This chapter describes the various properties of tea, the history of tea drinking and the various types of tea known in 5th century China.
- This chapter gives various anecdotes about the history of tea in Chinese records, from Shennong through the Tang dynasty.
- This chapter ranks the eight tea producing regions in China.
- This chapter lists those procedures that may be omitted and under what circumstances.
- This chapter consists of four 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