What is Tea?
Did you know that 'tea' is a Chinese origin word? In China, 'tie' or 'cha' refers to the plant of Camellia Sinensis, commonly known as the tea plant. The Chinese have been brewing tea for thousand years, whilst the rest of the world has only been using tea for the past few centuries.
In Chinese tea culture, there are a few main types of tea, namely white, yellow, green, oolong, red/black & pu'erh tea. These different types of tea come from the same plant but differentiate due to growing conditions and processing methods. This does not include the innumerable herbal infusions.
The word tea in Chinese (and Japanese) is written like this : 茶 , including the following components 艹 (grass or leaves), 人 (person or human) and 木 (tree). Adding these three together, we have a little story: a person picking leaves from a tree. Indeed tea grows into big trees in forests; tea shrubs in neat rows is only for convenience for mass harvesting.
What is Dao?
The Chinese character of Dao is used in quite a number of ways. It is the general term for the Daoist traditions, which can be philosophical, meditative and religious. The character Dao is also popularly used in Buddhism, Confucianism and conversational Chinese.
The simple translation of Dao is "path, way, road". The character consists of two parts. Firstly there is Chuò 辶, which means to walk. The second bit is Shǒu 首 which pictures a head. Together, head + walk means path or way. The head also indicated "knowing" the way and being able to stay on the right path so one would not get lost.
Many of the practitioners of Chinese and Asian spiritual arts such as Daoism and Buddhism have evolved alongside the culture of tea. In Chinese culture, many sages and famous poets revere the tea for its cleansing and spirit lifting qualities. Many Buddhist and Daoist communities grew and sold their teas to sustain their practice.
What is a Tea Ritual?
Traditionally, some Chinese/Japanese people would be deeply practicing meditation, either in Buddhist, Daoist or other traditions. They would have sought after very high minded goals such as awakening and enlightenment.
In between their meditative practices, they would have cups of tea, possibly grown and picked from somewhere close by, possibly by themselves. They would then drink the tea with reverence to nature, whilst deeply reflecting on life, perhaps still being in close to divine states of awareness.
They would have done this for generations and developed this into a familiar ritual, a moment of rest, refreshment and rejuvenation along their journey. This tradition was known as "ChaDao" or "The Way of Tea".
7 cups of tea
The first cup moistens the throat;
The second shatters all feelings of solitude;
The third cleans the digestion, and brings to mind the wisdom of 5,000 scrolls;
The fourth induces perspiration, evaporating all of life’s trials and tribulations;
With the fifth cup, body sharpens, crisp;
And the sixth cup is the first on the road to enlightenment;
The seventh cup sits steaming – it needn’t be drunk, as from head to feet one rises to the abode of the immortals.
Lu Tong, Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907)
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