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Little Cups Of Chinese And Japanese Tea

Although the legend credits the pious East Indian with the

discovery of tea, there is no evidence extant that India is really

the birthplace of the plant.

Since India has no record of date, or facts, on stone or tablet, or

ever handed down a single incident of song or story--apart from

the legend--as to the origin of tea, one is loath to accept the

claim--if claim they assert--of a people who are not abov

practising the black art at every turn of their fancy.

Certain it is that China, first in many things, knew tea as soon as

any nation of the world. The early Chinese were not only more

progressive than other peoples, but linked with their progress

were important researches, and invaluable discoveries, which

the civilized world has long ago recognized. Then, why not add

tea to the list?

At any rate, it is easy to believe that the Chinese were first in

the tea fields, and that undoubtedly the plant was a native of

both China and Japan when it was slumbering on the slopes of

India, unpicked, unsteeped, undrunk, unhonored, and unsung.

A celebrated Buddhist, St. Dengyo Daishai, is credited with

having introduced tea into Japan from China as early as the

fourth century. It is likely that he was the first to teach the

Japanese the use of the herb, for it had long been a favorite

beverage in the mountains of the Celestial Kingdom. The plant,

however, is found in so many parts of Japan that there can be

little doubt but what it is indigenous there as well.

The word TEA is of Chinese origin, being derived from the

Amoy and Swatow reading, Tay, of the same character, which

expresses both the ancient name of tea, T'su, and the more

modern one, Cha. Japanese tea, Chiya--pronounced Ch?.

Tea was not known in China before the Tang dynasty, 618-906

A.D. An infusion of some kind of leaf, however, was used as

early as the Chow dynasty, 1122-255 B.C., as we learn from the

Urh-ya, a glossary of terms used in ancient history and poetry.

This work, which is classified by subjects, has been assigned as

the beginning of the Chow dynasty, but belongs more properly

to the era of Confucius, K'ung Kai, 551-479 B.C.

Although known in Japan for more than a thousand years, tea

only gradually became the national beverage as late as the

fourteenth century.

In the first half of the eighth century, 729 A.D., there was a

record made of a religious festival, at which the forty-fifth

Mikado---Sublime Gate--Shommei Tenno, entertained the Buddhist

priests with tea, a hitherto unknown beverage from Corea,

which country was for many years the high-road of Chinese

culture to Japan.

After the ninth century, 823 A.D., and for four centuries

thereafter, tea fell into disuse, and almost oblivion, among the

Japanese. The nobility, and Buddhist priests, however, continued

to drink it as a luxury.

During the reign of the eighty-third Emperor, 1199-1210 A.D.,

the cultivation of tea was permanently established in Japan. In

1200, the bonze, Yei-Sei, brought tea seeds from China, which

he planted on the mountains in one of the most northern provinces.

Yei-Sei is also credited with introducing the Chinese custom

of ceremonious tea-drinking. At any rate, he presented tea

seeds to Mei-ki, the abbot of the monastery of To-gano (to

whom the use of tea had been recommended for its stimulating

properties), and instructed him in the mystery of its cultivation,

treatment, and preparation. Mei-ki, who laid out plantations

near Uzi, was successful as a pupil, and even now the tea-growers

of that neighborhood pay tribute to his memory by annually

offering at his shrine the first gathered tea-leaves.

After that period, the use of tea became more and more in

fashion, the monks and their kindred having discovered its

property of keeping them awake during long vigils and nocturnal


Prom this time on the development and progress of the plant are

interwoven with the histories and customs of these countries.