Friday, 22 October 2010

The Discovery of Tea

More Chinese Stories, Chinese idiom, and Chinese Fable at Chinese story online
China is the birthplace of tea. There are many stories about how tea was discovered. Among them, the earliest and most popular one is from Lu Yu's book The Classic of Tea. In his monumental book, Lu Yu (陆羽 733–804 is respected as the Sage of Tea or God of tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. He is best known for his book The Classic of Tea, the first definitive work on cultivating, making and drinking tea.) attributed the tea's discovery to Shen nong (or Shen-nung), a legendary emperor in Chinese history.

Shen nong lived in a mythological era where rulers used their god-like power to benefit other beings. Ancient Chinese believed that it was he who invented the way to cook food with fire and taught people basic agriculture, and thus they worshiped him as the god of fire and agriculture. As co-founder of chinese civilization, Shen nong and Huang Di are regarded as the joint ancestors by the Han (The majority nation of China Chinese and certain groups of minorities).

Shen nong literally means "the Divine Farmer". The reason that he got this deferential address was that he tasted herbs that he could find in his territory and categorized them into crops, medicines and poisons.

Shen nong, like other gods in ancient mythologies, had a very unusual look. His head is sharp-horned, and what is more magical, he had a transparent body hence he was able to test various herbs and their effects on the body by actually seeing what happened inside.
The Discovery of Tea

The discovery of tea is kind of like Isaac Newton discovering the law of gravity. One day, Shen nong was doing his scientific experiment with his body lab. According to an ancient medicinal text "Shen nong Ben Cao Jing", he consumed as many as 72 herbs one day, unluckily almost all of them were poisonous. Although he was half-god, he could not stand so many poisons. Splitting headache and overwhelming dizziness nearly beat him down.

He had to sit down beneath a big tree to have a rest, when some falling leaves spiraled to his chest. The refreshing scent attracted his attention. He habitually put some into his mouth. While they were a little bitter at the beginning, the sweet smell and flavor lasted for a long time. Moreover, they amazingly cured his headache and dizziness. Being a keen herbalist, he identified the medicinal property of these leave and named them "Cha (tea)".

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