China's Tea Culture (Part 2)
Dao of Tea Culture
There was a man called Lu Yu (733 – 804 AD) in the Tang Dynasty, who, after many years of observation and research, wrote a book entitled Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea)
. This book summarized a set of methods, from growing tea and picking tea to making tea and tea tasting. This book also described the deep cultural connotation of the art of tea, giving shape to the earliest Dao of tea. People in later generations called Lu Yu the "Sage of Tea."
The tea culture reflects characteristics of eastern traditional culture – it is a combination of "tea" and the "Dao."
China's ancient sage Lao Zi said, "The Dao can be called the Dao, but it is not the ordinary Dao." He also said, "The Dao is extensive and is everywhere right beside you." Then what is "Dao?" It is said in China's Confucian classic The Doctrine of the Mean
, "The mandate of heaven is called nature; to follow nature is called the Dao."
In fact, the essence of the "Dao" is to tell us that the existence of all matter in the universe, including the rotation of the cosmos, the procreation of mankind, the change of dynasties, and the birth, aging, sickness and death of human beings all follow the "Dao," and they all follow a certain pattern. Creation-stasis-degeneration-destruction is the law of the universe. Consequently, what one can do is to "return to his original, true self" and return to his prenatal nature because one's prenatal nature was pure and kind, and it was linked to the universe. By doing so, people can achieve the realm of heaven and man are one and the Dao following nature. This is what the ancient people called the "Dao" of cultivation.
Therefore, the "Dao" reflects the principles and the law of the universe and life, and the Chinese people do not talk about the "Dao" lightly, as they believe it is something very deep and profound. It is not something that can be defined clearly. People in modern China are often cut off from the "Dao" by the term "superstition," unlike in Japan, where there is the Dao of tea, the Dao of flowers, the Dao of incense, the Dao of the sword. In wresting and martial arts, there are also judo (the way of gentleness) and Taekwondo. In fact, in ancient China, there was "Dao" in all trades and professions, and people were also interested in pursuing immorality and the Dao. Therefore, ancient Chinese also had the Dao in tea tasting.
Tea culture is a kind of "intermediary" culture, where tea functioned as a carrier to pass on and carry on the spirit of Chinese traditional culture. Liu Zhenliang in the Tang Dynasty clearly stated in the ten virtues of tea drinking, "Tea can carry on the Dao, and tea can refine one's will." Then what is the Dao of tea?
On the surface, there are tea etiquette, tea practices, tea methods, tea techniques, tea arts, and tea essence, which are often referred to as the six matters about tea. Learning about the Dao of tea is to enlighten to the spirit of the Dao of tea through these six matters. People appear to learn the techniques, while in fact the focus is not on "techniques" but on the "spirit." However, to learn about the spirit, one has to start with the techniques. One needs to understand this principle to talk about the Dao of tea.