Buddhist Arts-Culture
Chan Tea 禅茶一味
13/12/2010 10:44 (GMT+7)
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Chan is the Chinese word for dhyana(meditation).The culture of Chan tea stems from the Bailin Temple (the Temple of Cypress Woodsy), which is a Buddhist holy land, which dates back more than 1,700 years, in Zhaoxian County, Hebei Province




There is a legend about Chan tea: One day, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907),  two monks traveled very far to visit Zhaozhou (today's Zhaoxian County) to consult Master Congnian, one of the masters of Chan sect of Chinese Buddhism, to discuss what Chan was. Master Congnian did not reply; rather, he asked one monk ,"Have you ever been to Zhaozhou?" "Never," replied the monk. "Go and drink the tea!",Master Congnian instructed.   Then the master turned to the other monk and asked the same question. The monk said:”{have been here ”The master said: "Go and drink the tea!"     

At that point, the high-ranking monk who had ushered the two monks into the room, asked Master Congnian :" Master, why did you tell both of them to go and drink the tea, regardless if they have been here before?" Master Congnian spoke the name of the high-ranking monk, who responded. Then the master said: "Go and drink the tea!"

The instruction to "Go and drink the tea!" and a cup of Zhaozhou tea reflect the Chan mindset of the master. This well-known story promotes the essence of tea, from daily life to spiritual life. People who drink tea can gain inspiration and enlightenment simply by appreciating and tasting the color, perfume and flavor of the tea.


Tea is the embodiment of Chan in secular life. The Venerable Master Jinghui, Vice- Chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association and presenter of Chan's Way of Life, a spiritual therapy proposed for modern people trying to skillfully integrate the practice of Chan into the context of everyday life, has a wonderful explanation for the culture of Chan tea. As part of Chinese culture, he says, Chan tea culture is both the real and sublime traditional Chinese culture in daily life; in traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism calls for morality, or being upright; Taoism, integrity; and Buddhism, harmony. The essence of Chinese tea culture can be described as "elegance." The words "upright, integrity, harmony and elegance" speak mainly of the spirit of traditional Chinese culture.  The combination of these four virtues is the essence of Chan tea culture.

Tea culture has evolved into diverse styles in the process of spreading throughout the world. For example, the ceremony of serving tea varies from nation to nation. Religious rituals, practical rituals and art performances are emphasized in Japan Korea and China, respectively. Master Minghai, abbot at Baffin Temple, says even though the tea culture has become diverse its birthplace is in China.

                                                                (摄影 晋永权)

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