In the beginning, tea in China was only used as medicine. They used it for things like headaches, rheumatisms, and to improve eyesight. In about 780 BC Lu Yu wrote the book The Way of Tea (Cha Jing.) This book gave guidelines on how it was to be served, the types of utensils that were to be used, and a list of the eight different types of tea that existed during that time period. This showed that tea was starting to be used not only for medicine but for the refinement of the gentlemen and for leisure as well.
After Buddhism entered China at about 311-589 CE a Chinese school of Buddhism named Chan Buddhism started using tea as a way of purifying the mind, building relationships among the monks in their monasteries, and a way to make guests feel welcome. They started using tea because they wanted to stop following dogmatic traditions of Chinese Buddhism and to stop using the holy scriptures that China had accepted to give structure to Buddhism. They believed that tea ceremonies were a good way to clear their minds so that they could develop the inner Buddha within themselves. Lu Yu believed "tea is cold, most suitable for people in pursuit of morality and happiness." It was a way of cultivating what he called a “gentleman.” A monk named Huai Hai, who was a follower of the Chan School of Buddhism, founded an order of monks called the Baizhang Monastic Rule. He used tea as a way of developing unity within the monastery and to show that they were truly all connected. According to Buddhism, when one reached enlightenment they understood that all of creation even the entire was connected. He was trying to convey tht idea on a small and easy to understand way to his pupils. His monks drank from a single cup with which they all shared. But, in some writings it is said that he would present each monk with their own cup. Either way, he would fill the cup with hot water, then he would sprinkle a small amount of powdered tea in the bowl, and then he would proceed to whip the tea in the bowl until the top of the water was covered in froth. Everyday they would serve tea to Buddha, their guests, each other, and use it for meditation.
These monks believed in three virtues of drinking tea. These are as follows:
1. Kept the practitioner awake during sitting Zen at night.
2. Helped people digest while full.
3. It gave people a serene heart without desires. Being free from desires was the key to ultimate peace and contentment, according to Buddhism. It was the key that set them free from pain.
In the Tang Dynasty tea became a common man’s drink. Whenever someone would ask Zhao Zhou, a monk during the Tang Dynasty, questions about Zen/Chan he would first tell them “go and have tea!” He believed that Zen/Chan was “neither mysterious or special, but was implied in daily life such as drinking tea and carrying water.”
According to Chinese tradition there are four types of tea ceremonies. These
four ceremonies are as follows:
1. Aristocracy Tea Ceremony柜组茶道- they focused on the quality of the tea nothing else.
b. A lot of famous teas received their names through this ceremony/subculture. Rich people gave them these names because they felt like they were special teas. Sometimes the emperor would give names to different teas or aristocrats would give different high-level teas names before they would give these teas to the emperor. It originated as emperor tribute tea. They used the fact that they could drink these teas as a way to show off their money.
i. Example- Gong Fu Tea功夫茶- Gui Zu Cha Dao- aristocracy tea ceremony
2. The Refined Scholar Ceremony- (Yuan Shi院士) they focused on the charm or personality 人气of the tea. They focused on appreciating the tea’s aesthetics or beauty.
ii. They first developed the skill or art of tasting and appreciating tea from a refined scholar point of view. It was not about money and prestige. They used tea as a muse for their scholastic endeavors.
3. The Buddha Ceremony- they focus on the virtues or morality of the tea. They used this for meditation.
i. The monk not only used the tea for meditation, they used it in their worship of Buddha. They could drink consume alcohol so they used tea instead. They still used tea to treat people. Many people would come to worship Buddha and the monks would treat them. They used tea to show their guests respect. Their entire life revolved around tea.
ii. They grew their own teas. They have attributed with the development of Chinese Tea.
iii. They wrote their own books on tea.
4. Common People Tea Ceremony- (shisu世俗 Worldly Ceremony) This was the way that the common people enjoyed tea. Since most people do not have the money to become a scholar or an aristocrat, they focused on flavor and how the tea made them feel. The average Chinese person does this everyday. They use tea to help them enjoy life, as medicine, and as a way of fellowshipping with others. Since life for them was very difficult, they used tea as a coping mechanism.
Due to the Waring Period in China, the tea culture weakened. The instability of the country made it difficult for anything to develop. Today the modern tea ceremony is more about the show than the philosophy and symbolism behind the ceremony. They enjoy the aesthetics and the fellowship of the ceremony. Today the most famous of these ceremonies is Gong Fu Tea 功夫茶.