Tea, our national drink, was used as medicine, food and beverage. Since tea is not my cup of tea, so I remain almost ignorant of it, and do not feel ashamed.
But after a recent visit to National Tea Museum located in Hangzhou, “the Capital of Tea”, my opinions towards these magic leaves have changed significantly. Now, I know why tea has driven so many people crazy and has triggered the iconic incident between the Boston Tea Party and the British colonists, which served as the prelude to the epoch-making America Revolutionary.
These oriental magic leaves not only boast refreshing taste, great varieties and exquisite tea wares, but also elegant tea ceremonies and miraculous beauty& health-promoting benefits. A famous celebrate remarked that tea is the best gift offered by the oriental to the occidental. Alexandre Dumasfils also claimed in his masterpiece: The Lady of the Camellias: “what sort of noble man you are, if you cannot even afford a cup of black tea from China?”
Pushed by curiosity, I think it is a must to demystify it, on a sunny winter afternoon.
National Tea Museum nestles among the rolling Longjin tea plantations in Longjing Road unassumingly. In front of it sits a little pond. Due to the crystal clear water, you can see through its bottom. The sky casts reflections on it, creating an illusion that the red carps are roaming in the heaven. Unlike those well-fed carps in other parks near West Lake, they are slim, agile and cute.
Since it is December, the land is carpeted with thick leaves, while the intertwining trucks dash into the sky, which resemble abstract paintings. Unlike West Lake, which is usually teemed with tourist, this area is less haunted , especially during this season. The wall of this museum is covered with vines, whose remaining leaves breathe an air of decaying elegance.
Upon entering it, the porch attracted my attention. A giant Chinese character:茶(Tea) stands out against the grey waterscape wall , and a handsome young man who worked there sitting on the left. On the right, you can grab some guide pages, just for future use, you know, if you want to write a blog or show your friends.
The story of this museum starts from Tea History Hall, where I spent nearly one hour to learn the origination, development and spread of tea in and out of China.
Tea Culture thrived in Tang Dynasty, here goes the introduction: (behind: it is me)
Return to simplicity during Ming
Among them, I like the Calligraphic work by Wen Peng (Ming dynasty), one painting and one poet especially:
Extract from Lu Tong(an ancient Poet) ‘s poem:Thanking Meng For the Fresh Tea as a Gift
One bowl of tea soothes the burning throat
Two dispel loneliness and worries
Three spark inspiration and smooth writing
Four cause slight sweating, calming down the agitated mind
Five refresh me and six make me immortal
Seven are more than enough
Feeling only fresh breezes rising under the armpits
Besides, ancient tea wares are exhibited artistically there. I also took some photos.
Passing through a corridor, one set of wooden tea equipment popped into my eye. Though they are anything but antiques, I cannot deny they are revealing and appealing.
Advancing further, I reached Tea Collection Hall, which is simply fantastic beyond expectation. In this room, teas from all over China are collected and presented here, with each labeled and installed with a phone. You can listen to the secrets of them by dialing the phones nearby. The one-way dialogue between you and these teas can last for a substantial period of time, if you have the patient to get acquainted with all of them. I tried, the introduction is good, though a little too brief. Besides, the compressed teas shaped like bricks,cakes or pumpkins are exhibited here also. I wonder why ancient people do that, I do not see any advantage of this practice except for easy transportation. To save the trouble and for the sake of sanitary, people abandoned this practice gradually.
In this hall, what impressed me most is the varieties of tea. It is eye-opening experience, you can say. No matter how you poorly informed of tea, after you scrutinized them for several hours, you can half an expert, just like me.
Chinese tea culture emerged during the Wei, Jin, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties(220AD-589AD), flourished during Tang Dynasty, culminated during Song Dynasty and returned to simplicity during Ming dynasty.
In Tang dynasty, Lu Yu, who was immortalized as the Sage of Tea, composed his masterpiece: The Classic of Tea. As the first monograph on tea in China, it is both influential and enlightening.
The Classic of Tea sheds light not only on the origination, tools, making and utensils of tea, but on its boiling, brewing, anecdotes and folklores. I have to admit his book is really amazing. Today, a song devoted to Lu Yu still prevails:
Saw Lu Yu off to Pick Tea
Thousand mountains greeted my departing friend
When spring tea blossoming again
With indepth knowledge in picking tea
Through morning mist or crimson evening clouds
His solitary journey is my envy
Rendezvous in a temple of a remote mountain
We enjoyed picnic by a clear pebble fountain
In this silent night
Lit up a candle light
I knocked a marble bell for chime
While deep in thought for old time.
Because the close time of this museum is 5:00pm, I failed to have a glimpse of the second floor. What a pity, well, that means a second visit, is a must.
National Tea Museum Travel Tips:
Address: No.88. Longjing Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Opening Hour: 8:30am -4:30pm(October to April) 9:00am to 5:00pm(May to September) On holidays such as Spring Festival and May Holiday, this museum won’t be opened. Bus:27 and 3