Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Divine Tea: Discovery of Tea by Shennong

Emperor Shennong
Tea is one of the oldest beverages that man invented. From England to Turkey, and to India, millions drink this scented water infused with different health benefits. In China, the biggest producer of tea, it is not just old but a gift from one of its legendary emperors, Shennong.

Shennong was none as one of the founding emperor of the Chinese civilization. He was a scholar fascinated with nature. Alongside of it, he was also a benevolent ruler, always concern for his subjects. His exploration of different plants led him to discover numerous medicinal plants that were capable of curing ailments of his subjects, thus he dubbed the father of Chinese medicine. He was also an inventor and an agriculturalist. He aimed to teach his people to grow crops that would help to feed themselves. To help his people to crops, he is said to have invented also the plough. His introduction of agriculture helped his people to be happy and well fed. With some of his subjects having harvested more crops that they need, Shennong introduced markets, in order for farmers to sell their extra crops. Besides these achievements, he was also credited for discovering one of the well drank beverages in the world that could challenge coffee – tea.

According to the legend, the story of Shennong and his discovery of tea begins with his concern to his subjects’ sanitation and health. From his studies, he discovers that drinking hot water could make him calm. In addition he discovers that boiled water makes it safer to drinking. The water is made clean by boiling it through fire. To spread his discovery, he proclaims an edict stating that his citizens should boil their water first before drinking it. Eventually, it became his activity to boil the water first before drinking it.

After the edict and boiling water, the next part for the discovery of tea begins. During the autumn of the year 2737 BCE, Emperor Shennong was travelling across his empire. Along the travel he became tired and wanted to rest. He ordered his convoy to stop for a while and take some rest. He then sat to a nearby camellia tree. Alongside of him is a small fire with a pot of water that was being boiled. Autumn wind breezes across the emperor. The Emperor was relax by the air. However, some dry leaves from the camellia drops to the ground. Some of the dry camellia leaves landed to the pot of boiling water. Immediately, the dry leaves infused the water with a very good and enticing aroma, thus the first pot of tea was made. The Emperor smelled the beautiful aroma coming from the pot. A natural curious individual, he took some of the infused water and took a small sip. After drinking some of the tea, he discovered that he became calm and his mind was clear of thoughts. He rejoiced upon his discovery and began to study more plants that could make tea. Eventually, he found out that tea was not just a calming agent but also gives additional benefits for the health.

Whether the legend is true or not, one thing is for certain, tea would not proliferate to the whole Chinese civilization until the Han Dynasty. From the time of the Zhou Dynasty, tea was only an exclusive drink for the Emperor.  

See Also:
Popularizing Tea in England
Tea in Han Dynasty
Tea Arriving to Japan

Durbin, B. Tea Culture: History, Traditions, Celebrations, Recipes and More. Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2010. 

Fandon, J. The World’s Greatest Idea. London: Icon Books, Ltd., 2010. 

“History of Tea.” Chinese Tea. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.china.org. 

“Tea’s Wonderful History.” Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.chcp.org/tea.html

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