Lu Yu; the Saint of Tea and Cha Jing
13. Cha Jing and Lu Yu
Cha Jing is the first major unified compilation on tea information ever attempted by any writer in history. During the Tang Dynasty Cha Jing was considered the ultimate compilation of scientific and historical facts on tea, methods and practices, and a record of past achievements on tea.
In addition Cha Jing is also the fruit of Lu Yu's 26 years of painstaking labour of love from his research and expeditions, innovations and hands-on, his work and studies. The release of Cha Jing provided answers and solutions to many long overdue questions and a new source of information for the tea industries.
Before Cha Jing was published there were some short articles and commentaries, recipes and medical formula, poems and literatures written on tea. All of which were collected by Lu Yu and compiled into Chapter 7 of Cha Jing. However no writer had ever pondered on writing a major compilation or codification of tea information. This partly was because officials, poets and men of letters were at the very top end of the feudal Chinese social status in Tang China while that of the farmers and peasants were at the low bottom end. A book on tea was regarded as non literary class, a job for the farmers or lesser known writers. Certainly not a serious task for a learned man of letters.
Soon after Cha Jing was published Lu Yu changed the concept of writers towards non literary subjects and many books on tea and water followed. Few were new but most were inspired by Lu Yu and based on Cha Jing as the starting point. Over the years there were also a handful of writers trying to prove him wrong. Despite all these Cha Jing prevails in an indisputable position at the very top of all tea books.
Tea drinking and tea cultivation methods remained very much unchanged for over 3000 years before Cha Jing. Lu Yu encouraged openness and reasoning in Cha Jing and that opened up new horizons and new concepts to the tea industries. The Song, Ming and Qing Dynasty that followed saw many changes in tea cultivation and tea processing methods. These changes also implied that some of the information on tea processing and cultivation methods in Cha Jing soon become dated.
Nevertheless it is interesting to note that even after over one thousand two hundred years of changes and innovations Cha Jing is still the must read for people in the tea industries in China. This is because the Chinese believe that time and methods might change but true facts and principles are eternal and it is always wise to learn from their forefathers.
Lu Yu also pioneered tea culture and revolutionised tea drinking with Cha Jing. Lu Yu discouraged the thousands of years old traditional methods of tea drinking by adding spices, nuts, dates and other ingredients to tea then brewed and drunk like soup. Lu Yu regarded tea that needed ingredients to be added before it could be consumed as that of a low quality inferior tea. Tea used in cooking, in recipes or as herbal brew are not considered for tea drinking, they are classified as tea cuisine or herbal medicine.
In order to be able to truly taste and enjoy tea fully, Lu Yu actively promoted and advocated tea to be drunk pure. Lu Yu believed good quality tea had taste and aroma that should be savoured on its own. The fine distinction between the various types of tea and their differing quality can only be experienced and enjoyed when they are brewed and savoured pure.
Today's tea preparation methods are very different from that mentioned in Cha Jing due to changes in tea processing methods. In spite of that the method pioneered by Lu Yu on how good tea should be enjoyed by not adding extra ingredients remains the absolute truth until now.
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