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Lu Yu

Lu Yu

Circa 733-8O4

Author and authority on tea

Sources

Foundling. According to legend Lu Yu was born in Hunan province in southeastern China during the Tang dynasty (618-907) and was left as an infant to be raised by the Zen Buddhist monk Ji-Ji of the Dragon Cloud Monastery. As a child he worked around the monastery at menial chores, including preparing tea for his elders, but later he chose not to join the priesthood (although some scholars believe he actually served a period as a monk). When he was old enough to leave the grounds, he took to the road as a traveling storyteller and clown. Thirsty for more knowledge, and with the help of a benevolent patron, Yu obtained access to Chinese books and mastered them.

Tea Specialist. Tea merchants, eager for someone to compile information about the cultivation and use of tea, selected Yu to write a book on the product. He traveled throughout the country sampling waters and teas, and was renowned for his ability to distinguish the locations from where different waters were drawn. He produced and presented to his patrons the Cha jing (Tea Memoir, or Tea Scripture). In this book, which was not published until circa 780, he established the groundwork for the development of proper tea service, which later evolved into the Tea Ceremony. He detailed the characteristics of tea plants, harvesting methods, and the equipment needed for the proper presentation of the finished drink. His code covered everything from the proper metals for pots to measuring and straining the tea, and to cleaning utensils. He became famous throughout China, earning even the patronage of the emperor.

Returned To Roots. For Yu, tea was “a way of aiding men to return to their sources, a moment in the rhythm of the day when prince and peasant shared the same thoughts.” Yu was treated as a prince and even a saint; the fame and admiration, however, wore heavily on him, and he retired from public life to a monastery to meditate and write. Allegedly he wrote nine additional books, but none have survived. Considered the father of Chinese tea culture, Yu died in 804.

Sources

Kit Chow and lone Kramer, All the Tea in China (San Francisco: China Books, 1990).

John C. Evans, Tea in China: The History of Chinas National Drink (New York: Greenwood Press, 1992).

William H. Ukers, All About Tea, volume 1 (New York: The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Company, 1935), pp. 10-22.

Lu Yu, The Classic of Tea, translated by Francis Ross Carpenter (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974).

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